Carbon-Neutral Shipping on the Hudson

These days the Hudson River can feel like a car barrier — something to cross on a bridge or drive alongside. But originally this curving waterway was the region’s superhighway.

A pilot project is nudging the Hudson Valley to return to river transport — in a carbon-neutral way — with sail freight. The captain behind the project, Sam Merrett, is an avid young sailor who has been carefully restoring a 68,000-pound steel schooner called the Apollonia for the last four years. 

Apollonia sailing alongside Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. (Photo courtesy of Sam Merrett)

The Apollonia was scheduled to begin its first cargo runs from upriver to New York City in summer 2020. Although the launch was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Merrett teamed up with the Hudson River Maritime Museum in the meantime for the North River Sail. The joint educational sail went up and down the Hudson in June 2020 with the museum’s sun-powered Solaris boat. 

Together, the vessels raised awareness of the river’s transportation history — and future potential. Both are pioneering. The Solaris is the first 100 percent solar-powered tour boat to earn U.S. Coast Guard certification, according to the museum.

Apollonia docked at the George Trakas environmental sculpture at Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon. (Photo: Jeff Mertz)

The 64-foot Apollonia is the Hudson’s largest zero-carbon freight vessel, running on sail power and a backup diesel engine that Merrett converted to run on vegetable oil. 

Sail, of course, is the age-old method of transporting goods worldwide. Fuel-powered barges and then trucks now do the lion’s share of global shipping. But in the age of climate change, emissions-free sail power is getting a fresh look. 

Modern-day sail freight projects similar to the Apollonia have been happening in Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts over the past few years. More sail-freight ships are now popping up in places like Costa Rica, and the International Windship Association has been tracking technology that helps even container barges run partially on wind power, saving fuel.

Crew members unloading freight from Apollonia at Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park. (Photo: Jeff Mertz)

Merrett took inspiration from all those vessels, as well as from the short-haul river shipping that remains common in Europe and elsewhere. Especially for products that aren’t rushed, he argues, sail freight makes sense. “This is the original alternative fuel,” Merrett says. “It’s not just an idea of the past.” 

When it began carrying goods, the Apollonia’s hold smelled rugged and woodsy, with a sweet tang. Merrett carries a number of traditional New York products like hard cider, IPA, maple syrup, Christmas trees, firewood, and bluestone from upstate into NYC. Its first cargo sail was scheduled to be with Nine Pin Cider.

Why would a producer choose sail freight? Some products (like a nontraditional one, fermenting kimchi) improve with age and waves. In other cases, the producer may value the zero-emissions transport. Many artisanal makers are proud of their organic or fair trade production, after all, but don’t realize carbon-neutral shipping could be possible. The Apollonia even has its own delivery tricycle that can take products from dock to city.

Apollonia docked. (Photo courtesy of Sam Merrett)

Being able to market a product for its carbon-neutral shipping will add marketing value for customers, too, Merrett argues. “The standard shipping world is about delivering the same thing that left,” he says. “We’re saying let’s improve this product along the way. We will provide conscientious producers and consumers with a transportation model that reflects their values.”

The Apollonia and projects like it may seem niche and bespoken, Merrett acknowledges. But as global emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic show, having alternatives is always helpful. And pilots like this may be able work out some of the kinks, enabling more low-emissions vessels to get sailing more quickly if the need is ever upon us.

10 Scenic Hudson Parks You Can Get to By Train

Madam Brett Park

Who says you need a car to explore Scenic Hudson parks? A ride on Metro-North’s Hudson Line and a short walk will deliver you to these 10 outstanding places where you can admire the Hudson River, connect with nature, go fishing, rent a kayak, or just sit and enjoy a little peace and quiet.


Esplanade Park

A 2-minute walk from the station brings you to this 1,000-foot walkway paralleling the river’s edge that offers magnificent views of the New York City skyline and across the river to the Palisades.

Esplanade Park
Esplanade Park

Van der Donck Park at Larkin Plaza

Relax and enjoy nature in this park right outside the station’s front door. Its centerpiece is the Saw Mill River, a Hudson River tributary that flowed beneath a parking lot here for 80 years until being “daylighted.”   

Van der Donck Park at Larkin Plaza (Photo: SH Staff)

Habirshaw Park

Take a 5-minute stroll to arrive at the only place in downtown Yonkers where you can dip a toe in the river. It’s also a prime sunbathing spot.

Habirshaw Park
Habirshaw Park


Scenic Hudson Park at Irvington

A minute from the station, the park features a riverfront walking path offering views spanning from the Manhattan skyline to the Tappan Zee. There’s a basketball court for LeBron James wannabes.

Scenic Hudson Park at Irvington
Scenic Hudson Park at Irvington


Scenic Hudson RiverWalk Park

Stroll westward for 2 minutes and you’ll arrive at this riverfront oasis (formerly site of an asphalt plant) featuring an esplanade as well as lawns perfect for siestas.

Scenic Hudson Riverwalk Park at Tarrytown (Photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr.)


Scenic Hudson Park at Peekskill Landing

Hop off the train and walk right into this park, whose walking path offers an up-close look at Peekskill Bay—and maybe a bald eagle. For more exercise, stroll 2 miles south along the city’s RiverWalk.

Scenic Hudson Park at Peekskill Landing
Scenic Hudson Park at Peekskill Landing

Cold Spring

Foundry Dock Park, Cold Spring

Right across the station’s parking lot, this park is small but offers BIG views of the dramatic Hudson Highlands. Those craving more action can bring a kayak and paddle through nearby Constitution Marsh.

