Focus on Sustainability

Metstrade will have expert panels, eco-product areas and a continuing discussion about end-of-life hulls
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Discussions on sustainability issues and the boating industry take place on the 
I-nnovationLAB stage. 

Discussions on sustainability issues and the boating industry take place on the I-nnovationLAB stage. 

With the world seeking more sustainable living, and with public awareness of environmental issues reaching a high point, the 32nd edition of the Metstrade marine equipment trade show is promoting sustainability on multiple fronts.

“During the past five years, we have been actively increasing the number of sustainability initiatives at three distinct levels,” says Irene Dros, maritime director at RAI Amsterdam, which owns the show. “At the industry level, we are reaching out, networking and providing conference facilities. At the show level, we have established the E-nnovation Lab and I-nnovationLAB concepts.” These are dedicated areas within the show where attendees see sustainability- focused products, presentations and organized technical forums.

“At RAI venue level, we have paid attention to leading by example with our facility management,” Dros says. That includes reducing energy use, improving waste management and recycling, and making high-quality tap water available for refilling reusable bottles. New this year will be 22 miles of walkway carpeting made from recyclable materials.

Since 2014, in cooperation with show partner ICOMIA, Metstrade has included sustainability forums. The panel discussions have covered recycling end-of-life boats, developments in hybrid propulsion, ocean conservation projects and more. This year, three such sessions are scheduled on the I-nnovationLAB stage: “The Challenge of Global Biofouling,” “How Green are We a Year On?” and “End-of-Use Boats: An Update on Progress.”

The biofouling panel will include a discussion of the global GloFouling project, which aims to develop best practices to stop the transfer of invasive aquatic species across marine sectors. Topics expected to be mentioned include biocide content in antifouling coatings, preparation and application methods, and alternative (non-paint) concepts for below the waterline.

New green technologies and innovations are on display in the Dame Awards section. 

New green technologies and innovations are on display in the Dame Awards section. 

The panel on end-of-use boats will focus on the millions of fiberglass hulls built in the 1970s and ’80s, and ideas to keep them out of landfills. The discussion is expected to touch on building hulls from materials that can be reused or recycled. An invitation-only networking lunch will follow the panel.

This year’s panel follows a similar one from last year that discussed designing boats for eventual disassembly, recyclable materials, the status of electric/hybrid propulsion systems and developments in eco-friendly energy storage solutions.

Metstrade has been raising awareness about the increasing number of fiberglass boats around the world that are reaching the end of their useful lives. Committing hulls to landfills is not an environmentally acceptable option, according experts, as they can potentially remain for hundreds of years. The challenge for the marine industry is to create a new, commercially viable subsector that can responsibly dispose of them, much the same way as the automotive industry has done for end-of-life cars.

Another important aspect of the discussion, according to experts, is to explore how boats of the future can be built to make them easier to disassemble, with materials that can be reused or recycled. “Thanks to the persistent efforts of individuals and organizations in several countries, assisted by funding from within the boating industry, we are seeing progress which is well worth reporting on at this year’s show,” Dros says.

“The environmental sustainability content at Metstrade is always a real eye-opener,” says Dominic Findlow, technical director of NRG Marine, which makes the Sonihull ultrasonic antifouling system. “Yes, the show has myriad new advances in hardware and electronics on display, but it’s the basic everyday solutions that always grab our attention. Topics like smart recycling, end-of-life solutions for fiberglass boats and autonomous garbage-collection devices … answering these universal challenges will have the broadest impact on the industry.”

Peter Jager, managing director of Combi Outboards, a Netherlands-based manufacturer of electric propulsion systems, also welcomes the show’s eco-friendly focus. “It’s good for us to be in the dedicated E-Drives section, and last year we were selected by an independent panel to make our ‘pitch to the press’ during the show,” he says. “This obviously helps us to show our [green] flag to a bigger audience. We definitely see that boaters are becoming more aware of reliable, competitive alternatives to internal combustion motors.” 

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.

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