Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Pope and Me

Monday Sep 20 12:08:00 BST 2010
The roads were empty of traffic but filled with police personnel. On reaching the control barriers I flashed my invitation and passport and was given access to Westminster Palace. I click clacked my way past the crowds wondering if they were wondering who on earth I was.

Westminster Hall is awesome. Really, this is an appropriate time for an overused word. Towering ceilings supported by ancient oak trusses and a thousand years of history to wade through to take ones plush seat.

That morning on the news I’d heard the Pope would be addressing ‘Members of Parliament and Civic Leaders’ at Westminster Hall. Knowing I certainly wasn’t an MP it’s weird to find myself in the category of ‘civic leader’. It’s made me curious about who I am, what I’m doing and how what I do can influence a wider agenda. For twenty years we’ve been nudging, coercing, persuading a vision to become reality; a vision of fossil fuel free sailing ships - graceful, powerful, effective; ships that will create manufacturing jobs in regions most in need of regeneration, that support the development of island economies and re-ignite, and, this is my most fervent hope, a sense of optimism and opportunity in response to recession and climate change.

I’m not a Catholic, indeed organised religion seems to me to have been responsible for more hate than love. Certainly I leaned towards the vocal, high profile opposition to the Papal visit but on receiving an invitation from the Foreign Office to hear the Pope’s address I was forced to explore my own ethics more deeply. In our work at B9 Shipping we believe we must engage whole heartedly with those we might judge to be our enemies in an effort to accelerate the speed of change. I believe it’s essential to find the common ground, a consensual way forward if we are to create a robust enough economy and society to withstand the future.

I found myself in agreement with many more of Pope Benedict XVI words than I had imagined I would. I have to say it was tough to catch every word and I am inordinately grateful that the speech is reproduced on the internet but I caught, and was touched by, key words and phrases.

Political and religious commentators have picked over the speech and shared it widely, emphasising the Pope’s rebuke against secularism. I’m not so sure we, as a society, are marginalising Christianity but I’m happy to talk about it. But I’m not sure it was the main and whole point of The Pope’s address.

I’m no expert in diplomatic speak but I was there and I’d like to know why no one is pointing to the Pope’s suggestion that collaboration should take place on environmental responsibility? Why are interpreters of the Pope’s message not picking up on his noting of this Government’s 0.7% GDP commitment to Overseas Development whilst being able to find ‘vast resources’ to prop up financial institutions deemed to be ‘too big to fail’?

This same question nags at me. I can’t get my head round it. Thankfully the Pope is more eloquent than I ...

“Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

Now that resonates with me. And I just love that my grammar check has a problem with the composition of the sentence! It underlines that each of us has a voice and a view, that we can have courage and say what we feel even if we get our grammar wrong.  No matter how small we believe ourselves to be we must enter in to this national conversation. Everyone’s voice is crucial.

Naive? Foolish? - I don’t know - but I’m keen to find, and explore, the common ground that allows us to face the future and I certainly found more of that than I had anticipated at Westminster Hall last Friday.

Read the full speech here:


Envisioning the low carbon future at sea

Tuesday May 4 4:39:00 BST 2010
Envisioning the low carbon future at sea
And how B9 Shipping underpins its smooth and rapid transition

90% of the stuff we consume is carried by sea. Shipping has largely excluded itself from environmental scrutiny because often as not ships are registered in exotic unregulated locations and on an 'emissions per tonne carried' basis shipping looks like a pretty good way to shift goods. However, this relative effieicncy encourages a modal shift to sea transport which in turn leads to increased CO2 emissions from shipping.

Already shipping is responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions – as much as Canada or Germany. Modal shifts could see that increase to a projected 18% by 2050 in a business as usual model.[1]Furthermore bunker fuel – which is used in shipping – is more akin to tar than the refined stuff we put into our cars at the pump. So it’s dirtier and accounts for wider pollution problems in ports accounting for some 60,000 deaths every year. [2]
  Oil powered ships have to keep increasing in size to optimise economies of scale in the face of increasing fuel costs. B9 Ships are small (and beautiful) and have no dependency on fossil fuels but can get bigger as the design is developed in practice. Conventional ships are being forced to slow down to reduce both fuel consumption and emissions. As they do so and as B9 Ships evolve performance variances will converge. The fossil fuel free cargo ship, the B9 Ship, will be the favoured option for best value – both internally and externally.

Complacency in the shipping sector has been endemic and the failure at Copenhagen 2009 to address shipping emissions allows the industry to continue to drag its heels. As the realisation of the full effects of how Peak Oil impacts our global community urgently establishing global, reliable, affordable fossil fuel free transport infrastructure becomes critical.

B9 Shipping believes now is the time to act, and since all the technology is readily available and just needs bringing together in an innovative way, and since action results in commercial and social benefits, there‘s no impediment to just getting on with it. So let’s just do it.

