Why Your Air-Conditioned Cabin Uses More Energy Than The Yacht Itself


SLIDESHOW — Vassilis Fotilas of Fraser Yachts: “Interestingly, during the lifespan of a yacht, the energy generated and consumed for the auxiliary and hotel systems on board is far greater than that needed for pure navigational purposes.”

With advances in technology and the increasing demand for sustainability, the future of yachting looks set to lie in maximising efficiencies.

Sustainable yachting to most seems like a conceptual oxymoron. The embodiment of luxury, yachting is in itself indulgent and lavish — hardly likely to be the hobby of anyone vaguely eco-conscious. But that is changing. With the trickle-down effect of sustainable energy in other fields of technology, there has been a gradual decrease in the sport’s carbon-heavy footprint.

Vassilis Fotilas, commercial director — Europe at Fraser Yachts, said: “Technological advances and regulatory developments are having a significant and positive impact in decreasing the carbon footprint of yachts. This is more of a quiet evolution rather than a major revolution. During our recent visit to some of the world’s top shipyards in Holland we witnessed and discussed these advances. The building process of a yacht has become far ‘greener’. Use of more environmentally friendly materials — such as paint — and more environmentally conscious procedures, waste management for instance, are two good examples.”

The first step yacht builders take to reduce a boat’s carbon footprint is in the choice of materials during the manufacturing process. For example, one popular material used in decking is Burmese teak, but more Earth-friendly alternatives are available, including the use of more sustainable wood sources and synthetic Esthec decking. Other more eco-friendly options include using epoxy-composite hulls instead of traditional steel hulls. A huge part of decreasing a boat’s carbon footprint is dependent on increasing propulsion efficiency — material choice can affect this efficiency. Heavier weight on board incurs a penalty on a ship’s efficiency by increasing fuel consumption.

But efficiency factors aren’t limited to the choice of materials, and yacht manufacturers know this. Fotilas explains: “Shipyards themselves are adding on-board systems primarily targeted at more efficient power management and conservation in order to further reduce the yachts’ carbon footprint. Each shipyard has its own way of approaching this. Systems being utilised have been around for a while, but are now used in a smarter way. The focus is on storing energy/power when possible in order to utilise this when necessary. There appears to be a general consensus and focus on generators; more so than on main engines.”

Another way of reducing yachting’s carbon footprint is tapping into other sources of energy. Apart from the predictable use of solar panels, newer propulsion systems can be powered by a combination of sustainable sources. The Ocean Supremacy, unveiled by Sauter Carbon Offset Design in 2012, uses the 9MW Solar Hybrid Propulsion system, which allows it to be fuelled by a mix of biomass diesel and solar, wind and wave power.

Although it will take some time before yachting becomes a self-sufficient and sustainable sport, the industry is making some headway. The other thing that needs to change is the way we use our boats. Fotilas said: “Interestingly, during the lifespan of a yacht, the energy generated and consumed for the auxiliary and hotel systems on board is far greater than that needed for pure navigational purposes.”

So perhaps the issue lies, not in the yachts themselves, but in the luxuries we insist on having while on them.

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