‘Below Deck’: Are Yachts Going Green?

Below Deck viewers voyeuristically tune in to see the decadence, the excess and drama the show delivers. Another reason viewers can’t get enough is because they get to “travel” to some of the most breathtaking locations on the planet.

The Cayman Islands Flag on board the "Honor" luxury yacht
The Cayman Islands Flag on board the “Honor” luxury yacht | Alex Julian/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

From Tahiti to the Caribbean, fans love to escape for an hour to an exotic destination. However, many of the locations featured on the show are vulnerable to the mega-storms made worse by climate change. Hurricane Dorian ravaged a Below Deck location in the Bahamas. Former chief stew and yacht chef, Adrienne Gang traveled to the areas and reported on the damage. Bosun João Franco and chef Ben Robinson from Below Deck Mediterranean actively helped with the recovery efforts.

With climate change becoming a serious threat, the yachting industry is trying to do its part by creating earth-friendly vessels. The topic was also addressed during the 2019 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Making strides to go green

According to Worth, a greener vessel can reduce the amount of gas and waste in the oceans. “Green construction processes result in fewer or no volatile gases being released into the atmosphere and less waste being dumped.” Yacht designers and manufacturers are focusing on four design areas that should produce a greener yacht. The areas are design, materials, construction, and operation, Worth reports.

“The industry is paying attention to the environment. From design to construction to operation, everyone is rethinking their options,” Sean Blue, head of global watercraft for AIG Insurance told Worth. “New technologies, like lithium batteries coupled with hybrid propulsion systems, require advanced engineering challenges. Fire suppression is one of them. We work with designers, owners and captains on issues like that.”

Some eco-friendly possibilities include technology that will allow captains to address the vessel’s efficiency. Designers are also working with carbon fiber instead of steel. The material swap results in fuel savings and a more lightweight vessel. Interiors are also dabbling in recycled materials and even “vegan leather.”

Which areas of the industry are responding to the call?

The reporter from Worth found that the most and least expensive boats are making changes. “Builders of both ultra-high-end superyachts and the smallest of the boats have been the most responsive. The vast middle, the $2 million to $7 million powerboat buyers and builders, seems slow to jump on the green wave. In fact, their eco-credentials are getting worse,” according to Worth.

The superyacht community appears to be very invested in green technology. “We have seen an interest in both diesel-electric and hybrid systems,” Andrew LeBuhn, a top yacht broker at Camper & Nicholsons shared with Worth. “Smart power management also helps reduce fuel. Plus, rumored and confirmed environmental restrictions in parts of the world may require zero emission boats to enter their waters.”

Also, smaller boats are being designed with the environment in mind. Duffy recently released the first-ever electric boat. Two current models cruise at eight miles per hour for up to four hours. The electric vessels also produce “zero emissions” too.