Green new-builds & floating footprints

In the battle for the yacht dollar, it is the shipyards who embrace green technology who will win the next round in the fight for business survival and the green yachts which will be more attractive on the charter market.

Green new-builds

What can be done at the planning stage to ensure that a superyacht is fundamentally as green as it can be? Despite his earlier comment about oxymorons, yacht designer Michael Peters thinks that helpful steps can be taken, such as intrinsically different shaped hulls to improve performance.

Longer hulls with a narrow beam, shorter-length multi hulls with their intrinsically wide beam, and even hulls that employ the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) concept, could all use reduced propulsion power to achieve the same end result as conventionally shaped and traditionally powered yachts. He said, “Such savings are not only to be found in the cost of fuel, but in the reduction of raw materials and weight savings achieved by building a smaller power plant.”

© Esthec 2013

In terms of materials, open deck spaces that would normally be covered in precious Burmese teak can be covered in more sustainable alternatives. One hundred and eighty year old teak trees are felled to deck just one 50m superyacht. Alternative deck coverings could potentially save many trees, and production boat builders who use smaller amounts of teak per unit can still play a significant part in this process by switching to alternative decking material.

Teakdecking Systems has long been attuned to its environmental responsibilities and those of the boat building industry. Its vertical grain Burmese teak comes from managed Asian forests with 30 to 50 year felling cycles. One elephant and one man spend their entire working careers together carefully removing teak logs without damaging new growths. 

This is quite different to some lumbering operations, which use large mechanised equipment to indiscriminately clear roads through forests. The company pioneered the concept of pre-assembled decking; built away from the vessel in controlled factory conditions some 30 years and 20,000 decks ago. The process inherently uses less teak than traditionally hand-laid decking because it precisely controls resource allocation and lumber sourcing.

Synthetic decking

Gabrielle Clark of Esthec (the synthetic decking substitute for wooden decks) believes:

"Sustainability is at the top of everyone’s agenda. For this reason, our mission is to highlight the environmental aspects of our products, contributing to a sustainable future."

Esthec includes recycled material in production; reuses its own waste; uses materials which are over 90% recyclable; and sources all products locally to decrease its footprint. The manufacture of Esthec does not require the cutting of any trees, protecting the world’s natural resources. 

Reducing fuel consumption

© Alastair Callendar and registered design 2009

Podded propulsion systems such as the E-Pod drives can be effective in reducing fuel consumption and the environmental impact. The E-Pod drives are powered by several diesel generators, which gives a fuel consumption that is optimised at all speeds. The diesel generators can be replaced by an alternative power solution in the years to come, which makes the yacht evolutionary. Along with higher fuel efficiency and lower pollution, podded drives bring silence and very low vibration, excellent manoeuvring capabilities and lower maintenance to the yacht.

In France, an SYOG source, who has lived on a yacht since his early childhood, heads up the forward-thinking marine propulsion company. Seeks to share their expertise in electric propulsion with superyacht owners.

Using Engtek’s world-leading technology (as the official agent), thsi leading marine propulsion offers green, eco-friendly propulsion solutions that bring to the yacht manoeuvrability, silence, the absence of vibration, and low pollution in high proportions. From the outset, our source has seen it as his personal mission to assist the superyacht owner, with the designer and the shipyard to integrate electric propulsion into the general design of the boat. He says:

“It will turn the expense of pleasure into an investment for the future.”


Using heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems that meet or exceed all the requirements of the Montreal Protocol of 1989 (an international treaty on substances that deplete the ozone layer) is another step towards the green dream, as is the use of water-mist-based fire fighting systems rather than those charged by gas. Yards that meet or exceed MARPOL environmental standards (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) should be used and it is better still if they have achieved Environmental Protection class notation in their construction process.

Space saving waste

Superyacht waste is of growing concern, too, with increasing amounts of food waste simply thrown overboard, especially in popular cruising grounds like the Mediterranean. Relevant MARPOL regulations have prompted a company called Tony Team to develop a product that compresses food waste down to 14% of its original size, which is a huge boon for space-pressed chefs and crew.

© What Lies Under by Ferdi Rizkiyanto -

Tony Team’s managing director, Victoria Oates, said, “We’ve had loads of enquiries since MARPOL changes were implemented. Before, it was a nice thing to have; now people haven’t got a choice. While most of the food, packaging and cleaning products that constitute garbage have remained the same in the new MARPOL V rules, there are one or two new appearances that could make a difference. Cooking oil and animal carcasses are new to the list of garbage items, along with operational wastes and cargo residues.”

Coolants such as chlorous CFKs and HCFKs deplete the ozone layer, and agreements were established in the Montreal Protocol to gradually phase them out. Heinen and Hopman Engineering in the Netherlands has developed chillers to replace existing on-board facilities with state-of-the-art cooling systems without the need to open the hull. These are designed and manufactured as a building package and are suitable for transporting through the doors of a superyacht.

Floating footprints                        

No matter where a yacht is owned or chartered or whatever fuel it uses, it will generate a carbon footprint. With the spotlight on sustainability, this may well be the first environmental impact that a superyacht owner, guest, or a casual passer-by might consider. Fortunately this is one area where there is an effective and immediate response available to any yacht: carbon offsetting. Mark Robinson, from Yacht Carbon Offset, explains:

"Carbon offsetting matches the greenhouse gas emissions from a yacht’s engines, tonne for tonne, with equivalent emission reductions from green energy projects on shore. Owners and guests from all around the world have welcomed this concept. No on-board equipment is needed and the service is completely flexible; we can certify a carbon offset for a single charter or for a whole season’s cruising. The yacht receives a certificate detailing exactly what has been offset, backed up by our Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance Certification.

At under three eurocents per litre of fuel, it has a very small impact on the yacht’s budget, yet the carbon funding supports projects such as geothermal and small hydro-electric projects that would otherwise not exist, so it really makes a difference.

With global warming and the ever-present pressure from environmental campaigners for the marine trade to clean up the seas and to act respectfully and responsibly, these are challenging times for shipyards and owners – challenges which can often be met head on and overcome or ameliorated with forethought, investment and technology. In the battle for the yacht dollar, it is the shipyards who embrace green technology who will win the next round in the fight for business survival and the green yachts which will be more attractive on the charter market.

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