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Top 2009 Trend: Yacht Charter Industry Goes Green

Sun, sand and sea are key elements to a charter yacht vacation. It’s no wonder then that the industry is trending toward a variety of ways to protect these natural assets and going ‘green’ in the process.

Narendra ‘Seth’ Sethia, base manager for Barefoot Yacht Charters headquartered in Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, says, “The environment is probably the most important thing we have. This is particularly so in an island nation that depends on it for its livelihood.”

Environmentally Friendly Charter Yachts

On the powerboat front, Van Perry, product manager for The Moorings, based in Clearwater, FL, says, “Our new power yachts, 474PC and 372PC, are both extremely fuel-efficient and are the most fuel efficient of any power yacht in their class.”

Perry adds, “We are also continually examining our new yacht designs to allow for future incorporation of such items as solar power for battery charging and improved power management systems to reduce the amount of time that engines or generators need to be run in order to charge the batteries.”

Sailing yachts, which depend on the wind, are inherently friendlier on the environment than powerboats, says Nicola Massey, Tortola, BVI-based marketing manager for Horizon Yacht Charters. To strengthen that positioning, Massey adds, “We use environmentally friendly Micron 66 bottom paint. Also, all of our yachts are equipped with holding tanks.”

Helping Charter Guests Respect the Caribbean Ecosystem

Despite best intentions, says Barefoot’s Sethia, “many visitors—and locals—leave more than just footprints. Garbage, proper waste disposal, reef protection, depletion of vegetation as a result of weather, livestock or human intervention are all issues.”

In response, Sethia adds, “We’ve drawn up a ‘pledge” that we are asking charterers to sign at the start of their charter. While many folks may not strictly follow the guidelines, the very fact that we ask them to sign it does at least raise their level of awareness. We’re also handing out small potted casuarina and palm plants and are giving them to guests, asking that they plant them somewhere in the Grenadines.  Palm Island used to be called Prune Island and was a mosquito-infested swamp until Johnny Caldwell did the same thing with his palms.”

At Horizon Yacht Charters, Massey says, “During the chart briefings we explain the importance of respecting the coral and the sea, for example, no anchoring in coral heads. All boats receive a brochure on ‘Year of the Reef’, which explains efforts globally to encourage coral growth.”

The Moorings offers organized children’s programs, day sails and clean-ups, says Perry, “to cultivate a respect for the environment in the Caribbean as well as several bases worldwide.”

‘Green’ Marinas

Sailing is an inherently green activity, and the places we sail are some of
the most beautiful and fragile in the world, says The Moorings’ Perry. “As a result, we protect these delicate ecosystems with on-going efforts and improvements in policies, systems and facilities.”

For example, Perry explains, “In the British Virgin Islands where rainfall is scarce, we make water from the ocean with a new 65,000 gallon a day desalination plant built for our facility with two 100,000 gallon cisterns to serve as storage. In addition, our laundry operation recycles water with a special treatment system that re-uses, and thereby saves, 12,000 gallons of water daily.”

Water conservation is also of concern in St. Vincent. Barefoot’s Sethia says, “We’ve recently installed a state-of-the-art sewage disposal system that produces almost potable water ‘at the other end’.  Most places here have old-fashioned soak-aways and leach fields rather than proper disposal systems.  We’re also collecting rainwater in 500-gallon tanks and we use this for watering our grounds rather than using mains supply.”

New marina construction in the Caribbean has its share of ‘green’ attributes. Bob Hathaway, marina manager at The Marina at Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, explains, “The marina was constructed with minimum impact on the environment. For example, the docks were designed in such away that the entire Marigot Bay mangrove system was undisturbed and additional mangroves have been planted to accelerate the growth of the reserve.”

“The Marina operates strict regulations in relation to the operation of on-board sewage systems, bilge cleaning and fuelling to ensure that the local environment remains pristine,” says Hathaway. “The Government of Saint Lucia has recently signed the Cartagena Convention on marine water pollution and the Marina is actively participating in the creation of a Recreational Water Quality Standard in a project being conducted by the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute.”

In February, Island Global Yachting (IGY) announced it had been chosen to operate the new Turks & Caicos Yacht Club (TCYC) at the Nikki Beach Resort & Spa on the Turks and Caicos. The TCYC will be one of the world’s first eco-marinas, designed to protect and preserve the pristine water in which it sets. “In addition to exceeding all 22 Guidance Notes to the Blue Flag Marina Criteria, an eco-marina must be designed, built, maintained and operated to be protective of the ecology beneath the waters in which it sets,” says Chuck Smith, IGY’s Florida-based director of public relations.

Beyond this, Smith says IGY’s upcoming green initiatives include: clean marina standards based on US and International standards; operations SOP’s for environmental emergencies; list of approved eco-friendly cleaners and products for use at facilities; volunteerism and environmental education at IGY facilities; and promotion of sustainable materials and renewable energy.

The High Price of Fuel & Charter Yachting

Skyrocketing fuel costs are having a ripple effect in many areas of our lives; yet yachting is something that doesn’t appear to have been too negatively affected – at least yet.

Nicola Massey, Tortola, BVI-based marketing manager for Horizon Yacht Charters, says, “As fuel usage for sailing yachts is negligible, the only way that high fuel prices will affect us is via the increasing cost of air flights to reach our destinations.”

“We are seeing our power yacht customers motor less. We are very conscious of the fuel efficiency of our yachts,” says Van Perry, product manager for The Moorings, based in Clearwater, FL.

The higher end yachts are unlikely to be affected, adds Keats Compton, president of the Caribbean Marine Association. “They’ll move at 12 instead of 15 knots, as time is hardly of the essence. The smaller boats, including regional aficionados may travel less frequently.”

Potential challenges aside, the dramatic increase in fuel prices offers new opportunities, Compton says. “Alternative energy sources are at least now being seriously considered, and there is no reason why bio-diesel conversion couldn’t be considered on an industry-wide scale.”

On July 27, the 100 percent bio-fuel powered Earthrace broke the world powerboat speed record for circumnavigation of the globe.

Compton adds, “If persuaded to embrace bio-fuels, the islands could become an attractive proposition for fuel purchases. The question is, who will persuade the individuals referred to above to convert? Perhaps we can suggest this as a topic at the next Superyacht Symposium!”

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