Eco-responsible boatbuilding

Tomorrow’s challenges for multihull manufacturers

Back in the 1960s, the advent of polyester (more precisely, the fiberglass/polyester resin sandwich) led to a meteoric rise in boating, enabling large-scale production using molds. Sixty years on, the industry is having to adapt its know-how by integrating stringent - but now inescapable - environmental objectives into its production methods. How do shipyards implement energy-saving measures? What new materials are being used? When can the boating industry expect to reduce its carbon footprint in whole or in part? Multihulls World takes a look at the initiatives taken by large and small shipyards alike.

New ecological challenges are prompting industries to reduce their energy consumption and, if possible, ensure that energy’s “clean” origin. At the same time, rising energy prices and the predicted scarcity of many materials are forcing rapid changes in production models. The boatbuilding industry is no exception to these inevitable changes, and it’s quite clear that yachting has no choice but to be at the forefront of respect for the environment. Sailing on one of the planet’s last untouched spaces imposes a certain forever green exemplary behavior.
Although the use of leisure craft for a 20-year period accounts for 80% of polluting emissions, construction accounts for the rest...
Controlling energy expenditure and, above all, the selection of materials are therefore important areas to consider. One thing is certain: in the long term, it will no longer be possible to use resins derived from fossil-fuel technologies, or materials that cannot be recycled and/or take several hundred years to decompose. Today’s fleet of fiberglass/foam/resin composite boats is not recyclable (unless we choose to renovate and adapt these boats so they can continue to sail), and destroying them represents a considerable expenditure of energy, not to mention the pollution generated. Consequently, it seems essential to improve the assimilation of our multihulls through a virtuous recyclable production process, using natural resources that are supplied to us in a short space of time (in the order of one or two generations).

Standards to reduce both energy consumption and environmental impact

Multihulls are bulky products, heavy to move around and requiring a great deal of space and energy to manufacture. The impact of large builders producing hundreds of boats is obviously greater than that of small shipyards with their few annual launches.
Take the example of the Groupe Bénéteau shipyard in Bordeaux, where Lagoon catamarans of 50 feet and over are built, and where consumption amounts to 6 million kWh of electricity and 10 million kWh of gas per year. Add to this the consumption of Lagoon’s other catamaran production units, and it’s easy to see why the world’s leading yacht builder has embarked on a proactive CSR program, B-Sustainable on the horizon for 2030. The ISO 14001 standard (governing environmental impact) was introduced by the Group 15 years ago, followed by ISO 50001 (governing energy consumption) 6 years ago. The latter is a great help in measuring energy consumption: the basic energy performance index (kWh divided by temperature multiplied by the number of hours worked) is the benchmark and serves as a reference for adopting more economical gestures, modernizing equipment or reducing energy losses by improving building insulation, for example. Simple day-to-day measures, such as using a small door rather than the big gate, or organizing teams in such a way as to bear in mind that ten craftsmen will need as much energy as a hundred, can have an ...

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