Q&A with Ocean Alliance
'Alliance creates strength...'
This week we speak to Laurie, the Charter Experience Manager from Ocean Alliance.
We love Ocean Alliance’s ‘Sea-through – The Superyacht Beach Clean Project’ initiative with Take 3, could you tell us a bit more how this came about and what exactly it is Ocean Alliance are doing through this initiative?
The project was a co-creation between Ocean Alliance and my personal passion for ocean conservation stemming from an introspection on how to align this with my career path.
I was exploring ideas to make an impact in the superyacht industry and ways to empower superyacht crew to tackle the issue. I believe that every change flourishes from awareness first, education and solution then.
Living in Bondi, Sydney at the time, I had been following Take3 for a little while, and decided to reach out to Tim Silverwood (CEO of Take3 at the time) to explore ideas with him.
This is what I wrote to Tim: “As an actor of a very niche industry, looking after luxury superyachts in Australia, we have been thinking of multiple ways to give back, but to also mobilise influential people we work with and create that movement among our yachting community. Obviously working with the Sea and Oceans as our elements every day of the week, we feel Take3 will find synergy in the idea.”
I remember then heading to meet him for a coffee one morning in 2017, a BOAT International magazine under my arm to show him the “new conversations” in the superyacht industry (I think there was an article on the Ocean Awards). Ex-colleagues in the South of France had also started organising events with the Surfrider European Foundation. I was convinced that Tim could help us have an impact, presented the idea to the founder of Ocean Alliance, Jo Howard, whom I had been working for since 2014. It felt really supportive that Jo was very open to the subject himself.
The first event happened in July 2017, I had so much fun putting it all together, we had 40 attendees over 3 hours! Here’s a link to the article we published.
It resulted in some great media and PR for both organisations, created further conversation, we received amazing feedback from people who took part and it also created ripples within the industry not only in Australia, but also overseas. I remember people mentioning it at the Monaco Yacht Show the year after!
Since then, we arranged different other events and I personally strive to inspire and learn from the crew and captains I work with, in my role as charter manager.
As a company, does Ocean Alliance currently have any other sustainable initiatives in place or in the future pipeline?
We strive to live in a plastic-free environment, primarily as individuals of an organisation, as we believe in leading by example.
Jo and I are not afraid to have the conversations about single-use plastics, whether that is with the local café or when we speak with crew members, when we attend events if it is appropriate. We are also involved in the event management space in Sydney, and have opened up conversations with the yachts’ caterers to try and understand ways to reduce the amount of waste.
It is a continuous journey, but the subject cannot be ignored anymore: our business relies on the ocean, its health and life, anywhere in the world.
We will be looking to continue the journey and be inspired by anyone who works in the incredible marine environment we are so lucky to be supported by!
The company’s next exciting project is going to be announced soon… Ocean Alliance is the first superyacht companies to be aligning with a non-for-profit organisation to survey and protect the Great Barrier Reef. Stay tuned!
There is also a new concept I am personally exploring at the moment: regenerative travel is the new sustainable!
From the brokerage side of things, have you seen any rise in environmentally conscious owners?
We are lucky to be working with incredible Owners on a daily basis. I believe that being environmentally conscious not only refers to protecting Nature, but also taking care of and empowering its inhabitants: animals and humans!
Most of the yachts in our fleet at Ocean Alliance have committed at least in parts towards being sustainable, eco-friendly, or whichever label we want to give it – closer to the Ocean element in every possible way!
We have also had superyachts taking part in conservation projects and research in Australia: BELUGA (35m Moonen) was involved in the filming of BLUE-The Documentary, which gained incredible international exposure recently; they also set on an expedition with Take3 in the Coral Sea in Australia in 2018. SILENTWORLD’s Owner is involved with Australian Maritime Research, and in 2017 they won the Inaugural Australian Voyager Award, for a 10-day itinerary specifically aimed to discover shipwrecks and relics underwater on the Great Barrier Reef.
It is also amazing to witness charter guests wanting to make a different whilst on board: we had an American family dedicated to cleaning a beach in one really remote island in Fiji (who is unfortunately exposed to Pacific currents), another generous Charterer committed to equip a whole Fijian school with laptops to help improve education and make a difference in the children’s lives.
We have an extended blog post about all the amazing initiatives here: https://www.oceanalliance.com/superyachts-philanthropy-sustainability-projects/
As a company that works closely with crew, what are your thoughts on making sustainable changes as crew, is this something you make crew aware of when managing the yachts?
I think this industry is sustained by and valued for the human element within it!
It’s important though to make crew feel like they have the ability to make a change, whilst they might have to go through “hard conversations”, hurdles, “greenwashing” and generally be pushed aside when trying to integrate solutions on board.
Last year, I co-created a facebook group called “Conscious Yachties - Collaborating to preserve oceans' health for all”, with Karine from The Crew Coach, Lauren – The Green Stew, and Chloe from The Greater Goods Collective.
We have more than 160 members now, and a recent survey revealed that most of them are here to seek inspiration: providing each other with real solutions to make a difference, looking at how other industries implement sustainability and applying it to yachting.
From the fleet of yachts I manage within my role at Ocean Alliance, my “tool” is to share relevant articles with Captains and Crew, spread the word via social media, we also surveyed the yachts we manage to try and understand the real hurdles they were facing and how we can support them.
I believe in leading by example, and also have a strong belief that shame will never create opportunity: rather than making someone feel wrong for not doing, I always try to understand someone’s point of view and meet them to create connection.
What are your thoughts on the future of the industry, in terms of sustainability?
Ah, I could write pages…! I feel that the superyacht industry has so much power in this space, by the nature of its stakeholders, the incredibly smart men and women we engage with, and the undeniable link with the ocean – as we know, our planet’s lungs and support system.
It’s very uplifting to witness the increase in conversations, organisations like Seastainable Yachting popping up all around the world.
I feel that more and more superyachts will be open to research for the oceans, some owners offering them as platforms for exploration and progress towards solutions to benefit all.
Here in Australia for example, Ocean Alliance has just collaborated in a project called The Great Reef Census, the first-ever Citizen Science project aiming to empower individuals (Owner, Charterers, Crew) to survey the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and contribute to its resilience and support. We received great enthusiasm from the Owners we represent to take part in the project and make their yachts available.
There also seems to be an increasing observation that the yachts being built are designed to venture further afield. The emphasis on Yachting for Purpose, Adventure yachting or Yachts for Science are all concepts I am so looking forward to seeing the expansion of!