Sustainable luxury: what green means for yachts

Sustainable luxury: what green means for yachts

Oct. 22 2020 - 5 min

Yachts are boosting their sustainability credentials, limiting their carbon footprint through alternative propulsion, green construction and life cycle management.

The coming sustainability wave is sweeping the luxury boating sector forward, with commercial yacht owners exploring green shipbuilding and operating practices. Yachts start in a strong position, already traveling shorter distances and burning cleaner fuel than trading vessels or passenger ships.

Still, there is room for improvement, and yacht owners are looking into both alternative propulsion and green construction solutions. These changes offer multiple advantages, limiting a ship’s carbon footprint and minimizing its emissions, while improving the onboard experience.

Rethinking propulsion and energy sources

Hybrid-electric solutions are a favored solution for improving yacht sustainability. Not only does running on electric power significantly reduce underwater emissions, it eliminates noise from generators, ensuring a quieter ride.

This is a major advantage for both onboard passengers and marine life, which can be harmed and disoriented by underwater radiated noise from engines. Hybrid-electric power also improves ship maneuverability, limiting the time and emissions expended when coming into harbors and ports.

Other low carbon technologies that have already been integrated onboard yachts include kite sails and solar panels. Kite sails enable yachts to travel using wind power, a carbon-free energy source. This technology can be complemented by a low resistance hull to improve energy efficiency, and supplemented by green propulsion for non-sailing days. Solar panels offer similar advantages when mixed with electric propulsion, providing a yachting experience with limited noise, emissions and maintenance.

Starting green, staying green

Shipyards can also make a big impact on yachts’ green credentials by building ships with organically produced and recycled materials, and through sustainable construction processes. By sourcing wood from sustainably certified forests, and using recycled materials such as aluminum, steel and natural composites, ships can minimize waste and carbon output. Using clean energy onsite to power construction tools can further ensure a green beginning to the yacht life cycle.

At the other end of the asset life cycle, yacht owners need to find sustainable ways of dismantling out-of-service vessels. In compliance with the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, yachts over 500 GT, like other vessels, must have an inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) onboard and a ship recycling plan (SRP) established.

For yacht owners and shipyards, this means ensuring ships are dismantled in line with regulations and hazardous materials are safely disposed of without damaging the environment.

The future of sustainable yachts

Societal attitudes toward sustainability are evolving rapidly, and yacht charterers expect the best of both worlds: luxury, comfort and green credentials. Meanwhile, the number of emission control areas (ECA) and environmental regulations is increasing, and port requirements for limited emissions are becoming more stringent.

All indicators point to a more sustainable future for commercial yachts, and owners have already taken promising first steps towards developing eco-friendly ships. Better still, the path ahead is wide open: yacht owners have numerous options for energy and propulsion, easy access to sustainable materials, and few technical restrictions.

With the right expertise from shipyards, green solutions providers, classification societies and more, the luxury yacht business can sail unabated into a cleaner future.