BY Anna Cummins on 28 Mar 2023

The yachting sector uses large volumes of timber, and not all of it is sourced responsibly

fsc luxury yachts timber

People rarely think about the fact that large volumes of timber are used in the building of a yacht. Timber is often found in masts, booms and luxurious yacht decking, but also in the structure itself, the yacht’s interiors, in floors and as fine detail on rudders.

But while admiring the craftsmanship of a yacht’s fixtures and fittings, it’s easy to overlook the impact the yachting industry has on the world’s forests. The yachting sector uses large volumes of timber, which is why the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched a new industry initiative to ensure the industry helps set standards for the origin of its timber.

Starting with the luxury yachts sector, FSC is now focusing on urging the industry to support better sustainability by providing inspiration, business cases and help for developing responsible procurement policies.

fsc luxury yachts timber

FSC is also encouraging the yachting industry to sign up for a pact that will help the sector to set clear sustainability goals for its purchasing and use of materials sourced from the world’s forests.

As part of the initiative, the Yachting for Forests platform will also be launched online. This platform contains information about the pact and provides inspiration for responsible solutions as well as a list of specific industry suppliers.

“Yachts are an extreme luxury product, but the industry is also an important sector in the innovation of new and greener solutions for the shipbuilding industry in general,” says Kristian Jørgensen, technical advisor at FSC Denmark. “We often see innovation in the areas of engine technology, energy efficiency, synthetic fibres, and the direct impact of different materials on the marine environment. But the time has come to pay more attention to the timber that is used.

“This initiative encourages businesses to set targets that FSC, with its wide-ranging experience, supports by providing guidance and expert advice. Both in terms of the practical implementation of policies and incorporating sustainability on a wider scale than just certification.”

FSC says it hopes that the luxury yachts initiative will spread throughout the industry, e.g. to the fleet of more than six million commercial ships and leisure craft found in European ports.

The luxurious maritime look with its oil-finished brown or silvery-grey patina teak is very much an eye-catcher for the yachting industry.

If the origin of the wood is known – and it is sustainable – the choice of timber as a material is both a responsible and climate-friendly solution. But if the origin of the timber is not known, there is a risk that the timber value chain has had a negative impact on the forests and on the people that live in them and make their living there. That is why it is vital to highlight the industry’s enormous potential for making a positive difference.

The luxurious maritime look with its oil-finished brown or silvery-grey patina teak is very much an eye-catcher for the yachting industry. But timber regulations in the EU and the United States, for example, prohibit the import of natural teak from Myanmar, which is the main country of origin for this particular species of timber.

READ: The wooden way — Handmade kayaks become works of art

fsc luxury yachts timber

“We cannot talk about this industry without talking about the sector’s historical dependence on teak from Myanmar,” says Jørgensen. “Yacht decking has shown itself to be the Achilles’ heel of the industry. The use of natural teak is not just justified by the luxurious look of the timber, but by the extreme technical quality of the wood.”

With this new initiative, FSC says it wishes to push forward to find excellent, responsible alternatives. The industry is in the process of adapting – but this also presents its own challenges. Fast innovation is required; innovation that can create new types of decking that is both durable and able to meet the industry’s aesthetic requirements.

“FSC can bring together operators and show the market what is possible,” adds Jørgensen.

fsc luxury yachts timber

To highlight the possibilities of the existing market, all FSC-certified businesses offering materials or services to yacht building are invited to participate with a supplier’s profile on the website.

“When FSC works on the development of policies in a sector, our experience shows that the best way to motivate people is by being clear about the solutions that are easy and close at hand. Everyone can do something immediately by using the existing products on offer. But we also have to identify better and longer-term solutions to the more complex problems across supply chains,” says Jørgensen.

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