For many centuries, man sailed the ocean by wind power alone. Then along came steam and diesel power, with bigger, steel-hulled ships that allowed people and goods to be moved faster and in greater quantities than ever before. However, environmental concerns over burning fossil fuels have recently put pressure on the shipping industry to cut fossil fuel consumption. While bigger container and cruise ships allow economy of scale, these ships are still heavy polluters and now a few companies are attempting to bring back sail power.
Star Clippers are a long-established cruise company who operate some of the largest sailing ships afloat today. Their cruises are marketed towards those who want to experience the "romance of sail", but with all modern conveniences. Windstar Cruises ships are far more modern looking but cater to a similar market. Much smaller startup Voyage Vert are most definitely aimed at the ethical traveller. They are refitting a former ocean racing yacht as a cruise ship with the emphasis on low passenger numbers, and "hands-on" involvement where Windstar ships are more like full-size cruise ships with sails.
Moving cargo as well as people is the aim of the Sail Cargo Alliance, an association of four ships: Tres Hombres, Nordlys, Avontuur and Grayhound. These traditional sailing vessels move small quantities of high-value cargo, such as rum and wine, while also offering passengers a "hands-on" sailing experience. Another, similar venture, with a new-build ship is the Ceiba, being built by Costa Rica-based Sailcargo inc. This ship, built on traditional lines, will carry cargo up and down the pacific coast of the Americas. A much bigger and more modern cargo ship is proposed by Neoline. This hi-tech ro-ro cargo ship is similar in style to the Windstar cruise ships and, in the author's opinion, represents the way ahead for commercial sailing ship design, which will deliver goods economically and in quantities to satisfy the demands of the modern economy.