Opening party Feadship's Port of Amsterdam build hall in 2019. (Ph. Tom van Oosanen)

AMSTERDAM – At the 2019 Metstrade show here, Feadship Director Henk de Vries spoke about how the ‘First Export Association of Dutch Shipbuilders’ became the world’s premier maker of large, pure custom yachts.

And how the constituent Feadship yards of Royal Van Lent and Royal De Vries fiercely pursue sustainability to remain a market leader.

Feadship is keen to abandon the manufacture of conventionally powered yachts, De Vries (photo) told this newsletter at Metstrade. In fact, it is developing  a hydrogen propulsion system for a superyacht now under construction.

“Superyacht building has the image of being a conservative sector,” said De Vries.
“Yet, today’s potential clients who are, say, 40 years old, are unaware of that. They go to industry experts for advice. These are usually older types who tell customers – people who don’t shy away from groundbreaking stuff in their own sectors – not to invest in hybrid propulsion. Because it’s still too experimental!”

78.2m Venus Feadship built for the late Apple CEO, Steven Jobs

“Super yachts cost tens of millions of euros,” De Vries continues. “But that’s no issue for clients who just as easily buy a mountain or an island which are also things they strictly speaking don’t need. The same goes for a superyacht. Superyacht clients don’t care about the extra cost of sustainable propulsion.”

De Vries, CEO of Royal De Vries Shipbuilding and a Feadship director, doesn’t want to sell superyachts today that’ll be dated when they are launched several years down the road.

“If I sell a fuel-guzzler today,” he says, “people will say later, ‘What was he thinking back in 2020? By 2030, our industry must achieve a 50% reduction in emissions and cut that down to zero by 2050. We owe that to the next generation.”

At the 2020 Boot Duesseldorf, the European Union briefed the global boating sector on its ‘Green Deal’ strategy to make Europe the first ‘carbon-neutral’ continent by 2050. It is a draconian undertaking that will affect all industries. Making Europe “climate-neutral” means no more greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 beyond what can be absorbed.

De Vries’ comments underscore Feadship’s leadership in clean yacht building. He is the chairman and initiator of the Water Revolution Foundation, an independent non-profit set up in 2018. The WRF strives to get superyacht builders and their supply chain to work toward a sustainable future by sharing information and experience leading to sound choices in yacht design, technologies and materials.

One very eye-catching and ambitious WRF initiative is to come to ‘green labels’ for individual yachts.

The industry’s response to the WRF has been good. German builders Lürssen and Abeking & Rasmussen have pledged long-term financial support for it. As have Feadship, Rybovich, Alexseal, Benetti, Damen-Amels, Heesen Yachts and MB92.

“Although we are competitors and some things remain secret, we must share technology that supports our industry’s sustainability,” says De Vries. /