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Blue is the

New Green

CONTENTS


DIRECTION OF TRAVEL

SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS

NIGHTMARE SCENARIO

TESTBEDS FOR CHANGE

PAST MISTAKES

SHORT-TERM STRATEGY

LONG-TERM STRATEGY


DIRECTION OF TRAVEL


Whether or not you are persuaded about the underlying causes of global temperature rises, a critical mass of democratically-elected leaders are now convinced. Protests no longer take the form of marches and placard-waving. Increasingly, activists are taking direct action. Their websites and image-curation are becoming more slick. They have an increasing grasp of public relations and social media.


For now, the campaigns are self-defeating. Their disruption alienates the wider public as traffic jams build, meetings are missed and emergency services disrupted. But, increasingly, protests have started to target symbols of conspicuous consumption, such a ‘luxury’ car dealerships. And why stop at cars? Why not business jets? Why not… ‘superyachts’? At least the general public won’t be inconvenienced. And the messages can be conflated with broader political messages as well.


It's beginning to happen. The blockading of general aviation terminals is becoming more commonplace. Then there was a protest at Port Vauban, Antibes, followed by one at the Superyacht Forum in Amsterdam. Massive nearby commercial airports and ports are being ignored. And while the underlying data used in academic papers owes is, to say the least, paper-thin - see our white paper Damn Lies & Statistics - the trajectory of this movement is clear.


SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS


In the case of yachts, this fury is short-sighted. The more time one spends afloat, the more one is aware of the amount of pollution entering the sea and the food chain – especially in the form of plastics. Not only do they bear witness first-hand, the owners of large yachts are better placed than anyone to actually address the issues beyond making changes to their own habits. They are likely to own companies which can enforce rapid behavioural change on a massive scale. Or they may own media outlets which band the drum of change. Or they may know politicians who can enact change. It is impossible not to be moved by the beauty of the marine environment, or outraged at seeing it compromised. Owners are in the position to act across a spectrum of environmental issues.


NIGHTMARE SCENARIO


Far-fetched today, but picture a possible scene a few years from now. A resolute Greta Thunberg, her outlook still binary and adolescent, implores her social media followers to flock to the Mediterranean – to picket ports en masse. WhatsApp groups coordinate the protests. Social media livestreams go viral. High-profile celebrity charterers cancel their summer bookings for fear of being “cancelled” themselves. The French, Italian and Spanish governments cave in to a vocal minority and introduce punitive taxes in berths and bunkers. Youngsters are discouraged from training for a role working on yachts. The costs of ownership spiral, and the assets themselves devalue alarmingly. Even financiers and insurers begin to withdraw from the market for fear of a popular backlash and a corresponding commercial impact on other business lines.


TESTBEDS FOR CHANGE


We have seen various new low and no-carbon yacht propulsion technologies being proposed in recent years. The 3D renderings are impressive and the press releases compelling. But this is cutting little ice with the campaigners, who just claim that this is “greenwashing”. It is incumbent on everyone within the yachting industry to urge environmental campaigners to see the broader picture of maritime transport. 


According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), around 90% of traded goods are carried by sea. Yet shipping is a naturally conservative business: investments are large and the returns uncertain. The last thing trading ship owners want to do is to dabble in unproven green technology – unless obliged to by law. Any why are lawmakers going to change the law if the no technology hasn’t been proven on a smaller scale?


PAST MISTAKES


The yachting industry has, it must be said, singularly failed to portray the correct message to the wider society. We have worked project to project, season to season, sale to sale. Most information put out has been about yachts’ specification and features. It’s been about the wow factor – about one-upmanship, where bigger is better and consumption is king.


Aside from all exciting new research going on, there are dozens of environmental and other philanthropic initiatives quietly being undertaken by owners. Yet the wider public knows nothing about this.


SHORT-TERM STRATEGY


Doing nothing is not an option. Carbon neutral schemes for yachts have been around since the mid 2000s. Taking up such schemes is – quite literally – the least we, as owners, can do.


We also need to engage with the general media, and help them understand that, in terms of technological development, yachting is to shipping what haute couture is to everyday fashion. The wonderful work of organisations such as SeaKeepers needs to be known about far more widely – and more owners need to involve themselves.


Ports and marinas also need to take advice and make preparations to ensure that, in so far as the law allows, any protests which prevent crew or suppliers going about their daily business are shut down as rapidly as possible before these patterns of behaviour become entrenched and emulated.


LONG-TERM STRATEGY


In the long term, those making bold claims with regard to truly viable carbon-neutral power sources need to make the investment necessary to bring these project to fruition. Aside from the tech, the refuelling infrastructure and regulatory framework must be developed. And insurance underwriters need to be onboard.


For too long, owners have failed to act coherently in the face of a growing threat to our cherished liberties and way of life. It’s time to make blue the new green.

Thank you to all our Members who provided perspectives for this white paper.

If, as owners, we are to continue to enjoy the freedoms and privileges we currently enjoy – without interruption or stigmatisation – then we need to engage with those who are beginning to target our assets and way of life. Quietly, we need to educate the press and policymakers about yachting’s current and potential positive impact on the environment generally in shipping in particular.

21 November 2022

Last revised

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21 November 2022

Last revised

If, as owners, we are to continue to enjoy the freedoms and privileges we currently enjoy – without interruption or stigmatisation – then we need to engage with those who are beginning to target our assets and way of life. Quietly, we need to educate the press and policymakers about yachting’s current and potential positive impact on the environment generally in shipping in particular.

Recent years have seen an increase in protests and direct action by climate activists. They are targeting symbols of conspicuous consumption, including luxury car dealerships and large yachts. However, this fury against yachts is short-sighted. We, the owners, have a unique position to address environmental issues. We can help to enforce behavioral change through our companies and media outlets. The yachting industry needs to portray a different message to the wider society, highlighting our environmental and philanthropic initiatives. Taking up carbon neutral schemes is the least we can do. We should engage with the media to showcase technological developments and initiatives like SeaKeepers. Ports and marinas should prepare to handle protests swiftly to prevent disruption. In the long term, investment is needed in viable carbon-neutral power sources, refueling infrastructure, and regulatory frameworks. We must act coherently to protect our liberties and way of life.

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White Papers   |   Blue is the New Green

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