It is no surprise that the concept of The Blue Economy is gaining traction at an accelerated pace as information on the health of our oceans becomes globalized and innovation creates new and improved ways of doing things. Innovation in the marine world is the catalyst for the rise of investment funds and portfolios targeted toward ocean-friendly solutions and investment opportunities that generate predictable income and have positive environmental and social impact. This mobilization of the global investment community is not only evidenced in typical industry sectors, but also in a sector that may not immediately come to mind: the yachting industry.

Behind the Image

The overall economic impact of the global yachting industry, yacht shows, and the diverse range of professional services that support them — including hospitality, luxury travel, culinary, and entertainment — is indisputable. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show alone has a reported economic impact of more than $500 million per year, trumping what some host cities of the Super Bowl rake in. Hundreds of families in Bridgeport, CT, survived the economic downturn and remained employed during the construction of mega yacht Cakewalk V. The yachts themselves represent a complex floating incubator of technological amazement, futuristic design, engineering and sustainably resourced materials that create enormous opportunity for growth in an industry whose reputation is arguably tarnished by the inequity of the haves and have nots.

The sheer cost of buying and maintaining yachts creates a kind of class envy and leads to criticism of such supposed decadence, waste and pollution, despite the fact that the collective carbon and environmental footprint of private yachts is a fraction of one percent of the global total. The impact of private yachts pales in comparison to that of land-based structures, private aviation or luxury automobiles. Moreover, for many yacht owners, the amount they spend on this indulgence is minimal compared with their net worth and, importantly, their philanthropic endeavors. For example, Google CEO Larry Page’s $45 million yacht pales in comparison with his $33.3 billion net worth – and the $177 million in stock he donated in 2014. Microsoft co-founder
Paul Allen’s yacht, “Octopus,” cost more than $200 million, less than his annual charitable outlays.

Not Their Fathers’ Yacht…

Another fascinating and little-known aspect of yachting is the rise of a new generation of yacht owners who are demanding higher levels of sustainable innovation, technology and wellness features, in addition to requiring vessels that can travel long distances to more remote and protected areas of the world, including Antarctica and the Northern Passage. This certainly triggers a different image in our minds than that of the traditional shiny white yachts sitting in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. Simply stated, the new generation of yacht owners is driving the industry toward a more sustainable business model. These discerning yet socially conscious buyers are driving an economic and ecological awakening around hybrid engines, solar panels, composite teak-like materials, natural elements and Sustainable Luxury®. Likewise, upon realizing that it doesn’t cost any more to design yachts that have a reduced environmental impact, a race has begun within the industry to develop the most technologically advanced vessels in the history of yachting, attracting new investment in engineering and alternative fuel research. In essence, a yacht can be looked at as an incubator for innovation.

Ocean Zen Lounge

o capitalize on the changing demands of the end user in yachting while promoting sustainable luxury, Ports of Cause (POC), a non-profit organization under the umbrella of Clear Yacht International, is launching an initiative called Ocean Zen Lounge. This multi-sensory, very artistic, moveable and scalable pavilion serves as a concentrated venue for the financial community to experience the inventiveness of the yachting industry first-hand through pre-vetted innovative product “pitches” similar to startup presentations. By bringing together the shipyards, manufacturers, brokers and clients at high-visibility yacht, luxury, and financial centers around the world, the Ocean Zen Lounge becomes a knowledge center and point of reference for latest trends and technology.

Mega Yachts _ Cerrone _Ocean Zen Lounge
Ocean Zen Lounge. © Ports of Cause

Ocean Zen Lounge will also serve to showcase the industry’s sustainability initiatives. In late 2014, POC formally introduced a U.S. Green Building Council LEED-inspired rating and certification program for the yachting industry. Like LEED, the program encompasses baseline prerequisites through “Game Changing/Future Proof” thinking and technologies for Sustainability and Occupant Wellness. To date, the program has undergone “beta testing” on numerous yacht designs and is now ready for full implementation in early 2016. The certification program will be part of POC events and education series within the Ocean Zen Lounge during the 2016 yacht show season.

It is clear that just as “no man is an island,” rescuing and sustaining our oceans will be a group effort, involving corporate, environmental and social stakeholders. An alliance of like-minded people who have the economic ability to support the scientists, industry experts, investors and entrepreneurs who believe in the incredible positive power of the modern economy, the yachting industry has the opportunity to be a leader and influencer of this change.

Special thanks to Joyce Clear, Founder of Ports of Cause and Clear Yacht International, and Natalya Muravchik for their contributions to this article.

Victoria Cerrone, JD, is the Co-Founder and Director of Luxury Brand Partnerships for Ports of Cause, securing collaboration and corporate sponsorships with bespoke sustainable solutions in the luxury sector.