Frenchman sailing home from Bangladesh in jute boat

Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:11am EST
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By Azad Majumder

SAVAR, Bangladesh (Reuters Life!) - A Frenchman is sailing home from Bangladesh in an eco and budget friendly boat partly made from jute, to raise awareness about the natural fiber that was once the mainstay of the poor Asian country's economy.

Coretin de Chatelperron's journey in his small, jute and fiberglass boat will take him across the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, among other waterways. He expects to reach Paris by mid-August.

The 26-year-old sailor's vessel was designed by French naval architect Marc Van Peteghem and constructed at a shipyard on the banks of the Bangshai river near Dhaka.

The project, funded by non-governmental organizations and wealthy businessmen, hopes to promote jute as a natural, cost-effective alternative to synthetic fibers that can be harmful for the environment.

"It is a very tough adventure without a doubt. But I have a purpose, I want to promote this unique kind of boat," Chatelperron told the crowd of environmentalists, diplomats and well-wishers who saw him off on Saturday.

Jute is considered to be one of the most affordable natural fabrics and is second only to cotton in the amount produced and its variety of uses.

Abul Khair Litu, a leading Bangladeshi industrialist who contributed to the project, said the boat cost just one-third of a wooden boat of a similar size.

"However, the most important feature of this boat is that it has diversified the use of jute. Once jute was the lifeline of our economy, but it virtually lost out in competition with cheap and more durable synthetics," Litu said.   Continued...