Aegean Cargo Sailing Captain Loucas Gourtsoyannis. Photo by Georgia Karamali
ATHENS – Aegean Cargo Sailing, an award-winning venture, combines the sustainable carbon free transportation by sailboat of local food products between the Aegean islands with gastronomic eco-tourism, sailing island tours. Captain Loucas Gourtsoyannis spoke with The National Herald about the initiative.
TNH: How did you become involved with the organization?
Loucas Gourtsoyannis: Well, I was living on a sailboat for five years when I met Jan Lundberg, who is the man who helped organize the sailing transports in the Atlantic. We met in Lavrion and after we exchanged ideas, we realized that we had common ground and while sailing together to promote his project we decided that we should try to do the first round of sailing transports in the Aegean on my sailboat Pelagos. The round was very successful and well received, and the next year because of his health problems he asked me to take over the whole project, which I did. So, as of 2018, I have been in charge of the project.
TNH: Where do you see the future of the company?
LG: The company was created in 2019. Because of the success of the operations we had before, this had to be re-channeled into an official legal structure and that’s how we created the company “Istia Aigaiou”. The future of the company is quite bright, in the sense that there is a continuous increase in the demands for transports for the project and also an increase in the demand for tourism on the boat. We combine the sailing transport of fine products with adventure, cultural and gastronomic tourism. All these seem to be evolving and what we think will happen in the next couple of years, is that there will be enough income mainly from tourism to sustain the company and it will increase as time goes by with an increase in number of boats; we aim for four boats in two years’ time and 16 boats in five years’ time and a very large number of tourists. At that level, we will have a very good system of connecting the islands for products, while at the same time, doing a good amount of sustainable, ethical tourism.
TNH: Are there plans to expand to even more islands?
LG: Expansion to other islands is not very easy because the more you expand the more time you need to complete one full tour of the Aegean. Another way of expanding would be to have side trajectories to other smaller islands, other than the 18 we have now. We have started doing some of that, but it will take a further expansion of the number of boats to manage to do a proper job. The current two-month timing for one full tour of the Aegean is necessary to create a stable schedule of loading and unloading on the islands for the producers, and we do not want to stretch it to three months or anything like that. So, most likely we will continue with the 18 islands and every time we have an opportunity we will be expanding slowly – up until we have more boats to be able to do it.
TNH: What should people know about Aegean Cargo Sailing?
LG: First of all, we are an ecology-inspired company, in the largest sense, not only concerning eliminating carbon emissions due to sailing but also respecting the environment in our everyday routines, by avoiding pollution and also avoiding having a heavy footprint when we visit the islands. The other thing is that we transport only quality products. They are either certified bio-products or they often are products from producers that we know that have been produced with deeply ecological methods. Further development in our project, is meant to be helping producers, apart from promoting their products to larger markets which is happening as we speak, to also guide them towards producing them in a more efficient way, keep the quality and conform to the best rules for hygiene and quality of food.
TNH: What has been the most rewarding aspect of the project so far?
LG: It’s the recognition by the whole community! Our idea is always received extremely well by everyone and a large number of people have got in touch with us, joining our network as producers or as stores which wish to host our producers’ products. This is also evident in the three awards we received this year at Green Ideas Greece, the Climate-KIC Accelerator Awards, and the Venture Impact Awards by The Hellenic Initiative which has been an avid supporter for us. Also, many tourists who have joined our tours in the past are now avid supporters and many times promoters of our project. It has a general wide acceptance, which is expressed in newspaper and TV coverage in Greece and abroad and, of course, the great reception of the people we meet. So, this is the most rewarding aspect!
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