Sailing a yacht is practiced in exceptional, often preserved, natural areas. But chartering a superyacht and sustainability do not always seem to go hand in hand. The major shipyards have long been conscious of the issue. More and more, they are trying to move the industry to a greener future by offering more eco-responsible yachts. Those have to be less fossil fuel-intensive, lighter, and designed with more eco-friendly and sustainable materials.
Making yachting more sustainable is a project that involves all the stakeholders of the industry: shipyards, management companies, and yachties.
Let’s see how each of them plans on changing the way our yachts will interact with our environment.
The Sustainable Yachting Network: a prince Albert foundation for a greener yachting
The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is an initiative aiming to promote the development of eco-friendly yachting. In 2019, the foundation launched the Sustainable Yachting Network. It supports and grows a network of committed stakeholders and experts in the yachting industry. Its goal is to promote the development of sustainable solutions.
The fields of action of the Sustainable Yachting Network, and its partners such as the Yacht Club of Monaco, the Monaco Yacht Show, the Cluster Yachting Monaco, are various. They are in charge of:
- the organization of events;
- the production of informative tools like the Best Practices for an Eco-Friendly Yachting guide;
- and the support for R&D projects that promote innovation of sustainable solutions related to yachting.
Same kind of initiative with the Water Revolution Foundation, created at the Superyacht Forum in 2018 by a small group of like-minded superyacht industry leaders. It raises collaboration among several major shipbuilders (including Benetti, Feadship, Heesen, and Lürssen, to name a few), technology companies, design firms, and others associated with the yachting industry. The non-lucrative organization acts for innovation. It provides tools, assessments, and expertise to companies who want to make a positive impact on the planet.
Green propulsion: the race for renewable energy on yachts has already started
Major technological innovations emerge to promote more eco-friendly yachting.
Propulsion is one of the main sources of pollution when it comes to yachts, especially motoryachts. Therefore, one of the main focuses of the industry is to invest and research new ways of propulsing our beloved vessels. These innovations tend to protect the atmosphere and oceans floors while keeping or even enhancing the performances of current fuel engines.
The industry explores or even already exploits some solutions, including:
- electric motors;
- yachts capable of converting solar and wind power into renewable energy;
- biofuels (such as GTL and HVO);
- and hybrid yachts.
We can also mention hydrogen systems, such as Sinot’s Aqua superyacht or the AQUON One. Hopes for a greener future for yachting are high.
The market for hybrid yachts is already on and maturing. Many traditional shipyards also explore the possibility of adding electric propulsion to their current and future ranges. In this manner, their boats will require less or no fossil fuels at all.
Aquon One: the promises of hydrogen propulsion
The AQUON One is a motor catamaran that can give us an overview of what our future can be. The yacht is an 18-meter-long green vessel powered by hydrogen thanks to a unique technology developed by Swiss Sustainable Yachts.
On the roof of the boat, photovoltaic panels convert solar energy into electricity. The electricity can be stored in small Li-ion batteries for short-term and almost immediate use for the electric motors and the equipment on board, while surplus electricity is used to transform desalinated seawater into green hydrogen (H2). This gas is then compressed and stored. Later, fuel cells convert the hydrogen back into electricity.
The yacht is autonomous with a cruising speed of 8 knots, a maximum speed of 16 knots, and a capacity of 10 people on board.
Cruising on the Aquon One is not only emission-free but also silent. Reducing the noise pollution for the marine environment, it provides additional comfort for people on board too.
The near future of hybrid yachts
Other shipyards are planning a rapid evolution over the next few years. Feadship wants to only use hybrid energy or to be electric before 2025, while Oceanco wants to use only 100% renewable energy and produce zero waste by 2030. The NEEL-TRIMARANS teams also committed from 2018 to develop a more eco-friendly type of boating.
The Neel 51, launched in 2018, is their first yacht to mark a revolution in the yachting industry with her hybrid engine. The Leen 72 goes even further with her hybrid motor, solar panels, and ergonomic design.
Eco-friendly design: an important step for future sustainable yachts
Besides propulsions, engineers in the whole yachting industry are also trying to develop designs more eco-responsible and more resource-efficient.
