Shipyards going green

With more of a spotlight on the superyacht industry as a whole, Claire Griffiths asks some of the world’s leading shipyards how they are changing work practices in an effort to go green

As she glides seamlessly out of the shipyard, a picture of pure perfection, it’s difficult to imagine how much environmental carnage the superyacht leaves in her wake;- Pollutants to land, sea and air, with lifetimes worth of damage oozing everywhere.

With the focus on ‘going green’ picking up new momentum, is the hub of the superyacht industry, the shipyard, pulling up its proverbial green socks?

To a greater or lesser degree the answer is ‘Yes’ and Onboard went to investigate where and what is going on.

The important point is to know how to throw suggests Research Team Leader at Feadship, Giedo Loeff , so that the dangerous products don’t seep out under the doors and do damage elsewhere.

But it’s not just disposal we need to consider, it’s the upstream, core, and downstream impacts too. That means thinking about where materials and systems are sourced, the facilities, business travel, yacht services and finally the use phase of the superyacht.


Says Loeff, ‘Feadship is investing a vast effort to identify the various direct and indirect environmental impacts throughout the various lifecycle phases of a superyacht. With substantial research capacity at our disposal, we feel it is our responsibility to identify and inform clients/supply chains and act.’ When considering global warming potential, Feadship has identified the use phase of the yachts as the greatest (>95%) threat i.e. emissions related to the fuel consumption. The second most important element is the upstream (e.g. steel, aluminium copper mining and smelting) and the smallest (1-2%) the Feadship manufacturing (core) impact. Says Loeff, ‘Knowing this does not release us from the responsibility to reduce the impact of our core process (we certainly make good progress on that) but motivates us to develop the yacht design/system solutions and services to reduce the use phase and start weighting in the impact of our vendors in the procurement process’.

At The Italian Sea Group (ISG), energy consumption, GHG and CO2 emissions are carefully monitored both in the production and yacht utilisation phases.

Monaco Marine also has procedures in place to monitor the risks and environmental impact of its activities. This, explains Chief Operating Officer, David Queva, largely means controlling possible air and water pollution from activities such as paint, varnish, antifouling, carpentry, careening or product spillages. ‘All activities generate waste,’ he explains, ‘And that needs to be methodically analysed, separated and properly disposed of and or recycled. Smoke released during steel and aluminium works, sandblasting, or chemical release during plate treatments, painting and hull treatments, all need to be considered.

Green thinking is now an important part of a successful business plan. Says Loeff at Feadship; ‘ We have a lot of roof tops and of course therefore a lot of solar panels. We manage our energy contracts. We split our waste flow and try to recycle for instance aluminium alloys back to our vendor to further improve the recycling process by not downgrading the material. We invest in testing; for example we look at some 20 different alternative decking materials to consider all the sustainability aspects associated with that’.

Queva says Monaco Marine is committed to long-term environmental protection and to that end has its five “Ocean Care Values” ‘commandments’ operating at each of its yards: The first: Don’t throw anything in the sea: all the yards are fitted with, on the one hand a used water treatment system before it is filtered back to nature and on the other, a water treatment system for collected rain and careening water that is retained and re-used. Says Queva, ‘We are the only shipyard that does this and it represents an investment of several million euros. This year we completely renovated the water treatment systems at Antibes. In 2023 we will do La Ciotat and Beaulieu, which will cost a million euros at each yard plus the ongoing maintenance costs. We regularly check the air and water quality and the efficiency of the filtration and treatment systems. The second core value is to reduce waste. ‘Waste sorting, recycling and reusing are our priorities’, says Queva.

