“We are engaged in trying to streamline the process of yacht building to have minimal environmental impact, as well as making our superyachts as efficient as possible,” begins Michael. This is primarily achieved through research; Lurssen are pioneers in the field of naval architecture, with millions poured into labs developing cleaner methods annually.
So where has this research taken them? Firstly, there are fuel cells, which are devices that generate electricity by a chemical reaction such as that of hydrogen and oxygen. However, the development of this is, in itself, something to think about from an environmental standpoint: “We’re not particularly happy with batteries, because their manufacture and recycling is pretty invasive to the environment,” Michael explains.
The eco-experts at Lurssen have also delved into fields of build that many critics wouldn’t even consider, showing that their commitment to green yachting goes beyond addressing buzzwords. For example, the teak industry is incredibly problematic, Michael tells us: “We have samples of an alternative to teak travelling all over the globe to see how it stands the test of time, travel and weather,” he says, “If all goes well we will be using that in build and hopefully convincing the market that it is OK to have something other than teak in order to protect the trees!”
Certainly, the drive to be green comes from Lurssen’s code of ethics as a company. However, it becomes clear talking to Michael that the initiative is all encompassing, and that there are many outside influences as well. “Yacht owners are very conscious about the fact that if you are going on the water, then you need to treat the water with respect,” he affirms.
There are also international regulations that enforce environmental standards, however Lurssen makes it its business to preempt these. “We build in advance of the rules,” Michael elaborates, “For example, NOX filter catalytic reactors have to be installed on boats with keels laid after 2016. We were already leaving space for them on our boats, so that when the technology was right we could retroactively install them.” Again, it is abundantly clear that the company’s undertaking of green yachting exceeds the bare minimum.
When challenged on the idea that green yachting is a misnomer because yachting, by its very nature, is not green, Michael points out that asserting that yachting can never be green, and that therefore the conversation is null, is a false dichotomy. Although the ideal would be to be entirely sustainable, we do not hold anything else to the same standard: “One Google search has about the same carbon footprint as heating up a glass of water, and watching a movie on your cell phone for ten minutes is the same as running your oven for four hours at full power!” he tells us.
“The only way to be ‘truly green’ would be to create sailing boats made entirely of recycled wood,” Michael continues, “At the end of the day, we will do whatever it takes to fulfil and exceed environmental requirements, but we build boats in order for people to use them.” It is refreshing that Michael does not make any lofty or unrealistic statements about the eco-capabilities of the industry. He is transparent about the reality of incremental change and the impossibility of anything in the modern world being truly green, but stresses the subsequent importance of care, caution and respect.
Lurssen’s down-to-earth reflections on green yachting paints the picture of an organization for whom eco-friendliness is a longstanding and requisite part of the company culture. It is evident talking to Michael that this is no PR exercise; Lurssen don’t just talk about green yachting - they live it.