Improving the ecological footprint of boating
On Tuesday morning a highly experienced panel of experts gathered at the InnovationLAB to discuss the challenges posed by trying to move towards a circular economy where boats no longer contribute to landfill. Here are the summarised extracts from their debate.
Driving change through owner demand
Eelco Leemans, of Eelco Maritime Consultancy, turned first to the commercial marine sector to consider what is happening there: “Commercial shipping is regulated at the international level for pollution control, emissions and so on. But because these regulations are global they are not very ambitious.
“What is more interesting are the non-governmental stakeholders that are trying to influence the environmental performance of the industry. For example, there’s a group of cargo owners, particularly from Sweden, that want to reduce their environmental footprint in transportation. So they go to shipping companies and say they want ships that are safe and sustainable.
“I do wonder whether something similar would translate to the leisure industry, so its clients would play a role in forcing change. However I think government regulation and financial instruments will be necessary as if we just leave it to owners, we won’t get very far I’m afraid.”
Changing to better materials
Enrico Benco, of Go Sailing, For a Change, is a firm advocate of adopting new materials: “It is possible to get to zero landfill with boats now, but it is a question of applying the technologies that are available and putting sustainability as the top priority instead of using cheaper materials, selling the boat and forgetting about it.
“It’s a cultural battle more than technical. In 2005 we had a fibre technology that had the lowest embedded energy on the market. It is also completely recyclable. I’m told around 10-15 per cent of the finished price of a boat is its raw material cost so there should have been scope for making a change to the new fibre but even with it being a low percentage of the build cost, boatbuilders would not go for it.
“Unfortunately recycling fibreglass back into fibreglass is not cost effective – you can buy virgin material for less. So the whole model of ownership has to change.
“In other industries we have seen leasing systems emerge where the manufacturer owns the product, not the consumer. That way the manufacturer has an incentive to use better materials, the customer gets a better product and you can move to zero landfill.”
The language is important
Victoria Cerrone, of Clear Yacht International, offered insight on how to communicate the benefits of a sustainable approach: “As a company focused on interior design we are at the intersection of the superyacht industry and the clients. We hear what they want.
“A lot of them have no idea what materials are sustainable. The market is not asking for sustainability per se. However they are focused on health and wellness. They ask how we can rejuvenate the way they feel? How the interior space impacts their health? What is the quality of the air in the stateroom? How customised will the final design be towards the needs of their health?
“We do not use the word ‘green’ – the reaction would be that represents a compromise. In my business we use the term ‘sustainable luxury’.
“Green is an old term right now – even the word ‘sustainability’ is not suitable. We should talk about product excellence and product innovation that results in better human experiences while sustaining the resources we have and the oceans around us."
“There is an opportunity for the superyacht industry, with its bigger budgets, to push technology to its limits and then allow the new products to trickle down through the broader marine industry.”
Improving sail efficiency can make a major difference to the envirionment
Gerard Dykstra, of Dykstra Naval Architects, highlighted how, in all the focus on materials used in construction, that operational impacts should not be forgotten because they could potentially bring much greater gains: “When we designed the Rainbow Warrior III we were asked to make a detailed study of the environmental footprint of the ship and provided that information to TNO.
“We made several studies, one of them related to the materials used in building the yacht. By doing that we realised the actual materials used comprised only five per cent at the most of the total environmental footprint – all the rest was due to operational aspects.
“By providing Rainbow Warrior III with an easily managed sailing rig we reduced that operational impact by 60 per cent. So we have always concentrated on that aspect of design.
“If you have an easily managed sailing rig able to be controlled by one person in any condition that is efficient, like the Dynarig on the Maltese Falcon, then the crew will use it. Maltese Falcon is using her sails as main propulsion for 75 per cent of the time that she is at sea. For more conventional rigs that are harder to manage, you typically only achieve 30 per cent utlisation. So we need to look more to sailing rigs like Dynarig, WASP (designed to reduce the environmental impact of commercial ships) and others like those to make a major difference.”
Extending the life cycle of boats
Paolo Bertetti of Sanlorenzo says his company already improves the ecological credentials of their yachts by extending their lifetime: “A yacht is disposed of not because it is too old, but because people lose interest in it. So the point is how to extend the appeal of the yacht."
“You need to have attractive lines that still work well after many years. Then you need to design and build it in such a way at the beginning so that you can update its interior. It’s like a house – you are not going to scrap it, you are going to change the wall paint or the furniture."
“If we extend the life of the yacht then its also important that the impact of the environment is as good as it can be when you use it. So you must also focus on solutions that give efficiency too, starting with the engines, hull shape, systems and so on."
“There are yards that every three four years they are changing the models to drive sales. We focus instead on longer timespans for our models without extreme design elements that will prematurely age their look. We also offer customisation of the interiors – in our case each yacht is different."
“We have been focused on survival since the 2008 downturn, but now things are starting to get better and it is the right time to invest. We have to wise up and focus on something that is really positive in terms of sustainability that makes sense for everyone.”
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