At first glance, superyachts — with all their excesses — seem unlikely candidates to boast any green credentials. Yet, the industry has been striving recently to build a yacht that doesn’t cost the earth. Teak decks are giving way to those made of synthetic Flexiteek, and nano-particle paints are being increasingly used to protect their underwater structures.
Shipyards in general are showing a growing concern for the environment. They are finding that, with careful thought and the application of science, much can be done to improve the eco-friendly image of the superyacht. While the initiative may have come first from owners, shipyards are now eagerly embracing the cause. But is this new-found commitment to ‘going green’ the real deal?
The Dutch yard Royal Huisman built Ethereal, an eco-friendly sailing yacht for millionaire Bill Joy, co founder of Sun Micro Systems. During the build, this yacht had the stated goal of being the most efficient, eco-friendly vessel afloat, and set the new standard in energy-efficient sailing yachts. Despite her large size, she is able to mimic the silent lifestyle of small family cruising yachts when at anchor, dispensing with the need to run generators constantly.
Another man who has embraced the greener concept, is Luciano Benetton of the United Colours brand. Benetton’s discovery yacht, Tribu, won awards for her eco-friendly approach. Among her many green attributes are a filtered bilge water separation system, water ballast management system, non-toxic antifouling paint and a system of waste treatment that monitors and even analyses the strength of the effluent. It may not be glamorous, but it might just save the world.
The ultimate goal, however, is to create a yacht that leaves no trace of exhaust gas. And we have learned of a project that, if built, could achieve this Holy Grail of yacht tech. A Dutch yacht design studio has, together with the German organisation Nephi Technology — developed a plan for a vessel that is part-superyacht and part-floating test bed for scientific experimentation and prototype production.
Nephi’s main objective has been to obtain Hydrocarbons by the process of purification of industrial exhaust from dangerous contaminants and pollutions. Their revolutionary achievement, after 15 years of research, has been to replicate nature by splitting carbon dioxide into its constituent parts of carbon and oxygen.
They did so with their LIM machine, which mimics plants and trees — but does so tens of thousands of times more efficiently. Speaking about Nephi Technologies, Professor Alexandr Borisenko suggested that if a yacht were to have a huge onboard garden of trees and shrubs, the gases they would emit could negate the environmental impact of a vessel up to 86 metres in size. Ultimately, this vessel will become the nomadic demonstration platform, sailing Nephi Technology’s findings across the globe.
Early designs show that the yacht will most likely have large, undercover gardens on the aft decks. Below, on the Nephi deck, air purification technology would catalyse the natural processes happening above, and emit pristine air. Lab studies of this set-up have shown that the technology, which uses water circulation to perform the same function as high cost filters, neutralises harmful chemical compounds and unpleasant smells, and eliminates dust, germs and bacteria.
Additionally, the purification technology is fully-automated in order to provide a long and safe operating cycle with a power consumption of just 100 watts — an amount easily harvested using the solar panels also featured on this remarkable prototype. So, despite a green light being historically used simply to illuminate a yacht’s starboard side, perhaps soon the whole vessel — and industry as a whole — will be shrouded in an eco-friendly green glow.
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