In 2019 Monaco Marine launched ‘Project Lean’ – with an aim to reduce waste by 20%. Queva adds, ‘We have collaborated with our partners Carbon Blue for plastic waste: the plastic ‘cocoon’ covers used for paint jobs are crushed, recycled and turned into furniture: that can reduce waste by 50-60%. We also encourage personnel and contractors to come up with environmental hacks and Cleaning Days at the yard. The yards are committed to using clean energy (Value number 3), buy ‘green’ electricity and have been using maritime focused hydrogen technology since 2016. Number four value is to reduce the carbon footprint which is done by constructing/renovating energy efficient buildings, using electric transport (eg; fork lift trucks, bucket lifts), electric supply points on the quaysides of large yachts. The fifth value is helping to protect the habitat, flora and fauna. This is done by supporting ports to achieve the PortPropre certification in biodiversity (Clean Port scheme) and regularly carrying out environmental studies, independent audits and Lloyds ISO14001environmental certification. Queva adds,’We actively take part in the development of technological ‘road maps’ towards ‘greener and smarter shipyards’ with key industry players, often sharing experience and information with Airbus or Air France on things like paint techniques for example, or the oxidation treatment volatile organic compounds. The important thing is to replace old production processes. The Ciotat shipyard no longer uses acids, the Cogolin yard uses olive nuts for sandblasting and at the Beaulieu yard we use cryogenic cleaning materials which are zero pollutant.  

The Lürssen shipyard is researching in all sorts of directions to limit pollution. ‘One of our main focuses is on fuel cell technology’, explains Sylke auf dem Graben. ‘We have set up an innovation laboratory at the shipyard and under real life ambient conditions and with all required auxiliary systems we consider this demonstration plant to be the final preparation to bring fuels cells on board a yacht successfully’.

As at the other yards, Lürssen has collection points for recyclable materials at the shipyard. Waste stations are dotted across the site, where waste is collected separately according to its hazardous substances and disposed of properly. Substances that are harmful to health are subject to special monitoring by the authorities. Says auf dem Graben, ‘Recyclables are materials that can be returned to the material cycle through reprocessing. The basic prerequisite is a proper and clean separation of the recyclables. For this purpose, coloured bins are available in all areas.  There are containers for paper/cardboard, for foils, for metals, for wood, for lithium-ion batteries, for oily rags, for spray cans and residual waste.’
In practical terms at Cantiere delle Marche electric power supply is kept to a minimum by using IR detectors for human presence and photovoltaic panels are installed on shed roofs. HVAC power supply is minimised by keeping offices at 18° in winter and 26°in summertime. The yard has recently installed six fans with ducts to minimise the impact of smoke released during steel and aluminium works and sandblasting of steelworks now has a segregated area with the sandblasted material waste properly disposed of. There is also proper ventilation and a filter for chemical waste before it is released outside.

Similar methods to minimise pollution are in place at Adria Docks says Stjepan Lučin. ‘One of the most important facts is that we don’t use sandblasting in our production activities for hull cleaning but water jetting instead. We also use different protective barriers and safety procedures for prevention of contamination of the surrounding atmosphere’.

The Italian Sea Group (TISG) has significantly invested in a photovoltaic plant that will cover 4 sheds in the main shipyard in Marina di Carrara; 5,375 solar panels will be installed to cover a total surface of 22,000 square meters. The idea is that this will cover 25% of the shipyard’s yearly energy consumption, leading to a yearly reduction of 1,208 tons of CO2 emissions. The project will be completed by March 2023, and plans are underway to install the same at La Spezia shipyard. TISG also buys 100% of its energy from renewable sources.

As far as materials are concerned, TISG has chosen to focus on recyclable materials such as aluminium and steel for hull construction even in the lower dimensional ranges of yachts (e.g. 24 metres up), thus drastically limiting the use of fiberglass, the production of which has a strong environmental impact.

Like the other yards, TISG has also adopted a waste reduction management system to recycle production off-cuts supplied goods packaging. Alternative propulsions are also under scrutiny to best identify how the use of yachts can become more sustainable and to reduce emissions when clients use the yachts.

EU regulation requires listed companies with an average of more than 500 employees per year and 40 million Euros of revenues or 20 million Euros of total assets to report on their ESG activities in a 3-year timeframe by publishing a Non-Financial Report along with its Financial Statement.

TISG will publish its Non-Financial Report in April 2023, in compliance with the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards and will state its improvements goals in terms of Environment, Social and Governance. On top of this, TISG has decided to align its ESG goals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) defined by the UN Agenda 2030.

So there are laws in place to report, but not, points our Giedo Loeff that restrict harmful activity and Feadship’s voluntary measures to restrict negative impact are way ahead of legislation.

