Closing the Loop on Superyachts

Initiatives driven both by yacht owners and by yacht businesses are making great strides toward a more considered environmental approach, as the Closing the Loop project at Gold Coast City Marina ably demonstrates. From the glorious beaches and seductive surf of the Gold Coast to the fragile beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, the coast of Queensland in Australia is a haven for anyone and everyone who likes the water. It’s no wonder, then, that the region is making its mark with initiatives designed to help local communities, regional economies, and national climate goals through a series of initiatives backed both by the federal government and private business.

These initiatives cover everything from developing superyacht facilities in order to take advantage of the revenues yachts deliver, to backing marine trade apprenticeships. But there’s one that stands out for its ambition of making a difference in how marinas, shipyards and superyacht facilities operate in order to mitigate their impact. It was initiated by Gold Coast City Marina (GCCM) – a large marina and shipyard facility on the Gold Coast that plays host to numerous marine businesses, as well as yachts up to 75m in length – which has joined forces with the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for a Waste-Free World to create ‘Closing the Loop’.

GCCM’s objectives are clear – to reduce its waste to landfill by 30 per cent; to eliminate single-use plastics by 2025; to investigate innovations in waste recovery; to drive a culture shift around waste recovery; and to push for wider change in the Gold Coast and beyond. “Closing the Loop is a very exciting project,” begins Trenton Gay, CEO of GCCM. “It’s co-funded by ourselves and the federal government, and essentially Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has done a study on the marine environment of a working shipyard, looking at what materials are used and what can be reused.” The key, says Gay, is that it’s not about the standard type of recycling –metals, wood, and things like that – but rather it’s about looking at all the other materials that go into boats and that are used in the marine sector and seeing what can be done with them.

“It’s been very exciting,” Gay enthuses, “because what they found is that there are so many parts of the materials we use can be reused or repurposed for something else. They’re a fair way through now, and they’ve just got an extension with the government to do some more research into it, with the findings due to be released shortly.”


That won’t be the end for GCCM though, and as Gay himself says it’s not just about what can be done in the marine sector but also about setting an example that any business in any industry can follow. “We’re going to continue working on it with them,” Gay confirms. “It’s going to show the rest of the world what can be done not just in our business, but in any business – how you can improve the way you operate within your own circle of materials, and put something back into the community afterwards.”

It speaks to a growing trend among superyacht builders and superyacht-related companies, who are being driven to explore new and more sustainable options both through their own recognition of our need to look after the environment, and by the drive of owners themselves to invest in new solutions. The oceans, after all, are the playground for anyone who loves being on the water, and it is in everyone’s interest therefore to ensure the oceans’ health.

This is being reflected in technological drives toward fossil-free yachts, a desire by designers and superyacht technical teams to lower onboard energy consumption, and in initiatives focusing on creating a more considered Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach to the construction and operation of yachts. Non-profit scientific organisations such as Water Revolution Foundation – which has a particular focus on superyachts – or the recently developed MarieShift360 LCA tool in the leisure boat sector both speak to an industry that is taking responsibility, and that also reflects a changing attitude in yacht owners themselves.

“I think generally people in our area are conscious ow what they’re using and what they’re not using, and what they reuse” offers Gay. “I think most people now both in general and in their businesses are getting more conscious about how they operate and they want to do the right thing when they can. It’s especially true with boaters – they want to go out on the water and they want clean water; they want to have a clean environment, and so that’s flowing on to how we operate. But there are also a lot of people,” he adds, “in particular a lot of yacht owners, who look at how our business operates and what our so-called green credentials are, and that’s where they make a decision on which shipyard they are going to use.”

As it happens, GCCM is one of the marina and yard operations that has long been at the forefront of eco-development. The facility has been harvesting water for more than 20 years, reusing it for washdowns; it also has a large solar panel array laid across the various onsite buildings. “It means that virtually all day we’re running on our own power,” Gay beams. “We’ve got a number of other systems in place too that we’ve been doing for two decades – in fact, we’re the only shipyard that’s had two accreditations in a row that have received 100 per cent on our clean marina projects.”

With further expansion planned, so Gay hints at further developments to safeguard the local environment as much as possible. “I can’t talk about some of what we’re doing just yet,” he says, “but there are a lot of things we’re going to put in place with reticulation of water throughout the site, and looking at how we operate which will change the way we do business when we’re dealing with the yachts.” 

Gold Coast City Marina may well be pioneering this project with QUT, but it is just one of many pioneering projects that the superyacht sector is undertaking to mitigate its impact. Clearly, owners have the same idea – and that can only mean positives both for yachting and beyond.

By Charlotte Thomas | The Superyacht Life Foundation 30 May 2022

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