Is ‘Green’ Yachting Possible?
Buying a yacht is a big investment. There’s a long list of considerations to take into account when considering which luxury vessel is the right one and not all of them allow for choice. Some decisions will be determined by budget, some by personal preference. Many are unavoidably based on legislation and regulations, whilst others will have many possibilities and depend on how strongly one feels about specific issues. One of the key areas yacht buyers must increasingly take into account though, is environmental sustainability. In this blog, we look at how the yachting industry is working hard to protect the environment it so heavily relies on.
Ongoing costs are a key element in defining the parameters of a luxury yacht investment, no matter how affordable the initial purchase may be. This is one of the areas where making a choice to be ‘greener’ can pay off – as long as it is viewed as a long-term plan. Marine fuel is often the biggest cost involved in running a luxury yacht, so anything that helps to reduce reliance on fuel makes a difference to the bottom line.
Reducing costs on fuel, with an associated reduction in environmental impact is the ultimate winning combination. As well as pressure from government to address climate change issues and ocean pollution, the rising cost of marine fuel is an additional factor in stimulating change.
In recent years, we have seen the development of power and propulsion systems that use greener energy, being specifically made for the marine industry. Consumers are becoming more environmentally aware. Additionally, the yachting industry has made regulatory changes that affect the carbon footprint of vessels and the pollution they create. This has further driven the need for change. Thanks to yacht designers and builders getting on board with the technology, there are increasing numbers of yachts being launched with hybrid propulsion systems. These yachts utilise the combined power of diesel and electric motors. They can also harness renewable energy and recharge battery power at sea.
Developments such as these are fantastic news for the yachting industry. Given the abundant opportunity to use renewable energy at sea though, it feels like this technology should have been developed much sooner. We’ve had hybrid cars for decades; land-based solar and photovoltaic panels have advanced massively. And, let’s not forget that it was more than a decade ago that Pete Bethune’s biodiesel-fuelled boat, Earthrace, broke the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth, taking just 60 days.
It’s fair to say that electric motors still have some way to go, in terms of the distance that can be travelled on electric propulsion alone. There are however, a number of other ways in which ‘greener yachts’ use technology to make them kinder to the environment. As well as propulsion systems based on dual-power, there are on-board recycling systems that reuse energy for heating and design enhancements that reduce friction on the hull.
One example of innovative green yacht development, comes from Dutch yacht builder AMELS. In 2015, it unveiled the limited edition AMELS Hybrid Switchboard, at the Monaco Yacht Show and the first is due to be delivered this year.
This new yacht fully embraces the concept of energy efficiency with its Hybrid Switchboard system. This innovative system recovers used energy and promises to create an efficient, yet still luxurious yachting experience. With the Hybrid Switchboard system, AMELS is offering yacht buyers an overall reduction in operating costs of at least €100,000 per year! This will appeal, in terms of benefit to both the environment and the buyer’s wallet.
Leading names such as Benetti, Heesen and Admiral are also developing innovative solutions for green technology in yachting. Given the legislative requirements to reduce the environmental impact of yachting and the urgent need to protect the oceans, this can only be a good thing.
Yacht owners who are not yet looking to buy one of the new hybrids, can also do their bit to mediate the effect they have on the environment. There are a number of easy steps to take, such as using engines efficiently, at lower speeds and where possible, over shorter distances. In addition, basic waste separation and recycling of plastics should be an on-board norm, just as it is for most of us at home. The use of bio-degradable cleaning products also makes a difference and is an easy change to make.
Moreover, yacht owners will benefit both the environment and their own pocket, by ensuring their yacht is properly maintained. Efficiency here will reap economic benefits too. A longer-term approach is to consider options such as replacing generators with solar panels. As well as feeling good about making such a change, anything that can eliminate generator noise and pollution is going to make yachting more pleasant for everyone.
The yachting industry is making great strides towards a more sustainable future, but it will take time before new technology becomes widely available. In the meantime, it’s up to yacht owners to take steps that will make a difference now.