I believe that respect for the sea and for nature in general is the duty of everyone, and for those who sail and who love the sea above all. And the dangers of global warming remind us of that fact every day, ever more urgently."
So says Luciano Benetton, the Italian fashion icon behind the eponymous clothing company, in an interview with the British newspaper The Independent. Who can forget when his unconventional United Colors of Benetton campaigns debuted in the 1980's and not only introduced an exuberance of color into the wardrobes of men and women everywhere, but also emphasized racial diversity by employing models of varying ethnicities? Soon it began incorporating images relating to world peace and other social and political issues. The goal was to draw public attention to global problems like war, poverty, and even AIDS.
Even though the 73-year-old has handed over many of his daily corporate duties to his son, the elder Benetton is still painfully aware of problems affecting all countries. He's particularly concerned about matters related to the environment. One of these is global warming.
So what's a man to do when he wants to commission a yacht that will represent a globe-trotting home—a yacht that by the very practices of construction and operation could contribute to the problem? Even though all custom yachts are equipped with black- and grey-water treatment systems, some of these systems' chemicals don't sit well with someone of Benetton's mindset. Then there are the emissions from interior and exterior finishes. Even though countries everywhere are cracking down on both, the measures taken thus far just aren't enough for the man who became known for taking an unconventional approach to advertising a conventional product.
It will probably come as no surprise, then, that Benetton took an unconventional approach to his yacht: He commissioned the first private yacht to be awarded the Green Star designation for environmental awareness.
If you've never heard of Green Star, you're not alone. A certificate granted by the Italian classification society RINA, until now it has been applied solely to commercial vessels. In a nutshell, this certification—granted via a voluntary course of action—states that a vessel has been designed and built in an environmentally responsible way and will be operated similarly. Given the sensitive ecology of waters in Alaska and elsewhere that their ships regularly visit, cruise lines like Carnival and Costa have avidly pursued the certificate. And given the poor public perception of oil and chemical tankers (think Exxon Valdez), some commercial fleet operators have strived for it, too.
So when Green Star was created in the 1990's, why didn't it initially also apply to private vessels? After all, RINA states the vessels holding its classification include 25 percent of the world's megayachts. Truth be told, the Green Star documentation on RINA's Web site does say it's "applicable to any type of ship." But given the number of people it carries, a cruise ship has a far larger impact on the environment than does a yacht. And at the time, the megayacht boom, both in terms of numbers of contracts and size, hadn't yet occurred.
Being the first yacht owner to apply for Green Star wasn't the driving factor for Benetton, though. And neither was it for Mondomarine, the yard he approached to build what would become the 164-foot Trib. Having opened its doors in 1978, Mondomarine has seen its fair share of unusual requests from owners, who have commissioned steel, aluminum, and fiberglass yachts from 95 to 164 feet (Trib is its largest vessel to date). It also holds the global patent for the moldless method of constructing composite yachts, so rising to a challenge was up its alley. Both owner and yard agreed that it was important to do their part to be as respectful as possible to the environment.
This article originally appeared in the August 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.