Hosted each year by the Yacht Club de Monaco and Credit Suisse, La Belle Classe Superyachts Business Symposium provides industry experts and yacht owners the opportunity to discuss changes and challenges within the sector. At the 14th edition of the symposium, which was attended by 60 guests, the importance of retrofitting the current fleet was a major topic of conversation.
Hybrid and electric-powered new-builds are helping the industry reduce its environmental impact, but the focus of this symposium was on how the ageing superyacht fleet can be adapted for the future. With the average yacht now 23 years old, and many coastal regions incorporating new restrictions on diesel-powered vessels, older yachts now need to be refitted in order to be sustainable.
Head of aviation and yacht finance at Credit Suisse, Michel Buffat, who was behind the initiative to set up the SEA Index in partnership with Yacht Club de Monaco, which targets +40m yachts enabling them to assess CO2 emissions, propulsion systems and generators, stressed that “deliveries represent only a small part of the total fleet and the emission reduction effect on the overall fleet is minimal. We must integrate the idea that it’s the masses that make a difference.”
The symposium covered ways in which a refit can reduce a yacht’s carbon footprint, citing methods such as adapting generators, powering engines with bio-fuels instead of diesel, switching to LED lighting, reducing air conditioning usage, using cork instead of teak for decking or incorporating hydrogen or methanol fuel cells. The chemical products involved in the yachting industry were also a focus, with experts mentioning that low-impact products should be used for careening, painting or anti-fouling on older yachts.
Speaking at the symposium, BOAT International business editor Miranda Blazeby pointed to yachts like 43 metre Juliet and 30 metre Foftein, “which have both switched their engines to hybrid propulsion at the Royal Huisman shipyard,” as prime examples.
While acknowledging that “it is easier to be born eco-responsible than become it,” Oscar Romani, Benetti's pre-owned fleet sales manager, agreed that “recycling a yacht will be a key to the future.”
Bernard d’Alessandri, YCM’s general secretary and Cluster Yachting Monaco president, emphasised, however, that positive change was visibly afoot within the industry. “Yachting stakeholders are mobilised and ready to initiate change in the industry. The level of mobilisation they are involved in to develop the sector is very encouraging,” he concluded.