A sailing dhow of a different kind is being built in Kenya


(Posted 28th January 2017)

Lamu has for hundreds of years been a centre for building dhows, ancient sailing ships made entirely of wood but now is something entirely new planned, the building of a dhow made entirely of recycled plastic taken from the ocean and of old flip flops.
In the morning will a press conference take place in Lamu at the building site to bring the media on board as the venture launches.

Expedition leader Ben Morison will officially launch the build phase of the project. Accompanied by representatives from the Lamu County Government and other members of the boat building team, Ben will show off the first key parts of the Dhow which have been crafted by a unique collaboration between plastic recycling experts in Malindi and traditional Lamu boat builders. Each of these parts weighs nearly 1 tonne, and in the next 12 months will be assembled using local expertise and 200,000 recycled flip-flops into a 60 foot ocean going Dhow.

Never before has a concept of this nature been attempted and the launch of the build will reveal the pioneering techniques and skill used to transform plastic & flip-flops collected from Kenya’s beaches – into the ocean going Flipflopi Dhow that will set sail for Cape Town in South Africa in January 2018.

See here for the official expedition trailer video.
The FlipFlopi Expedition is a hugely ambitious project with a powerful message at its heart. I admire this endeavor so much. ” – Bear Grylls

Background information

WHAT ? : The Flipflopi expedition will use plastic waste and flip-flops, collected from the Kenya coast, to build a 60 ft traditional Swahili sailing boat that, in January 2018, will be sailed from Lamu to Cape Town, a journey of 5,250 kms. The boat will be a world first from the unique building techniques to the pioneering expedition, which will see the boat travel further south than any other previous dhow expedition into the treacherous Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn.

WHERE ? : The build of the boat is taking place in Lamu on the northern Kenya Coast, the home of traditional Swahili dhow building, and is being overseen by third generation dhow builder Ali Skanda and his team of expert craftsmen.

HOW ? : The build is being led by a collaboration between Ali Skanda (who incidentally has only ever built dhows out of wood) and plastic recycling expert Sam Ngaruiya based in Malindi. Over the course of the past 2 months the team have worked tirelessly to explore different techniques and combinations of various recycled plastic elements in order to achieve the correct strength and properties of the final pieces, which will be viewed at the press launch. The keel for example is the most critical part of any boat build and it took 5 number of attempts (each attempt was 2 days of labour for a team of 6) before the team were happy with the final piece.

WHY ? : Project founder and travel industry entrepreneur, Ben Morison started the Flipflopi Project after coming face to face with the shocking quantity of plastic and flip-flops on so many of East Africa’s beaches, an environment where he spent much of his childhood, and also his professional life in the Africa travel sector. As a firm believer in the use of positive messaging as a driver for change, Ben saw an opportunity to create something visually exciting and fun which would in turn broadcast a loud message to the whole world about the impact that plastic is having on marine and land ecosystems, how this affects us, and what we can do about it. Ben and the team believe that any serious attempt at impacting the outcome requires a change to consumer behaviours upstream in the lifecycle of single use plastics. As such, all expedition publicity will be used to fuel a targeted awareness-raising campaign that focuses on the three key areas of “Reduce, Re-use and Re-cycle”.

A separate #plasticrevolutioncampaign will also aim to mobilise people around the world to campaign against single-use plastics.

WHEN ? : From these first plastic moulded elements, the boat build will take 12 months to build. The expedition will then sail from Lamu to Cape Town in January 2018 with an anticipated arrival date into Cape Town in March 2018.

Expedition leader Ben Morison commented ‘After several months of technical challenges as we tried to get our moulding and recycling processes right, we are thrilled to have reached the day when we can officially launch the build of the Flipflopi. Our vision is big and bold but we are confident that, with the combined passion, energy and drive of the team and of our many supporters, that this proudly Kenyan project will achieve success and really put the global spotlight on the increasingly alarming issue of ocean plastic pollution and the exciting potential there is in recycling plastics’.