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Situation suitable shipping for remote island communities

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Remote Pacific villages are serviced by diesel powered ships which are too deep to enter lagoons and require large payloads to justify a journey.  3 months between visits is not unusual.  The alternative is open skiffs with outboards, which cost a heap to run and sometimes make it, but frequently don't.
Early last year I was in the Marshall Islands, teaching the locals how to build these  for cross lagoon (up to 30 miles) transport.  The consensus is that they are pretty good and a couple more have since been built.  While there, I discussed what was needed for inter island travel.  Regular visits, ~10 tons payload, shallow draft, cheap and easy to build and operate, minimal maintenance and zero emissions were the requirements.  I figured these could be met with a 24m/80' version of the little proa.
I got 3 breaks:  
1) Queensland University Composites Engineering Department offered me a shed and overheads in return for giving their students some 'real work' experience.   
2) Rob Rassy wanted to see what was involved in Intelligent Infusion, came for a day, stayed for the duration of the build.  
3) A group of switched on Fijian business people and academics offered to organise 50-100 kms trial routes between Suva and local islands; Groceries, generator fuel and building supplies out, copra and landfill rubbish back.  They asked to assemble and launch the boat there for publicity reasons.  We are waiting for the 2 containers to arrive, for shipping mid January.   
The building was pretty straightforward.  Everything except the rudder blades was infused on a 12m/40' x 2.4m/8' mdf table, then glued or glassed together.  
Total weight is 1,880 kgs/4,140 lbs, with paint, deck gear, safety and nav equipment to add.  Maybe under 3 tonnes/6,650 lbs ready to sail.  
Cost of materials, $AUS50,000/$US33,000, including hulls, beams, carbon telescoping masts, wing rigs, toybox and 8m/28' tender.   
Build time is 15 months of 40 hour weeks for 2 old guys with occasional student help.  At least 3 months was enjoyably spent making samples (panels, composite truss beams, joints, fittings, etc) and testing/breaking them.   And, less enjoyably,  fixing short cuts and 'good ideas at the time'.  There will be another month or so of putting it together and painting in Fiji.  
There are several novel ideas that will need to be tested/altered/broken/fixed, but it should be in service mid 2022.  
The background, routes and description of the prototype: http://harryproa.com/?p=2561
The build story: http://harryproa.com/?p=3788.


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As always, I wish the best for this project and hope that it succeeds.

Despite my opinions about Harrys which have swing wildly one way or the other over the last couple of years, I do think that they are the best possible choice for an application such as this. Being able to utilize all of that untapped carrying capacity in the long and empty lee hull for cargo and completely separate the passengers/crew from the goods/rigs/anything that moves are advantages to this design. I still have reservations about that lee hull, but I guess I'll have to wait until it's floating to see. 

Hopefully it'll create a bit of a splash in the media when it launches and maybe draw more public attention to the proa concept, even if only a little. Good luck. 

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  • 1 month later...

The build shed site was shut over Xmas, so I spent some time on cargo proa paper work. Among it was how the project fits in with the 17 UN Goals for Sustainability. The goals are a bit wishy washy, but their intention is good.  More importantly, the people the cargo proa has to impress to be successful consider them essential.  

1) No poverty: 
i) Once proven, a yard will be set up to build more of them, with changes learnt on the test route. This yard will be on land already set aside on the outskirts of Suva. It will provide jobs for the locals building cargo proas, cargo/ferries, mini cargo proas and low cost fishing canoes, none of which will require fossil fuels. Importantly, there will be a program dedicated to building, sailing and navigating traditional boats, with all the cultural benefits this supplies.  
ii) A reliable service to remote villages will allow villagers to get products to market, access education, health and other big city facilities. It will supply fresh food, rather than food that needs to survive for 3 months or so. It will slow the exodus from the villages to the city, where there are limited opportunities.

2) Zero Hunger:
Reliable fresh food deliveries, the means to fish without spending money on petrol and outboard maintenance and low cost, reliable access to markets for fresh product will alleviate hunger.  

3) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages:
see 1 and 2.

4) Quality Education:
i) Access to city based schools and the ability to move teachers and materials to small local schools will allow village kids to learn.
ii) The skills teaching at the boat yard will cover building, maintenance, administration and sailing.  

5) Gender Equality:
i) All the jobs created are for either men or women.
ii) The fishing canoe project in particular is aimed at empowering women. They can build the boat, launch it singlehanded and paddle it to the reef to fish. A co op approach allows surplus catch to be sold at the market without each of the fishers needing to buy a spot or spend half the day selling her product.  

6) Clean water and Sanitation:
Not applicable

7) Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy
Sail power is not 'modern', but using it on a cargo proa is. Affordable and reliable were 2 of the key design objectives. The former has been achieved, the latter will be proven during the test period.  

8) Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all:

See 1-5 and 7

9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation:
i) The build yard will be solar powered, cyclone proof and as clean as possible. The building of the prototype used 2 litres of acetone, 6 litres of vinegar, several litres of water and no other solvents. Dust was minimal as there is little or no grinding or fairing required. Plastic waste was significant (in volume, not in weight) from the infusion process.  
One of the test routes involves collecting rubbish from village dumps. Plastic will be recycled, metal sorted and sold and biodegradable waste turned into fertiliser. The build waste will be incorporated in this. Down the track, the plan is to set up plastic shred, melt, extrude/press facilities at village level.  
ii) Due to the collegial approach to designing and building it the cargo proa is one of the most innovative solutions to remote village transportation. The different perspectives of users and sailors will result in further improvements.  

10) Reduce inequality within and among countries:
i) Enabling villages to thrive will encourage the best and brightest to stay and build a better community.
ii) Building the boats in the countries they will be used in adds industry, cash flow and jobs.
iii) Reducing the amount of imported fuel provides money for development.

11) Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable:
This is a secondary benefit of giving remote villagers a purpose and a decent standard of living, slowing the urban rush from remote villages of unskilled, unhappy, unemployable people.

12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns:

i) Removing fossil fuels from sea transport.
ii) Using situation suitable vessels rather than large, often derelict ships which are too big to enter lagoons and/or outboard powered skiffs which are unsuitable on open water.
iii) Sustainable boat building materials are being developed at a great rate, but the biggest gain is using less. A 24m cargo boat weighing 4 tonnes is significantly less material than any similar capacity boat.

13) Combat climate change and its impacts:
i) There are many ways to dissect the cost/impact/usage of the boats, but 9 cargo ferrys might each average 6 tonnes per voyage, sail 80 miles a day and be in service 360 days a year. 1.5 million tonne miles per year.  
Capital cost: $2,000,000.
Fuel used and emissions: zero.
One of the ships servicing the Marshall islands (Kwajalein) makes 7 trips per year, 13,500 miles carrying 110 tonnes of cargo per trip: 1.5 million tonne miles.  
Capital cost: $5,000,000.
Diesel used: 157,000 kgs, CO2 emissions: 392,000 kgs.
ii) built locally to reduce transport costs.
iii) shipwreck is much less likely (shallow draft, unsinkable), results in no environmental damage and reduces the fleet by 11% rather than totally.
iii) The boats will be an indication that the countries most concerned with the effects of climate change are doing their best to limit it. This will not have a direct impact on climate change, it is hoped it will encourage the big emitters to cut back and consumers to pay more attention to the source of their purchases.  

14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
i) Village scale fisheries can exclude factory scale vessels, resulting in a balanced, sustainable resource. 
ii) Eliminating diesel and petrol exhaust and spillage keeps the air and sea clean.

15) Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss:

16) Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
see above

17) Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development:

The cargo proa project is interacting with local and national Governments (Fiji, Australia, Germany, RMI), donors, shipping companies, NGO's, traditional sailing organizations, universities, venture capitalists, businesses, volunteer organisations, development agencies (World Bank, UN, etc) and enthusiasts/volunteers. This network will grow as the project proceeds.

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Sweet! If I may suggest something it would be to put many of the images from this page http://harryproa.com/?p=2561 in the first post here. It might make it more interesting for readers than just a block of text.

The whole tender set up and use is a nice evolution of this type of idea.

What's your official YouTube channel? It would be interesting to see this sailing and operating with cargo in the future.



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On 1/2/2022 at 1:51 PM, jmh2002 said:

Sweet! If I may suggest something it would be to put many of the images from this page http://harryproa.com/?p=2561 in the first post here. It might make it more interesting for readers than just a block of text.

The whole tender set up and use is a nice evolution of this type of idea.

What's your official YouTube channel? It would be interesting to see this sailing and operating with cargo in the future.

Glad you like it.   It's too late to add pics to the first post, a sketch of the prototype is attached, along with a pic of the assembled components.

The tender is the same idea as used on all Harryproas.  The pics are of the T60, a 7.5m/25' tender for the C60.  It sits between the beams and the stern can be lowered into the water to enable the outboard to be used.  A big tender, with a powerful outboard is more useful than the opposite. 

The cargo proa will have an EPropulsion 6 kw outboard.  The boat is meant to sail so It is only intended for use (to propel the mothership) when it is becalmed and if it has to manoeuvre in tight spaces (unlikely with the proposed routes).  If more grunt is needed, a second one will be added on a liftable tube near the helmsman.  This will be steerable through 360 degrees for push in any direction.  Charging is via solar panels and regen.

There is nothing recent on our You Tube or Vimeo channels.  There are a few videos are on the respective harryproa web pages.  Cargo proa videos will be on http://harryproa.com/?p=3788 along with the build photos, weights, costs, testing and explanations.


