Cars / Yachts

Yacht Industry Leaders Work Together to Encourage Sustainability

Industry heavyweights are prioritising sustainability and trying to lead by example, writes Superyacht Services Guide’s Marieke Derks.

Jan 24, 2020 | By Yacht Style

For those working in the yacht industry, visiting Metstrade in Amsterdam is always an exhilarating experience. I like how the world’s largest B2B marine equipment trade show is so efficiently organised, despite a record number of exhibitors (1,670 from 53 countries, with 7,297 stand personnel) and unique visitors (17,792 representing 115 nationalities).

The ‘End-Of-Use Boats’ yacht panel discussion at Metstrade’s I-nnovationLab

The ‘End-Of-Use Boats’ panel discussion at Metstrade’s I-nnovationLab

It is truly an international marketplace
for networking, information exchange and doing business. Three-and-a-half days are jam-packed with the exhibition, seminars, discussion panels, workshops, drinks, parties, Boat Builders Awards gala and the Superyacht Forum running in parallel. Most visitors schedule their meetings way in advance and many yachting-related associations use the event as a place to convene.

The latest Metstrade carried on the sustainability momentum created in the previous years. Ideas by Show Director Irene Dros and Sustainability Coordinator Peter Franklin for keeping the topic on the agenda were endorsed by leading people in the industry and led to valuable presentations and lively panel discussions in the ‘I-nnovationLab’ and ‘E-nnovationLab’ stages (the epicentres for sustainability) and further engagement throughout the show.

The theme started off with the keynote address by Henk de Vries, CEO of Feadship and Chairman of the Water Revolution Foundation, which was established after sustainability discussions at Metstrade last year.

Investing heavily in sustainability, Feadship is one of the nine founding partners of the Foundation along with the likes of Lürssen, Benetti, Heesen, Amels and Abeking & Rasmussen, builders that have recognised the urgency to reduce our ecological footprint and share a desire to establish a collective to accelerate the shift towards sustainability.

The aim is to neutralise the footprint of the yachting industry and preserve the world’s precious oceans, and the partners have made sure there is at least 10 years of solid funding for the organisation to accomplish real results.


De Vries stated that, while the shipping industry aims to stop emissions by 2050, Feadship wants its yachts to be zero-emission by 2025. He is convinced this is realistic because of results in the past (the first hybrid-propulsion yacht was built by Feadship in 2009); the status of technological developments of hybrid and hydrogen (now also at ambient temperature with miniaturised systems); and the investments being made together with technology partners. “If you want to be the leader, you have to be ahead of the pack,” he said.

Keynote address by Henk de Vries, CEO of yacht builder Feadship and also Chairman of the Water Revolution Foundation

Keynote address by Henk de Vries, Chairman of Water Revolution Foundation

He pointed out that his team needs to constantly exceed the high expectations of clients in a design-and-building process that’s already complicated. Adding the search for sustainable solutions, not only for the yacht itself but also for the building process and infrastructure, increases complexity.

Propulsion, power and emissions are not the only issues to address. It’s also important to trace all materials to their source. Where is the steel and aluminium purchased from? Are the materials produced with electricity generated by coal or hydro plants? Where does the teak come from? Is the wood certified and the plantation approved? What are its daily practices? What about paint? And how green is the yard where the yacht is being built?


But who’s driving this demand for sustainability? Although there are owners passionate about sustainability, the demand is not currently coming from the majority of yacht buyers. So, what to do when a hybrid solution is more expensive than a traditional solution? Should owners be ‘forced’ to pay the extra investment or should the yards absorb the extra costs from their margin, as De Vries hinted at?

Andrea Fabretti, CEO of Sunseeker, agrees that sustainability is not a priority for the majority of clients, so says the technology needs to be positioned in a different way.

“We need to attract the customer by creating comfort,” Frabetti said. “The advantage of staying at anchor without the genset running and no dirty smells or dirty water for swimming. Or to spend the night without noise and vibrations. That’s how we need to sell it.”

And how to determine ‘how green’ a yacht is? To answer that, the Water Solution Foundation has created a Yacht Assessment Tool, developed by the Foundation’s initiator and vice-chair, Dr Vienna Eleuteri, together with the University of Bologna.

It’s “a software tool based on ‘computational sustainability’, an interdisciplinary field that combines techniques from computer science, information science, operations research, applied mathematics, and statistics for balancing environmental, economic, and societal needs for sustainable development”.


Albert Willemsen, environmental consultant for ICOMIA and involved in the IMO GloFouling Project, chaired the show’s first panel session, focused on biofouling. The panellists represented AkzoNobel, Antifouling Coatings Committee of IPPIC (International Paint and Printing Ink Council), Waterways Netherlands, NRG Marine, Finsulate and World Sailing.

