A sustainable development agreement, the editorial of Franco Michienzi

Numerous companies are set to stop making diesel and petrol engines in 2035. The nautical industry needs to push for innovation and research, perhaps working in partnership with Italy’s top universities

by Francesco Michienzi

DESIGN, SHARING, AND SUSTAINABILITY ARE THE KEYWORDS CHOSEN BY MILAN’S SALONE DEL MOBILE to underscore this event’s role in modern society, where values come before objects. Thanks to their commitment, courage, and sense of responsibility, the organisers have created the ideal conditions for the success of the Milanese event. It’s not the first time that we’ve turned our attention to other parallel worlds when talking about our sector. We like to pick up on the best ideas in a modern and proactive vision of what to do. Indeed, in this sense, Confindustria Nautica is putting all its energy, strength, and passion into taking Genoa and its boat show right back to the very top of the world rankings.

The 61st Boat Show will occupy a space of over 200,000 m2, with 85% of the areas completely outdoors, hosing more than 1,000 vessels.

The Boat Show mirrors a market for which this year’s forecast, as shared by Confindustria Nautica’s Studies Office, confirms a very sustained upward trend. It’s a sell-out in terms of attendance by national and international exhibitors and this is partly the result of its authority and credibility achieved following the success of the 60th show last year. Genoa and Milan are two successful sectors that are reflecting continuously on their development.

The Salone del Mobile, organised by Stefano Boeri, maintains that the “supershow” can become the symbol of a new Renaissance starring an increasingly innovative product, able to offer an adequate response to transformations in the structure of contemporary society, the consequent rapid changes in the furniture market and the individual requirements of each client. Generally speaking, this vision ought to be unreservedly adopted by the Italian yachting industry too.

The special 2021 Salone del Mobile in Milan will feature 423 brands and 50 independent designers, 170 projects from 48 design schools, 20 of the most influential figures on today’s creative scene, 110 seats that have won the Compasso d’Oro, 6 great chefs, 5 films selected by the MDFF and 200 Forestami trees.

But there’s another problem when it comes to the world of boats. The 2050 Agenda will have some significant effects even in the short term. The European Commission has presented an incredibly complex package of environmental measures. The objective is to operate on several regulatory and industrial fronts to reduce harmful gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The measure regarding cars stands out: from 2035 sales of CO2-emitting vehicles will no longer be permitted. The ecological revolution will not be free from social costs and economic risks.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is very determined on this front: «Today we’re presenting a strategy for reaching our climate objectives, which are no longer just a political commitment, but a legal obligation. Changes of this type are never easy. Many will say we should do less and more slowly. But in the situation towards which our planet is heading, doing less means doing nothing, and we can’t allow this».

In the long term, the objective is to achieve climate neutrality between now and 2050, but in the medium term, the issue of propulsion will be fundamental for pleasure boats. Some manufacturers of diesel and petrol engines for the automotive sector are already thinking of stopping production before 2035. As ours is a niche sector, it will prove difficult to tackle the issue of propulsion if we do not act in time. Hydrogen and its associated industry have been mentioned, but the costs are currently prohibitive.

When it comes to sharing and the future, legitimate commercial competition should be put aside to add content to words that would otherwise only be full of rhetoric and propaganda. I imagine that all the main Italian shipyards will be establishing agreements with our top universities, offering study grants to further research that will help find the best solutions in terms of propulsion, sustainability, and real innovation for ships and pleasure boats. A framework agreement should be drawn up to achieve tangible results. Our best yards are already working individually with various Italian universities, but these are isolated cases.

It is fundamental to carry out research that can help find the best solutions in terms of propulsion, sustainability, and real innovation for ships and pleasure boats.

A strategic plan is needed that will make it possible to look to the future with trust. We’re currently world leaders in the production of boats over 24 meters long, but a rapidly changing scenario should drive us all towards common action. I’m not talking about the Recovery Fund, which people even want to draw upon to fund the peperone crusco (crispy pepper) festival. To have a serious industrial development plan, I wouldn’t count on interventions from politicians, who are too taken up with their ideological and instrumental battles, fought purely to have the consent necessary to perpetuate their power. The painful debates shown on our TV screens every evening tell us that we have to go it alone.

Just remember the mess surrounding the SCR system for vessels over 24 meters long, where our politicians didn’t understand matters at all. They allowed the regulation to come into effect without batting an eyelid. This is a regulation that does not produce any environmental benefit but is extremely damaging for yards forced to reduce the living areas, as well as to redesign the engine room to host the supplementary tanks envisaged by the system. A political class so far removed from tangible everyday issues is of no help to us. All we can do is look directly for solutions to the development and evolution issues regarding us. Not as individuals, but as a community that loves boats and everything that goes into building them.

(A sustainable development agreement – Barchemagazine.com – September 2021)