[1]International Maritime Organisation
[2]http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12892-shipping-pollution-kills-60000-every-year.htm   linter alia

Fog on the Tyne

Tuesday Feb 23 2:59:00 GMT 2010
It was foggy as we crossed the Tyne on the Metro to Pallion in Sunderland. Once the most productive shipbuilding region in the world the Wear is now a run down kind of place but full of warm-hearted, passionate people.
The Pallion Shipyard is a monument to the loss of engineering capabilities in the UK. An awesome covered shipbuilding facility with capacity to build several B9 Ships simultaneously and yet it’s lying idle, home now to a couple of tiny engineering outfits, a once noble ship, The Manxman, waiting to be broken up, and a small flock of pigeons.
But the North East of England has become one of the UK’s first low carbon economic areas (LCEA) and is focussing its energies on ‘ultra low carbon vehicles’. There can be nothing more ultra low carbon than a vehicle powered by wind – the most available and free resource, augmented by B9-biogas powered engines . So we eagerly anticipate that Pallion could be building ships again one day soon.
The fog is clearing and we are beginning to be able to make out exactly how UK PLC can build B9 Ships in multiple destinations around the country.
Upcoming B9 Shipping Presentations
David Surplus, MD B9 Shipping, is presenting a paper entitled
at the
Royal Institution of Naval Architects Environmental Sustainability Conference on March 10
and the following day he is presenting at
The Annual Marine Propulsion Conference a paper called

The Green Revolution in Action

Thursday Dec 3 11:38:00 GMT 2009

1000 jobs created and 200 000 tonnes of CO2 saved each year by enabling the emerging biomass power generation industry to achieve the 2020 targets set out in the recently published Renewable Energy Directive (RED). This is what results from B9 Shipping supporting just one niche market.
Remember in the last blog we asked how much CO2 we’d save if all of the 10,000 similar sized coasters currently operating across the world were replaced, over time, by a fossil fuel free B9 Ship? We’ve calculated that each 3000 tonne coaster operating on conventional bunker fuel emits 16 tonnes of CO2 per day. So if we assume they only operate 300 days a year (which is unlikely since it would be uneconomic to do so – but makes the maths easier!) then we’d save the planet 48m tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
When B9 identifies a challenge that needs urgent attention, like emissions from shipping, it looks to inspirational engineering solutions.
You will have by now seen the initial design for the new B9 Ship. Rob Humphreys has taken a 21st century view on the old square rig clipper ships. Ultra modern technologies developed in the offshore yacht racing arena have been incorporated into the best aspects from the time tested sailing vessels. So we’ve cleared any standing rigging off the deck to enable swift and easy load and discharge of cargo, the steel masts will be hollow to save weight and allow crew safe access to the spars and sails in the event of the need for repairs and, by including sophisticated technology, the whole rig can be turned in a moment to avoid damage or danger to human life in a sudden squall.  There’s a whole raft of other benefits but you get the drift!
Once the design is finalised and has been tested at the Wolfson Unit at Southampton University then we set to work building ships. 500 people will be needed to build the steel hulls for the ships required by this one industry alone - the biomass power generators - to meet RED target. The mast, sails and rigging development will need some 100 people, we’ll be safeguarding jobs at Corus steel mills and creating at least 5 new jobs in the Corus plasma cutting facility. The fitting out, management and administration requirements will employ another 100 or so people. 300 people will be needed to crew those ships. All of these people in new work have money to spend in the wider economy.
Once we truly embrace the need to solve environmental challenges, then we can find solutions. Einstein said “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. At B9 we know there is no option but to find solutions and we turn to inspirational engineering. This in turn creates jobs, stimulates economic revival and saves carbon. This is the Green Revolution in action. What’s not to like?

A Date to Remember

September 29th 2009 – a date to remember? We believe so.
For almost two decades we’ve been developing the concept of modern sailing cargo ships. In the same way a 19th century windmill evolved into a 21st century wind turbine we have long believed the same is true of sailing ships.
We have worked up detailed Business Plans and Feasibility studies over the years and no one ever found any significant impediment in either our technology or our commercial analysis. So why has it taken so long?
Increasingly we have (almost) all become acutely aware that climate change is the most important issue on our collective agenda. Without a planet upon which to live all other issues become meaningless. As we move towards the Climate Change talks in Copenhagen in December there is a heightened awareness of our collective responsibility to take global action.
After Kyoto the shipping industry was charged with making significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions but it failed to do so, citing the immense complexity of negotiation due to the international nature of the sector. We don’t underestimate how difficult it is to reach international agreement but we do recognise that we have no other option but to seek and find solutions to alleviate climate change. That’s what B9, as environmental entrepreneurs, are all about. It’s all too important to just throw our hands in the air and say, “Impossible!”
Shipping emissions are on the international agenda now and we have to find a way to reduce them come hell or high water – precisely what our species face if we fail.
B9 Ships offer a simple, straightforward solution for small coastal vessels based on bringing together proven technologies in innovative ways. Obviously 3000dwt vessels represent a relatively small section of international shipping but B9 Ships demonstrate that commitment and collaboration deliver results. And there are some 10 000 small coasters out there across the world – if each of them becomes a fossil fuel free B9 Ship we can only begin to estimate how many emissions will be saved – in fact that’s just the kind of thing B9ers like to do so check back and we’ll tell you!
We believe we are building the flagships for the low carbon future, a future where we explore and adopt fresh ways of working together bound by the common goal of reducing emissions.
  September 29th 2009, the day B9 Shipping project was formally announced and this website went live. And all of a sudden we’re powering ahead with support from all quarters and, at last, it feels like we’ve really got the wind in our sails.