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Our commitment to the environment

The Santa Maria Manuela has had an extraordinary life. Launched in 1937 as a commercial bacalhau (cod) fishing ship, after 60 years campaigning in Terra Nova and the frozen north, she is today a sail training vessel offering environmentally conscious voyages. Under the ownership of Jerónimo Martins, her mission has been transformed to delivering engaging voyages which connect to the ocean and inspire conservation.

As society today becomes increasingly disconnected from nature, we believe the Santa Maria Manuela has an important part to play in reconnecting people with the ocean. Through reconnection comes engagement, through engagement we hope to build interest in the marine environment, and through interest comes a knowledge and passion to protect fragile oceanic and coastal ecosystems, and the communities which rely on them for their survival.

Blue Flag Vessel

Santa Maria Manuela is a Blue Flag ship. This award goes to vessels which follow the code of conduct of the Sail Training International Blue Flag Scheme for the preservation of and education about marine life.

Sailing aboard the Santa Maria Manuela is a transformational experience. As we venture beyond wireless connection, our guests begin to put their smart phones down and start to notice their surroundings.


SMM Blue Fag

Ocean Azul Foundation

We are very fortunate to have the guidance and support from the world leading team at the Ocean Azul Foundation who believe that a healthy ocean is essential for human development. Their mission is to contribute towards a healthy and productive ocean for the benefit of our planet, and we are proud of our partnership with them to support their vital work in protecting our oceans for future generations. Lisbon Oceanarium belongs to this Foundation, and its one million annual visitors are amazed by the diversity of the 450 species and 16 thousand animals which call its waters home.

In 2018 the Santa Maria Manuela was host ship to a scientific and environmental expedition around the Azores Archipelago. In partnership with the Ocean Azul and Waitt Foundations, National Geographic and the government of the Azores, 40 scientists and members of the media conducted 617 dives to analyse the state of near shore, open ocean and deep sea ecosystems. The result was a memorandum of understanding which aims to create a 150,000 km sq marine protection area around the Azores.

In 2020 the Santa Maria Manuela was host ship for Portugal’s International Coastal Cleanup, organized by the Ocean Azul Foundation. 122 divers from 7 dive centres removed 247 kg of marine litter from 10,000m2 of seabed in just a few hours. This was one of 170 coastal clean-up actions which removed 19 tons of marine and beach litter across Portugal.

Today we are working with the inspirational team at the Lisbon Oceanarium to create eco voyages where our guests will explore Portugal’s Marine Protection Areas and get deep insights into Portugal’s fascinating reef and pelagic sea-life.

Waste Free Oceans

With support from our partners at Waste Free Oceans, during each voyage our guests help us trawl a net to analyze the purity of the water. The fine netting captures what is floating in the ocean, be it plankton, fish or small pieces of ocean litter and microplastics. It is truly shocking to find evidence of mans impact on the environment hundreds of miles off shore, or to find pieces of plastic and ocean litter on remote islands during one of our beach clean-ups, but seeing this has a powerful effect, inspiring us to take action.

Our commitment to sustainability

On a sustainability level, we are committed to minimizing our footprint, whether by sailing without engine whenever the wind allows, recycling our waste, and offering workshops and talks to our guests about the environment and the choices we can all make to protect it.

In 2021 we became the first vessel in Europe to use OceanIX. These “Green Ropes”, created by the Scandinavian company Plastix in March 2021 in partnership with Waste Free Oceans and are made from obsolete maritime ropes, nets and fishing gear. This rope has a significantly lower CO2 footprint compared to virgin plastics, thereby supporting the vision of the Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and 13 – Climate Action.

Eco tourism and responsible travel

Global tourism grew by 56 times between 1950 and 2019 to $8.9 trillion, constituting 10.3% of the global economy, but for some island economies, tourism revenues represent an even greater percentage of their economy.

Tourism has the power to be the world’s greatest form of wealth distribution, but to unlock this potential in the post pandemic world we must rebuild our tourism economy with local communities at the heart.

The good news is that before the global pandemic struck we were seeing a growth of environmental consciousness. Aboard the SMM we believe we must embrace this social enterprise, so whilst delivering hands on sailing experiences we hope to offer meaningful, responsible travel experiences which give back to the communities we visit, and support local environmental initiatives.

When our guests disembark from the Santa Maria Manuela, we hope they leave with a positive experience of sailing our historic schooner, and having acquired some knowledge about the fragile marine environment on which we all depend. Inspired by this enriching experience we hope they find the energy and passion to make a difference in their own way.