On the Côte d’Azur the Monaco Marine yards are subject to local regulations similar to those for the automobile industry. All of its sites are signed up to Installations Classées pour la Protection de l’Environnement (ICPB), similar to the Corporations for a Better Planet Initiative. It also adheres to French Directive 1978 relating to the management of solvents. There are other laws relating to the stockage and storing of products and materials in hangars to limit the risks in the case of fire. New regulations on biocides (antifouling) are due in 2026. Says Queva, ‘In anticipation of this, we have forged direct partnerships with key manufacturers and are researching different materials, such as graphene.’

Martino del Nevo reports from Cantiere delle Marche that Italians are bound by national legislative decree 152 which consists of six individual parts and includes water and soil protection, waste and reclamation, emissions, environmental impact assessment and integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC).

Loeff at Feadship doesn’t so much have environmental hopes for the future, he has plans. He says, ‘ It is about improving efficiency, fuel flexible designs that can adapt to the energy transition and power system future to allow for refits/upgrades when multi-fuel engines and fuel cells become widely available’.

Queva looks to modernising the shipyards and developing intelligent energy management, plus developing a environmentally responsible supply chain and forging ahead with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). He says, ‘The environmental element is key to our ethics and our success and is a constant consideration in our developments: as an example the new 300 t lift at the Beaulieu site will be 100% ecological, operating on air – no grease or chemical products. At La Ciotat we have big plans that we hope the local authorities will approve: a zero air emission target, short-circuit reprocessing of plastic, a 30% reduction in waste, the replacement of sandblasting with a new process that reduces pollution and waste by 90%, hydrogen propelled assembly lines and powder recycling’.

Explains Martino del Nevo at Cantiere delle Marche the yard has a long list attached to its environmental plan of action for 2023: It includes small as well as lofty ambitions such as; employee incentives to use public transport, electric vehicle charging points, tree planting, installation of IR detectors, shipyard and supplier recycling projects and mini wind turbines.

‘Since we are located in the middle of Croatian Adriatic’, says Stjepan Lučin at Adria Docks, ‘where there is an extremely high number of sunny days a year, we are considering the implementation of some green energy solutions like solar power. Also we are investing in electric vehicles for internal transport of personnel, equipment, tools and other goods we need for projects’.

TISG will continue to be strongly committed to GHG and CO2 emission reduction, as well as to actively contributing to the establishment of a circular economy, by carefully choosing production materials, selecting a responsible supply chain and strongly encouraging an efficient waste management system within all its shipyards.

It’s all very well having clean, green intentions, but if the shipyards don’t have the backing of the end users – the owners – then they are playing a game that they will never win. Support for cleaner-built boats and green shipyards varies:Some, such as del Nevo at CdM, want to build low-power projects but lack enthusiasm among clients. Adria Docks sometimes gets asked about its environmental records.

TISG is often asked for hybrid or electric propulsions, something the yard has pioneered; It’s Admiral 55m motor yacht Quinta Essentia, launched in 2016, was the first in its size featuring a hybrid propulsion. Loeff is heartened that the environmental impact of the yacht is becoming a very important consideration for many clients; ‘We feel they appreciate our deep knowledge on the subject and practical/viable proposals to make a difference’.

Says Queva, ‘It’s interesting that for the last three to four years we are being asked more and more detailed questions about how we recycle or reprocess this or that product. It’s definitely something that will become more and more decisive in the choice of shipyard that an owner makes. Not just because of the environmental aspect but because of the risk management policy that’s behind it. A clean shipyard gives owners reassurance in the quality of service they can expect.’

Says Jan Timmerman, CEO of Royal Huisman, ‘Sustainability is crucially important for all of us and for future generations. Yacht owners and the yachting sector obviously want to play their part by reducing environmental impact and by limiting the use of valuable natural resources. It is a fact that the level of achievement resulting from these efforts can vary greatly. At Royal Huisman, we know that some owners positively encourage their design and build teams to make a difference by, for example, making their superyachts more efficient, or by applying renewable energy sources.

Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious at all, such as the extensive supply of energy out on the ocean: wind! It frequently surprises us that the majority of superyachts are not (yet) powered by sails. Propulsion by wind will always beat energy consumption onboard motoryachts, even when great reductions in fuel consumption and other efficiency gains are achieved. In addition, wind energy is ‘free’ – of charge, of fumes, and of noise. And driving is great fun, too…!’

The winds of change are gusting through the shipyards, gathering up the poisons and wanton wastefulness of recent years to swoosh in more efficient years in the decades to come.