West Point Foundry Preserve, Cold Spring

Take a 10-minute walk along scenic Foundry Cove to visit this woodsy “outdoor museum” containing remains of a 19th-century ironworks whose cannons helped win the Civil War.

West Point Foundry Preserve (Photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr.)


Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park

For optimal enjoyment of this riverside mecca 2 minutes from the station, bring a blanket, picnic or fishing pole. For more action, bring a bike (our Madam Brett Park is 1 mile away on the flat Klara Sauer Trail) or a kayak, and paddle into Newburgh Bay.

Madam Brett Park
Madam Brett Park


Walkway Over the Hudson

Take the elevator 5 minutes away to enjoy magnificent views from the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. For more fun, take the Walkway Loop Trail or hike at idyllic Franny Reese State Park.

Walkway Loop Trail (Photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr.)

Riding the “Scenic Hudson”

Dutchess Train Car

With some luck, when you hop on the Metro North train in New York City, you may be able to take the “Scenic Hudson” to a Scenic Hudson park. That is, if it happens to pull up to the platform when you’re waiting to board.

The “Scenic Hudson” train car is part of Metro-North’s Hudson Line fleet. It will deliver you to the doorstep of 10 parks we’ve created within walking distance of stations between Yonkers and Poughkeepsie.

Dutchess Train Car
Dutchess Train Car (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

Officially car #6164, the “Scenic Hudson” belongs to a shipment of Bombardier Comet III coaches the railroad received in 1983. (It has been refurbished several times since.)

This model features doors at both ends and none in the middle, rendering the sides a big, blank canvas. To fill it, the railroad decided to hold a couple of contests, in 1985 and 1990, inviting the public to submit names of people, places and things characteristic of the Hudson Valley’s vibrant past and present. “Scenic Hudson” made the initial cut, as did “Storm King,” the site of our first environmental victory.

J.P. Morgan Train Car
J.P. Morgan Train Car (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

In all, more than 40 cars received monikers. The practice ended when Metro-North began purchasing a new model with center doors.

Interestingly, Scenic Hudson’s silver anniversary in 1988 took place on the rails—aboard the specially dubbed “Jubilee Limited.” As the celebration went on into the evening, the train chugged past riverfront scenery along the Hudson Line that the organization has done so much to preserve.

The Coast Watcher Train Car
The Coast Watcher Train Car (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

It’s a Good Time to Bike

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

With May being National Bike Month — and in light of current challenges, including crowded parks — there couldn’t be a better time to test out the wisdom of Sherlock Holmes’ creator and resort to pedal power.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • It’s a great way to practice social distancing while getting much-needed exercise.
  • It saves $ on gas.
  • It lowers your carbon footprint, helping to combat climate change.
  • It eliminates worries about finding an open parking space at your destination.
  • It helps us safeguard important habitats in our parks by reducing the potential for cars to park in undesignated areas.
  • It’s fun!

Biking In, To and Between Our Parks

In honor of National Bike Month — and to encourage more visitors to pedal to our parks — we’re working to provide bike racks in additional trailhead parking areas. We’ll also update our park listings to note where racks are available.

At the same time, great opportunities exist to pedal in, to and between our parks. For example, Franny Reese State Park in Lloyd is connected to Walkway Over the Hudson and long-distance rail trails on both sides of the span. In Beacon, the mile-long Klara Sauer Trail links Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park to our Madam Brett Park. And our Illinois Mountain and Shaupeneak Ridge preserves in Ulster County feature popular — and challenging — mountain-biking routes.

Finally, we’ve made it a snap to discover more fun, off-road places to pedal all over the valley via our Outdoor Adventures feature.

Whether on a flat road or a hilly trail, there’s no time like the present to “go out for a spin.”

STAY SAFE: Health experts recommend that bikers should stay 30 feet apart if pedaling slowly and 60 feet if pedaling hard. They also advise moving to a different lane at least 60 feet prior to passing. In addition, Scenic Hudson recommends that bikers refrain from riding in groups.

Shipshape Energy


Shipping, which transports 90 percent of the world’s globally traded goods, accounts for 3% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. This may not seem like much until you calculate that it amounts to more than 1.5 billion metric tons. (A full-grown elephant weighs about 1 metric ton.)

In other words, curbing ship emissions is essential in confronting the climate crisis. Fortunately, shipping companies seem to be getting on board. The International Maritime Organization has agreed to cut carbon emissions from global shipping by 50% by 2050 compared with 2008 levels — a good first step, but not enough to reach goals that will make a big difference. Going further, Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipper, is committed to making its fleet completely carbon-neutral by 2030, and is urging others to follow its lead. 

How do you transition away from diesel fuel? Shipbuilders have begun exploring ingenious solutions. They include rotors that provide wind power (ships currently fitted with these use up to 20% less diesel fuel), aerodynamic designs that turn a ship into a giant sail, powering vessels with hydrogen produced from seawater and covering decks with solar panels. Successful designs must provide enough power to propel these gigantic vessels through the water without taking up space needed for cargo.

Re-energizing the world’s cargo fleets will be expensive, but the time has come, says Diane Gilpin, CEO of the Smart Green Shipping Alliance. “I don’t think there’s any argument any longer about the need to do it. There is anxiety about which is the most appropriate way, because nobody wants to make a mistake. But you have to take a risk.”