In Depth: Greening Up the Superyacht Industry

Lasse Gustavsson and Alexandra Cousteau, photo courtesy of HISWA Holland Yachting Group

The first week of June was marked by the HISWA Holland Yachting Group Press Tour. 15 international journalists of superyacht publications were given a tour around the Netherlands to receive an insight of what is happening in the Dutch yachtbuilding industry.

On the last day of the tour, Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of renowned Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and Lasse Gustavsson, executive director in Europe of the ocean conservation organisation Oceana gave an inspiring presentation addressing the environmental concerns that affect the seas which the superyacht market rely on. Cousteau: “The oceans are special, but are nowadays taken for granted.”

As a filmmaker and advocate on water issues, Cousteau continues the work of her grandfather and father: using storytelling to create awareness about the importance of conservation and sustainable management of water in order to preserve a healthy planet. In 2011, she joined forces with Oceana as senior advisor. Oceana, founded in 2001, is an international organisation focused on ocean conservation, protecting marine ecosystems and endangered species. The not for profit organisation organises expeditions at sea to gain a better knowledge about the oceans, identify and describe new species and habitats, and create protected areas.

Save the ocean, feed the world

Cousteau and Gustavsson told the audience about Oceana’s ‘save the oceans, feed the world’ initiative. Currently, about 450 million people get their main protein from the sea, Oceana aims at an increase to one billion. Although the ocean as an environment can recover quickly, the global population growth will slow recovery. Gustavsson: “To be able to reach this goal, we should protect the oceans, listen to scientists who give advice regarding fishing stock and stop throwing away food. As everyone loves food, we partnered up with 20 of the world’s best chefs, who joined our campaign and show how to cook sustainable food.”

Spread the word

But what can the Netherlands as a superyacht nation that derives its livelihood from the sea, do to adopt a responsible approach to reduce the load being placed on the environment? Gustavsson suggested to spread the word and be conscious about choices: “You have to realise that you have to care about the ocean. It is your profession, talk with others about it to make them aware. As yachtbuilders, you can contribute to sustainability by using sustainable construction materials, thinking of what kind of chemicals, ballast water system, paint and sewage system you use.”

Other ideas that could help the industry to green up were using electric propulsion in superyachts and of course sailing yachts were mentioned as being sustainable, but this is only a small part of the industry as motor yachts are more popular. Also the owners, who use the oceans for their pleasure were touched upon, maybe the yards could play on their guilt feeling and persuade them that building greener boats is a good idea. Giving the owner economical reasons, showing him that he can save money, might be the best way. Another question from the audience was how to jazz sustainability up. According to Gustavsson, it is important to enthuse the next generation by for example use new technologies.


Cousteau also spoke during the Global Superyacht Forum 2014, held from 16 to 18 November last year in Amsterdam, addressing the international superyacht industry. When asked about the response, she answered: “My goal was to inspire the industry to find ways to engage. I encountered a lot of enthusiasm and
it was exciting to see
the level of interest.
Let it grow into a global
engagement.” The audience wondered why
the initiatives regarding
sustainability are always
individual ones, not governmental. Gustavsson
 replied to that: “NGOs attract non business as usual people who want change, but although it is not yet enough, there are good initiatives by governments.”

Jeroen Sirag, export director of HISWA Holland Yachting Group, is keen to get sustainability on the agenda of the Dutch superyacht industry: “This is important to ensure
the industry’s distinctive character to be able to collectively make a strong statement. Nowadays it is a must to have sustainability on the agenda and it needs to be implemented within an organisation as a whole. Everyone has the responsibility to protect this planet and the oceans. My goal by inviting Alexandra was to inspire the journalists and our members to think green.”

Green vision

Sustainability is definitely on the agenda with the Dutch superyacht yards. Earlier that week the journalists visited Oceanco, where CEO Marcel Onkenhout stated that green technology is part of Oceanco’s vision for the coming five years: “Clients are more conscious and
a lot of green technology is already implemented as it is asked for. Sustainability is part of the current and the future lifestyle, it is a fact that green systems will be more and more implemented in the future to reduce emissions and fuel consumption and to enhance the comfort of the client. We want to make sure that every project has the maximum of green implemented in the design.”

Gail van den Hanenberg

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