Metstrade ended its three-day run Nov. 19 with record attendance and exhibitor numbers. The organizers said 17,792 attendees made 26,984 visits during the international event, a 5 percent increase over last year’s record. The Amsterdam RAI Convention Center also reported a record 1,670 exhibitors from 53 countries, with a total of 7,297 exhibitor personnel. More than 270 companies were new exhibitors.

“It’s rewarding to see how our efforts to step up different aspects of the show have paid off,” says Irene Dros, maritime director of the Metstrade show. “Beyond the record number of exhibitors, we had many more companies visiting the show — representing 115 nationalities in all. That number demonstrates its global reach.”

One of Metstrade’s primary themes this year was sustainability. Dros set the tone in her remarks at the beginning of the show. She referred several times to the boating industry’s increasing commitment to environmental sustainability, noting that quite a few new exhibitors and products were focusing on sustainable messages.

In his keynote address at the all-industry breakfast, Feadship CEO Henk de Vries said his company aims to have zero emissions by 2025 by building only hybrid boats. By 2030, de Vries said, the entire boatbuilding industry could be there, too.

Such was the can-do attitude during the event, where industry leaders came together to discuss ways that boating and boatbuilding can be made more environmentally friendly. The conversations and goals expressed went far beyond adopting hybrid propulsion systems and avoiding plastic water bottles on board, with the industry embracing the idea that finding eco-friendly solutions to all kinds of problems can be an entrepreneurial bonanza.

“I was very happy about the cohesiveness of the whole sustainability aspect,” Dros says. “The topic really became a voice of the industry. For the first time at the show, everyone seemed to own the topic, rather than just pay lip service.”

Maritime director Irene Dros says Metstrade’s 5 percent gain in attendance shows its expanding global reach.

Maritime director Irene Dros says Metstrade’s 5 percent gain in attendance shows its expanding global reach.

The I-nnovationLAB hosted panel discussions on sustainability issues, specifically on global biofouling, recycling boats and the changing environmental situation in the boating industry as a whole. Presentations at the Material District also focused on bio-based and recycled raw materials. The E-nnovationLAB stage presented electric and hybrid information to attendees.

Ideas on multiple aspects of sustainability were floated during the show. “With computer aided design, everything is possible,” Marnix Hoekstra, creative director at the Dutch design firm Vripack, said during the discussion about making end-of-life boats easier to disassemble. “You just need the will to do it and have the vision to forget the traditional way things have been done for the last 60 years.”

Metstrade had a record 1,670 exhibitors this year,  with visitors from 115 countries. Despite decreases in global superyacht orders, traffic in the SuperYacht Pavilion (left) was strong. The mood across the show was upbeat, with exhibitors reporting robust business conditions. Innovation also was on display, with 118 new products from 26 countries in the Dame Awards. 

Metstrade had a record 1,670 exhibitors this year, with visitors from 115 countries. Despite decreases in global superyacht orders, traffic in the SuperYacht Pavilion (left) was strong. The mood across the show was upbeat, with exhibitors reporting robust business conditions. Innovation also was on display, with 118 new products from 26 countries in the Dame Awards. 

Long-established market leaders are also putting considerable resources into changing design, construction and work processes. Feadship’s 2025 target date for emissions is one example; another longtime leader is Groupe Beneteau, which builds more than 200 boat models across 12 brands. Companywide, Beneteau is working on reducing air emissions, cutting waste, adopting an eco-design approach and protecting biodiversity. The group also launched a study into the recyclability of its boats, and has supported the establishment of 23 boat disposal sites along the French coast.

What’s happening in the water along that coastline and others was the subject of the panel “The Challenge of Global Biofouling,” which highlighted the loss of ocean biodiversity and the unprecedented spread of invasive species. As just one example of the problem’s scope, the panel discussed how, during the past 10 years, 20,000 species have been identified in Europe, with 14,000 being designated as invasive or non-native.

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Biocide-free antifouling can help solve the biofouling problem, as can ultrasonic systems that more boaters and shipyards are starting to embrace. A report due out in January from a Netherlands waterways organization promises to show the results of a long-term trial of coatings, ultrasonic systems and wraps on charter yachts, so builders and refit yards can better understand what’s working best.

Other Metstrade attendees focused on making boats themselves more eco-friendly, both during construction and while underway. Show-goers said they expect hydrogen-powered boats to become a realistic proposition within three to five years, while composites used in boatbuilding are becoming fully recyclable today. Amer Yachts, for instance, announced its intention to become the first builder to use Filava, a construction material whose fibers are derived from volcanic rock combined with a bio-epoxy resin.

Enrico Benco, CEO of GS4C in Italy, says his goal in making Filava “was always to create a cradle-to-cradle solution, and by utilizing a low embodied energy induction process, the Filava composite can be economically turned into another boat at the end of life.”

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Hoekstra, of Vripack, says the solutions coming to market today show the industry’s commitment to a sustainable future. “I do think these initiatives are proving that we don’t need heavy-handed legislation to solve this problem,” he says. “Rather than put money into legislation which many will try to evade or avoid, let’s put it into education of young people who will have the foresight and the modern skills to create the solutions we need for the future of boat disposal.”

Multiple exhibitors said that attendees specifically asked whether sustainable materials and processes were used in their product lines.

“Sustainability seemed to be a much larger theme this year,” says Nigel Pompeus, head of marketing for Lignia Yacht. Lignia, a U.K.-based manufacturer of FSC-certified wood decks that share the appearance and qualities of teak, won innovation awards both at Metstrade and the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference.

“Everyone in the industry seems eager to do something about the global environmental situation,” Dros says. “They are tackling the issue from the heart as well as financially, embracing transformation in our industry not just in theory but very much in practice. We’re seeing conversations between stakeholders that are leading to potentially revolutionary developments.” 

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.

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