Yacht Charters & Destinations » Superyachts Going Green: An Oxymoron?

Superyachts Going Green: An Oxymoron?

Trish Cronan2

Can a superyacht with its diesel-guzzling thirst and noxious emissions be considered eco-friendly?  Is it indeed an oxymoron to talk about going green on superyachts?  I say that if General Motors and Wal-Mart can go green, so can a superyacht.  The key word is “go” – it’s an action, a verb, a process – not a fixed state of being.  Everybody has to start somewhere.

Take a minute and Google “superyachts and green”.  Three million results, and on the first page alone, you’ll find a boatload of information on technological breakthroughs in the area of hull design, reduced fuel consumption, paints that slash air conditioning usage, and on board energy management systems.

As charter brokers, we are not scientists, marine architects, or regulators.  At best, we can be called “thought-provokers.”  We are more about green practices than green design. Nudging captains and crews to take pause, do a bit of introspection, and think green. Do they have an on board environmental policy?  What is the benefit of having one?  What is one thing they could implement right now? We want to show them that they do not have to captain a RINA Green Plus award-winning yacht like the 50m (164 ft) Perrini Navi, M/Y Exuma, to make a difference. 

Kim Kavin of Yachting Magazine recently dubbed us the “Green Keepers.”  I like that term. I wished I’d thought of it myself.  Instead, we have a more cumbersome but catchy moniker – “Going Green to Save the Blue.”  By us, I mean CYBA – the Charter Yacht Brokers Association International – and this is the third year of our campaign to foster the greening of the charter yacht industry worldwide by honoring yachts that adopt on board green practices.  We are committed to protecting the health and beauty of our oceans and the lands where we sail.

So is it all about us and our ocean-hugging ways?  Are charter clients even asking for eco-friendly charter yachts?  Do they care? The groundswell is just beginning as the eco-tourism industry blossoms.  The seasoned charter guest is more savvy about the environmental impact than the first timers.  Once aboard, some clients start to think out loud about the lack of recycling, the volume of trash, the decline of the coral reefs, and the absence of fresh, sustainable seafood in many of the waters.    They are stunned that there are no pump-out facilities in some of the most unspoiled waters of the world.  A small, yet growing number of charter clients are examining their own travel footprint. 

Sherry Yates of Yates Yachts recently had clients sailing in the BVI.  After a few days aboard, they declared their passion for the islands and asked the captain what they could do while on charter to give back.  An hour later, they launched the dinghy and headed for a windward beach strewn with plastic debris that had washed ashore.  Two hours and twelve trash bags later, they’d done their part.  

I specialize in booking corporate incentive programs on yachts and work with numerous Fortune 500 corporations.  Five years ago when Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) became a buzzword, one of my best automotive clients sent me an email that announced new criteria for selecting travel suppliers.  They attached a seven-page questionnaire to determine our degree of green-ness. I was daunted by the specifications.  Buying locally, for example.  Easy if you’re in the south coast of France and can stroll to the boulangerie.  But in St. Thomas or Tortola where the vegetables departed their soil 1,500 miles away, local was not an option.  In 2008, I was daunted.  Today, I have better answers.

Just five years later, M/Y Freedom, a 36m (120 ft) Broward, won the CYBA Most Eco-friendly Motor Yacht award at the BVI Charter Show.  What caught my attention is that they purchase the majority of their produce from their home island of St. Croix, which has the first and only U.S. Department of Agriculture organic farm in the Virgin Islands.  On nearby Tortola, well-known BVI artist, Aragorn Dick-Read, tills the Good Moon Farm and supplies yachts with a bounty of fresh greens, vegetables, herbs, and fruits which are picked on the day of delivery. He’s formed a Local Producers Network to access other local products – meats, seafood, flowers, baked goods, and liquors.  Straight from the farm to the transom.

Eighty-seven charter yachts won CYBA’s 2012 Save the Blue award by completing a survey about their on board green initiatives.  If they met seven of the 33 criteria, they qualified.  What surprised us was that the majority of the yachts met 20 or more of the criteria.  Charter yachts were greener than we anticipated, and a handful had adopted a “Think Green” attitude to chartering and respecting the oceans as their playground and workplace. 

A stellar example of this was the S/Y Flow, which met 90 per cent of the criteria. It makes its own “gorgeously green” cleaning products, provides reef-friendly sunscreens, assists with reef  cleanups, educates guests about marine ecology, and sponsors local environmental efforts.  They have a forthcoming partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation to replant coral in the BVI.

M/Y Spirit, a 54m (177 ft) Amels,  won CYBA’s Most Eco-friendly Motor Yacht award at the  2012 Antigua Yacht Show for their green practices – reducing plastic waste,  using energy-efficient lights, using biodegradable cleaning products and sundries,  applying eco-friendly bottom paints, buying electric and rechargeable Seabobs, and using recyclable shopping bags. Captain Clive Willenbrock stated, “Regular cleaning of the underwater hull reduces fuel consumption radically. The boat is set up to use two smaller generators that turn on the second only when required via an intelligent management system. We are not burning fuel to produce unused electricity.” 

One of the questions we asked was: “What do you do to contribute to local environmental efforts?”  The responses were impressive.  Spirit’s crew cleaned three beaches in the San Blas islands.  Freedom’s crew dives the local moorings to pick up bottom debris and were instrumental in starting the St. Croix Lion Fish derby.  They hunt the invasive and hungry species on their days off and bring it to local restaurants.  The crew on the S/Y Crystal Clear joins in with a local school’s event to clean up Virgin Gorda in the BVI and works with a local organization to encourage supermarkets to charge for their plastic bags.  As a side note, eight BVI retailers just joined a voluntary effort of “Ban the Bag BVI” and are charging 15 cents per bag to encourage people to use recyclable bags.  The objective is to have this become a law.

Five Easy Things That Every Charter Yacht Can Do Right Now to Go Green

  • Reduce plastic waste; drink the water that you make
  • Use biodegradable cleaning products and sunscreens
  • Use eco-friendly bottom paint in your next haul out
  • Reduce paper products – use cloth napkins, rags instead of paper towels, create a virtual bridge
  • Join or create a local project – clean a beach, adopt a reef, educate a child, support a local farm

CYBA just launched its 2013 Save the Blue Awards and will be presenting them at all of the 2013 charter yacht shows throughout the world. Learn more at cyba.net/goinggreen.


Trish Cronan is president of Ocean Getaways Yacht Charters, an international yacht charter company based in Southwest Florida.  She has been in the yacht charter industry for over 30 years, starting out as a chef and now specializing in vacations and corporate incentive groups worldwide.  She is also the current president of CYBA – Charter Yacht Brokers Association International – and founder of its Going Green Committee.

For more information, visit:

Ocean Getaways Yacht Charters – www.oceangetaways.com

CYBA: Charter Yacht Brokers Association International – www.cyba.net

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