Thanks for posting the vid.  That is Blind Date, the first 15m/50'ter launched 12 years ago.  Lots of changes since then, including the rudders, hull shapes and rig.     It was/is used for taking blind and handicapped people sailing in Holland.  The helmswoman is blind, the rest of the crew impaired.  That was the first time any of them had been on a boat.  







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  • 4 months later...
I arrived in Fiji 2 weeks ago and  moved into a bure and office at the College of Appropriate Tech and Development (CATD) at Bau Landing, about 25 kms NE of Suva..  The staff and students are lovely and very keen to help.  They offered me use of their carpentry, plumbing and metal workshops and want input on how to include boatbuilding in the curriculum.  We may build a mini cargo proa (foam, not ply) on weekends and evenings.   They're also keen on swapping petrol outboard motor motors for electric. 
Had dinner with the SSTI guys.  They are enthusiastic and are making stuff happen.  Several high up Govt people are interested and a World Bank report on how the Govt should  instigate their sustainable agriculture agenda stated: "Key informants flagged domestic inter-island shipping as an area in need of development."  and  "There should be a push to work with the Sustainable Sea Transport Initiative, which is building a prototype of a sustainable inter-island vessel to provide services to more remote locations."
The first day here, I had a visit from the chief whose family owns a large chunk of Fiji, including the CATD site and several islands, one of which is Leleuvia which has a green resort on it.  He is very keen on the cargo proa, asked me to spend the weekend at the resort and give a talk to 50 students from the International School who are there for a week.  
Lelauvia is lovely. Had a fun talk with the kids, one of whom told me (nicely), I was wrong to advocate hydro power because of concrete dams, wiped out species etc.   We decided small scale would be viable.  
The barman collared me to tell me the cargo proa was just what was required for his village, when could we start?
I went for a sail/paddle, not much wind in a plywood outrigger, 70 of which were built for an Amazon TV show.  The guys who look after it are finishing their Env Eng degrees, offered to work on the Cargo proa over their holidays. 
The most common comment from pre teen students, hotel staff and taxi drivers all the way to high up in the public service and Government is that everyone is talking about green shipping, but only the cargo proa is doing anything.  Gratifying for me, not so much for the planet.
TAUTOKU!!!  Fijian for marvellous.  The first container arrived, an hour later it's unloaded and the contents in the shed, 100m down a dirt track.   Amusing comparing my efforts with the car, trailer and tractor with 30 enthusiastic strong Fijians.  Pick up the component, put it on their shoulders and take off down the track.   Video  https://www.facebook.com/www.catdnadave.ac.fj     The long hull is being joined in a shed over an old slipway.  Should be able to get the masts up and beams on to be sure everything fits, then remove them, launch it and reinsert them, then add the ww hull and the bits between the beams.  Not quite  a travel lift on a concrete ramp, but probably easier than the Pinjarra Creek scenario.  Plus there are 80 students available for lifting and carrying.  I am modifying the beam/mast attachment to enable the beams to be installed after the masts are up.  There is a sunk sand barge on the slip.  Removing it would make launching easier, but I am still trying to figure out how.
Yesterday was my birthday.  I walked into the food hall for breakfast and 80 students and several staff sang happy birthday Rob, with far more enthusiasm than it has ever been sung before.  The students are trades apprentices, but they sing wonderfully.  First thing in the mornings and pre dinner, they perform.  It's a great way to be woken in the morning.
The students and I have cleaned the small shed and got my stuff stowed.  The middle section of the lee hull is on the slip, one end is ready to join, once I get some epoxy.   
CATD owns a couple of 6m/20' pangas/banana boats/fibres which the students and I are going to repair and use for fishing.  Solid csm glass, about 400 kgs weight, these things are everywhere and are a brilliant bit of 'situation suitable' design.  Unfortunately, they require 40 hp outboards to get them planing and the fuel cost is prohibitive.  Electrifying them, including installing solar power,  is on the wish list.  
Just had a visit from a World Bank funded reef clean up project about shipping waste plastic (a big problem) from villages to the recycling place in Suva. They looked at the boat bits scattered around the place and wanted to know how many cargo proas we could supply and when!   The COO is a Swede with a lot of ocean sailing miles.  Reckons the cargo proa is the 'most functional sailboat' he has seen.   At the end of the meeting they asked how long I would be here.  I answered that it is a beautiful place, the people are exceptionally friendly, I get better care than in a hotel, up to 80 enthusiastic assistants at my beck and call and I spend all day playing with boat ideas.  I won't be leaving anytime soon.  
Ran out of space for photos.  There are some more at https://www.facebook.com/Harryproa/?ref=page_internal  or https://www.facebook.com/Harryproa/?ref=page_internal    


sunset 2.JPG

Bits along the track.jpg

End 1 ready to join.jpg

shed 1.jpg

shed 2.jpg

Simplest bamboo boat.jpg

Slipway high tide 1.jpg

slipway high tide 2.jpg

Slipway shed 2.jpg

Bau river.jpg

Build shed.jpg

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