They seek after designs that lower friction between the hull(s), air, and water. These kinds of designs will indeed reduce its fossil fuel consumption while enhancing its overall performance of the boat. The weight of the yacht is really important as well. That is why it is a focus for all shipyards heading towards a greener future. Most of the research consists of finding new materials that will be lighter and more aerodynamic. Several industry leaders already chose aluminum over steel or carbon fiber instead of heavier materials for their flagship yachts.
The Black Pearl: a futuristic yacht with an eco-friendly design
In 2016, Oceanco launched the Black Pearl, the largest DynaRig sailboat ever built in the world with her 106.7 meters length. Her steel hull, aluminum superstructure, and carbon fiber masts make it a lightweight yacht despite her size.
Thanks to its regenerative technologies, this three-masted ship can cross the Atlantic Ocean without using a single drop of fossil fuel. Her system relies on the use of the yacht’s speed under sail to generate electricity with a variable pitch propeller.
Under normal sailing conditions, the rate of shaft rotation slows down. It is also possible to maintain it for the sole purpose of recovering kinetic energy for storage or use on board, thanks to a permanent magnet electric propulsion motor.
The Black Pearl also has waste heat recovery technologies and storage batteries so as not to lose the energy generated and captured.
Raw materials in yachting: a focus on sustainable alternatives
Raw materials play a crucial part in making a yacht more sustainable. So shipyards should consider the complete production and life cycles of the yacht.
Choosing eco-responsible materials means opting for those whose production is, of course, environmentally friendly. But it also requires limited use of resources in the production making process. Some plant fibers such as flax, bamboo, or hemp are often eco-friendly, durable, recyclable. It is not unusual to see them used as household linen, curtains, and furnishing. But flax and basalt can also be transformed into composite materials like flax or basalt fiber. We can find these green composites in the manufacture of yachts for the production of hulls, superstructures, and furniture. In other instances, some materials such as labeled Burmese teak are neglected in favor of cork decking from recycled corks for the outdoor and the indoor floors of the boats.
The recycling of old materials and the use of materials that can be further recycled is also an important part of making the industry greener. The shipyard Benetti explains that: “when we think about a green yacht, we have to consider it in its full life cycle, and that’s why we have a long-term strategy to ensure that many parts of the yachts we produce can be easily disassembled and recycled when they are taken out of service”.
Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, some synthetic materials can also replace natural materials to make the furnishing actually eco-friendlier. If their manufacturing process is not always the greenest, some of them remain more durable over time. Also, they require little to no maintenance compared to their natural counterparts. Recycled synthetic materials can for example replace animal leather for a positive environmental impact and a better resistance to moist and salt.
Waste management on-board: a collective responsibility for cleaner oceans
Offering a greener future for our oceans also means managing resources on board carefully and in particular waste.
Yachts come often with clear water tanks. Some eco-responsible boats even have water filtration systems so that yachties can enjoy unlimited clear water onboard while avoiding waste and the use of single-use bottles.
Other systems to limit the amount of waste dumped in the sea are also available, like the one collecting microplastics from washing machines.
Better waste and sustainable management are not only expected by the shipyards and charter companies, but also by the governments. They will create new laws and regulations.
Over the last 50 years, the density of yachts and the rate of anchoring have increased exponentially. But, at the same time, mentalities and regulations are moving forward in order to avoid negative consequences on the environment.
Since 1986, anchoring has been regulated in European waters, especially in the Mediterranean. The trend is seen throughout the world, where mooring buoys replace anchoring. If the rate of anchoring increases with the density of boats, nevertheless damage caused to fauna and flora, especially coral reefs, is increasingly limited, controlled, and avoided thanks to mooring buoys.
Also, yacht crews and charter company teams should be trained to be more aware of the importance of caring for the oceans and to encourage more eco-friendly yachting. They can advise you about the best practices and draw your itineraries that will respect the protected areas. They must opt on board for green cleaning products as eco-friendly detergent, dishwashing soap, and other cleansers. A trained crew will also help you choose green hygienic products, such as soap and shampoo bars for your sailing holidays, or encourage you to choose reef-safe sun creams, washable and reusable cleaning wipes.
The use of local rather than imported, seasonal, and organic foodstuffs is also part of this same ecological approach.
Every year, more and more shipyards are joining the race to make their yachts more eco-friendly. And the sustainable yachting pioneers are investing heavily in R&D to be at the forefront of this new way to approach sailing.