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SuperYacht Times Webinar recap: Green Yachts, Now is the Time

Webinars Business
Written by
Laura Nicholls

Following the successful first SuperYacht Times Webinar hosted by yachting expert Hein Velema earlier this week, the second 45-minute episode looked into the topic of ‘Green Yachts, Now is the Time’. SuperYacht Times’ Associate Editor Justin Ratcliffe introduced the topic by saying: “In this age of global warming, climate change and plastic pollution, now is the time to be evaluating our degrees of efficiency or sustainability as an industry, and not just because we need to be seen as an environmentally responsible industry, but simply because it's the right thing to do.”  

The discussion kicked off with Peter Lürssen, CEO of the German shipyard being asked, why is green yachting so important for Lürssen and what expectations do your clients have? “Our clients are very conscientious about their behaviour and its effect on the environment. With all that’s happening in the world, the need for awareness becomes bigger and bigger. Certainly with the larger superyachts, owner’s feel more urgency to make sure their ships are as efficient as possible and that Lürssen is being as sustainable and environmentally careful as possible.”  

“Clients ask us what new developments there are that can help them to be more environmentally conscious, more sensitive. The propulsion package is one way, with electric alternative power supplies, LNG and hydrogen. Another way is how to make sure that the exhaust fumes are as clean as possible and consider which filters work best for the engine as well as looking into garbage management and reducing the hotel load. These owners know that we can be more efficient by using modern technologies and within reason, are very happy to spend money on it. But by having a pragmatic approach to efficiency and sustainability, we see clients afraid that if they don't have, for example, hybrid propulsion, they will not be able to sell their yacht in the future. So not only are we thinking about today, we are looking at what our yachts need to have in three, four or five years,” Lürssen added.  Lürssen 87m Project Hawaii yacht launchPhoto: Tom van OossanenHead of Private Jet and Yacht Finance at BNP Yacht Finance, Olivier Blanchet, shed some light on the question surrounding the expense and investment in eco-technology. “The companies who are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished in one way or another. But, if our clients are willing to evolve and transform their business model into a more sustainable one, the banks, and not only BNP Paribas, will be able to support them. It is a question of creating a circular economy.”  

Velema asked the audience to interact with a poll and share their opinion on whether or not owners are willing to pay more for a green yacht. With only 40% of participants agreeing that owners were not willing to invest, the overall result was positive. “Without a doubt, owners want to invest, but also the client and the shipyard have to be fairly flexible in how they sign the contract for a green yacht. Technology changes every week, and a flexible contract will allow the project to keep up with the times,” remarked Blanchet. “Yes, clients want to feel appreciated by the industry for going the extra mile to invest in future technology,” added Water Revolution Foundation’s Managing Director, Robert van Tol.  Black Pearl sailing yacht by OceancoPhoto: Tom van OossanenA fine example of a green superyacht is the 106.7-metre Black Pearl, built and launched by Oceanco in 2018. As Project Manager of the build, Derek Munro was on the front line and witnessed how these new innovations came to be: “The client thought about what he wanted to get the world to think about, so he set out to build a vessel that was as green as possible, and I think she is the greenest yacht probably afloat at the moment. I know there are boats in design that are probably going to be greener than Black Pearl but as she sits right now, she should be able to do a transatlantic on zero fossil fuels using the combination of the batteries, the regeneration of power, sails and the solar panels when we install them.”  

“We're getting a lot of questions about the regeneration. When the boat was built, we calculated a figure that we expected to get back, but we've had probably four times more than that in our regeneration capacity. We've had a maximum of 488 kilowatts under sail and the house load at the moment with just the crew on board is about 138 kilowatts, so the rest is excess. We could become a sailing yacht of the future and have hydrogen on board, but the problem with that at the moment is how it's stored safely and how Class will allow it to be built into the boat,” described Munro.     Black Pearl sailing yacht by OceancoPhoto: Tom van OossanenIntroducing the Foundation, van Tol explained that it was “a collaborative platform to develop tools that facilitate the industry to start measuring our environmental impact based on 10 different environmental parameters and comparing how efficient we are as an industry. We are working closely with the various stakeholders of the supply chain and of a yacht’s life cycle,” he said.  

In support of the Foundation’s work, Lürssen added: “First and foremost, we have to understand that this is not a switch we can flick to make everything sustainable. The whole development is a series of many many smaller steps. Water Revolution gives us a platform so that we can exchange whatever we discover and for the vast majority, there is a great willingness to share information and achievements surrounding new sustainable solutions.”  Lurssen Lemwerder shipyardPhoto: LurssenFollowing another poll, it was found that the audience was divided in their feelings on whether only sailing yachts are able to be the greenest option for the industry. However, as confirmed by Blanchet, there are investments in finding alternatives to sailing yachts, specifically hydrogen. “The question is how you produce hydrogen and store it. I do believe that we will see one form of hydrogen installation within the next five years. Shipyards are doing research in this field to find a reliable, fully-certified solution that has practical value for the client. I am a strong believer that you should only do things that are practical,” said Lürssen.  

To summarise the webinar, Ratcliffe said: “It was said that the superyacht industry is in a unique position as a catalyst for change because we work with extremely wealthy and influential clients. Personally, I think we need to see more owners coming on board as first adopters, much like the owner of Black Pearl for example. And to do that, we need to see the whole industry enabling owners to make informed decisions with regard to sustainable solutions. Classification societies also have to be ahead of the curve in terms of regular regulatory frameworks to be able to apply these often new and innovative solutions, as the lack of regulations is holding up development.”  

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