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Turning the tide: creating a sustainable future for superyachts

Alizah Beg
Alizah Beg

ESG Consultant

Superyacht industry can join others as key contributor to promote sustainable use of ocean resources.

Covering 70% of the planet, the ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth and houses an estimated 80% of its biodiversity. The importance of this ecosystem is vast. Half of the world’s population rely on the ocean as a food source, whilst, it also serves as a vital carbon sink assisting in combatting climate change (UNEP 2021). Moreover, the ocean boasts economic value, by an estimated USD $2.5trillion per year, or the equivalent of the world’s 7th largest economy. As such, efforts to conserve and sustainably use ocean, sea and marine resources are increasing.

The luxury superyacht industry has recently joined others to begin pushing towards a more sustainable future; both companies and individuals alike are innovating the traditional superyacht to “go green” limiting the environmental impact it is having for the future.

One of the key actions superyacht owners can take to increase sustainability, is already being implemented within the cruise industry, is seeking out different fuel sources or fuel alternatives to power yachts. One of the main alternative sources is liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it produces lower-emission rates of carbon dioxide (CO2) than conventional fossil fuel usage. To decrease emissions substantially, fuel alternatives are also being sought out such as fuel cells that are powered by hydrogen, or other methods of electric propulsion systems. As discussed during a superyacht event, a combination of two or more energy sources to form a hybrid propulsion system could see up to a 30% reduction in fuel consumption.

One such example of a superyacht is produced in the Dutch shipyard, Feadship, which uses a hybrid propulsion platform consisting of propellers and azimuth thrusters, electric motors, diesel engines, and gensets and batteries for their power, motor, and energy storage needs. The Dutch shipyard has also taken measures to ensure their facility is increasingly eco-friendly using an excess of 2000 solar panels as a renewable energy source and focusing on improving energy efficiency by utilising LED lighting and a combined ventilation and district heating system.

Addressing carbon dioxide emissions is not the sole way superyachts can become more sustainable; these boats emit other emissions that are detrimental to the environment, such as other chemical pollutants and noise pollution that disrupt the ocean ecosystem. The superyacht industry can therefore reduce its environmental impact further, by seeking out technologies that cut down these pollutants. For example, German shipyard, Lürssen, have begun reducing the nitrogen oxide level emitted from their builds through a filtration system. This is important as nitrogen oxide is one of the chemicals responsible for the increasing the number of coral bleaching events globally, which are detrimental to the long-term health of the ocean. Like their Dutch counterparts, Lürssen, is also implementing systems to improve their energy usage – the waste heat for their yacht’s engine is being used to power the onboard desalination process for their drinking system.

The actions superyacht owners are taking are not limited to mitigatory measures to reduce their environmental impact, but positive contributions to progressing a more sustainable future. German technology company, Nephi Technology, alongside a Dutch yacht designer are building a prototype of a yacht that boasts green technologies that perform a host of functions from purifying contaminates to emit pure air, to splitting CO2 into its two constituents, and hiding a full undercover garden below desk, amongst other features. Owners are also contributing to efforts to make the ocean healthy once again, such as organisations like the Blue Marine Foundation and REV Ocean

For those interested in investing in the superyacht industry or the larger effort to protect the ocean, best practice guidelines for investing different ocean sectors are becoming more widely available and can be helpful to understand activities that should not be financed. For example, Initiatives like the UN-convened Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative, help investors, banks and insurers understand how their investments have an impact on ocean health, providing best practice guidelines for unlocking economic opportunities while simultaneously having a positive impact on the well-being of the ocean.

Mitigating negative impacts and advancing technologies to improve ocean health, including the aforementioned actions, are key steps to progress towards Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fourteenth goal aims to preserve life underwater and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources, to ensure that natural capital is more widely available, whilst preserving the natural environments and preventing depletion, which is both detrimental to environmental and social issues.

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