Dutch superyachts as role models for sustainability

By Robert Wielaard

AMSTERDAM – The problem with superyachts is that all that ostentation — teak decks,  jacuzzis, chopper platforms and gleaming pools — overwhelms the fact that they are role models for sustainability. But don’t take our word for that.

Listen to Lloyd’s Register, the classification society that has worked on more than half of the 500GT+ yachts on the water today. In its latest Horizons magazine, Engel-Jan de Boer, LR’s Yacht Segment Manager, calls the superyacht sector the ‘Formula One of the shipping industry’ in which many of the latest technologies are trialed.

Oceanco-built Black Pearl

“It is a huge fertile ground with owners wanting to participate in exciting new projects,” De Boer says. These projects can be “upscaled to the commercial shipping world.,” he adds. “For far too long, the industry has had an image of tycoons and villains owning and operating yachts for their own entertainment.”

The opposite is true, says De Boer, adding LR has worked on superyachts with edgy “hybrid systems under development involving hydrogen and other fossil-free fuels of the future.”

The hunger for sustainability is acute in the Netherlands. Half a half dozen or so Dutch builders make very large, high-end one-offs, packed with new technologies their owners want. These owners, says De Boer, “have sharp minds (and a) desire to understand and pioneer new technologies whenever possible. Many are closely focused on eco-efficiency and sustainability.”

LR singles out the 107m (351ft.), Black Pearl that Oceanco built. The world’s largest sailing yacht is owned by a Russian billionaire. Launched in 2018, it has 3 computer-steered carbon, Dynarig masts, designed by Dykstra Naval Architects of Amsterdam. The yacht carries 2,900 sq m (31,215 sq. ft.) of sail that can be set in 7 minutes by pushing a button. It has a hybrid propulsion system and a waste heat recovery system.

Feadship-built Savannah

Oceanco rivals are equally active in sustainability. Feadship’s first hybrid propulsion yacht was the 86m (274ft.) Savannah, launched in 2015. Since then, over half of the Feadships built had hybrid propulsion, with modern battery banks increasingly sufficient for shorter cruises. Feadship is researching synthetic and biodegradable fuels, LNG and hydrogen.

Feadship has developed proprietary exhaust gas treatment technology to meet IMO Tier III clean air requirements. In 2019, it opened the world’s most sustainable superyacht facility in Amsterdam. In 2018, it was the main driving force behind the launch of The Water Revolution Foundation, an initiative to neutralize the global yachting industry’s footprint.

The Amsterdam-based WRF – by now boasting some 2 dozen strategic and corporate partners – is developing a Yacht Environmental Transparency Index (YETI) to make owners even more aware of their environmental profile.

Heesen Yachts’ 50m Project Altea has an FDHF hull

Heesen Yachts equips many of its yachts with Van Oossanen Naval Architects’ patented Fast Displacement Hull Form. The Wolfson Unit at the University of Southampton found it to be the most efficient hull form it has ever tested. It outperforms conventional displacement and semi-displacement hulls at all speeds. Its resistance values are typically 20% lower than a well-designed hard chine hull form at semi-displacement speeds.

Damen Yachting, says Managing Director Rose Damen, is “innovating with new forward-looking designs and sustainable solutions.” In 2022, her yard will launch the full custom, 60m Amels equipped with hybrid technology that lets the superyacht do 7 knots on electric power. Damen Yachting has worked extensively on slashing NOx emissions. The Amels 60 will comply with tighter IMO emission rules taking effect in 2021.

Damen Yachting’s Amels-60

“I like the way how the Amel 60 optimizes the waterline lengths which increases the length-to-beam ratio,” says Espen Øino, the yacht’s designer. “It is the right way to go. This is a very efficient hull firm which, in combination with hybrid propulsion, makes the Amels 60 quite unique.”

De Boer sees wind power gaining significance in hybrid power systems on superyachts. And that, he adds, will “likely have a bearing on wind propulsions in the commercial sector.”