The UN has reported that alien invasive species (AIS) are an important cause to loss of biodiversity in general, a silent killer, equal to the effects of climate change. In the marine world, invasive species are distributed globally by vessels through hull growth (biofouling) and ballast water. Antifouling solutions are essential in reducing invasive species attached to a vessel’s underwater structure.

Toxic (or biocidal) anti-fouling coating systems deliberately leak chemicals into the water to kill microorganisms, plants, algae and barnacles on the hull, but kill or change other sea life as well. An IMO Taskforce, Glo Fouling Partnerships, addresses this issue of biofouling in the wider commercial shipping industry.

Solutions include the use of biocide-free paintings and coatings, already available on the market, and more frequent cleaning of vessels before they leave for new destinations. Even cargo ships now get in-water cleaning, although this practice is not allowed in all ports.

Alternative solutions include the ultrasonic Sonihull system or Finsulate fibre wrapping. The panel agreed on the benefits of combining biocidal free coating, ultrasound or fibre wrapping, and cleaning more often. Using new solutions requires a mind-shift from people managing boats, ports and marinas.

A question from the audience addressed the need for industry standards and labels to show the effectiveness of biocidal-free coatings and paints for certain areas (fresh, salt, tropical, etc) as there isn’t a one-fits-all solution.


Barbara Amerio, CEO of Amer Yachts, said the Italian builder has been testing 3D printing of a helm station using a fully circular composite called Filava, based on volcanic rock and recyclable at the ‘end of life’ of the component or boat.

The results are very encouraging and the company plans to use the material for other parts in the future, possibly even hulls. In line with this, Enrico Benco, co-founder of GS4C (Go Sailing, for a Change), stressed the need for a cradle-to-cradle solution for fully re-usable materials.

“Reuse is better than recycle,” he said, referring to both reusable components and reusable material that can be broken down into its initial ingredients without using huge amounts of energy or generating toxic emissions during the process.

The current recycling procedure for GRP often involves a large amount of new GRP being added in order to create new products, so the process is not fully circular.

Igor Kluin, Managing Director of Vaan Yachts, said the company’s first sustainable catamaran uses recycled, high-grade aluminium, reducing energy by 95 per cent compared to using new aluminium.


End-of-life boats create huge challenges for the environment. Issues are the costs of transport, the huge amount of labour involved in taking the boat apart, how to recycle 
the resulting materials, and government regulations.

“Solutions for recycling boats will never properly take off without a viable business model for the recycled materials and components,” says Pål Hernes, who works with Norway’s EcoFiber Recycling, which seeks to recycle GRP boats and reuse the materials to create new products.

“The main problem is that the 
current heritage fleet wasn’t designed 
and constructed for reuse or recycling in
the first place. Dismantling a boat into reusable materials – taking it fully apart and separating the elements and then grinding down the GRP to reusable material – is a very labour-intensive process. It only works if the rest of the materials have sufficient value as new source material.”

What can be done with existing GRP? Various companies and universities are already recycling fibreglass into new materials and products. There are two components: the resin and the fibres. The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association’s Fibreglass Vessel Recycling Pilot Project uses the material in cement kiln co- processing.

In the Netherlands, reused GRP materials have been used for lining canals. Composite experts at universities are looking into combining boat-waste material with other [waste] materials to create thermoplastic sheets for furniture.

Crucial for the business model of recycling is to create synergies and sufficient scale 
with other industries, such as automotive and furniture. Government policies and regulations are important as well, as the last owner of a yacht is usually not the most solvent one.

Marnix Hoekstra, partner and Creative Director at Vripack, stresses the importance of designing new yachts with the end-of life requirement in mind from the start.

“Computer programmes can be used
to design yachts or yacht modules for
 easier disassembling later on,” he said. “Sustainability seems to be in the same line as uncomfortable, but the challenge is to create comfortable new sustainable solutions for owners, in the same way as we sold carbon-fibre or teak decking to clients in the past.”

Metstrade will continue discussions on sustainability and if you are interested in more information or in contributing, email Peter Franklin, Sustainability Coordinator, Metstrade, at


Marieke Derks, Zara Tremlett
and Bert van Muylwijk form the Superyacht
 Services Guide’s author team for Asia, 
the Indian Ocean and Australia. The SSG 
features personal recommendations from
 professional yacht Captains and crew for
the best services used around the world.
 From a convenient marina, a reliable taxi
 driver, a five-star hotel for guests, that tiny but 
recommended engineering shop in town to the best hair
dresser in a remote location, the guide has all the recommended services, big and small, needed to run a superyacht anywhere. The quick-search online directory is constantly updated, fast-tracking users to the most reliable, efficient and effective services available globally. Some Captains say the SSG is “by far the most-used publication on board”.

The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 51. Email for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at:

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