The Clear Ocean Pact

4 April 2019 By Lauren Beck

Picture it — an ocean clear of the plastic debris that plagues our waters currently. Think it an impossibility? Maybe so if we don’t try to combat the issue. That’s where the Clear Ocean Pact comes in — the non-profit, which launched in late 2017, is targeting the superyacht industry to work to halt its influx of plastic into the ocean.

“I had the vision of what could be possible to achieve by bringing the individual efforts of the industry together behind one common set of goals — a pact — to start reducing its single-use plastic consumption,” says Richard Orme, founder of the Clear Ocean Pact. Orme worked to get the idea off the ground after retiring as a yacht owner’s representative last November. “The initiative still gives me the ability to have an involvement in the industry I’ve been working in for the past twenty-three years, but on a different level and ultimately purpose,” he says.

Orme has worn many hats in his years in the industry — crew, MCA surveyor, yacht manager, and owner’s rep, to name a few, so he has perspective from all sides, but it was his children who inspired him to make this change. “My children and the fact that when they are my age now, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish if we don’t do something about the problem,” Orme says. “I couldn’t stand back and do nothing. [I] felt I had an obligation and the ability to do something due to the industry I have spent the first part of my career working in,” he says.

So he formed the Clear Ocean Pact, whose mission is simple — “reduce the dependency of single-use plastic items in the superyacht industry for good.” It aims to raise awareness, investigate new solutions to prevent microplastic waste, and offer “viable alternatives” to single-use plastic on yachts — charging the yachts themselves to take “ownership of their yacht’s plastic footprint responsibilities.”

Participating yachts can sign the pact:

  1. “To avoid any use of plastic bottled drinking water on board.
  2. To filter and safely dispose of all washing machine microplastic waste.
  3. To eliminate the use of all single-use plastic items with readily available alternatives, starting with the items due to be banned by the EU in 2021 — plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink-stirrers, and balloon sticks.
  4. To reduce the use of single-use plastic toiletries on board.
  5. To actively source provisions with low single-use plastic footprint packaging.”

The first goal is to get 1,000 yachts to sign on to the pact by November 2020. Orme’s site explains that the pact is voluntary and non-accredited. “[There’s] no monitoring, no accreditation, it’s driven by self-motivation,” he says. The idea relies on yachting’s connections — one vessel affects many people and businesses, so the philosophy is that the pact’s goals will be passed on.

As of April 2019, 28 yachts have signed the pact. “Firstly, to get to one thousand yachts by November 2020 would be fantastic, but if we don’t make it we’ll simply keep on going until we do,” Orme says. “Once we have tackled yachting, I have the cruise industry in my sights, and in fact any other industry that wants to take on the template that we’ve created by the Clear Ocean Pact,” he says. He also points out that they’ve inspired the print industry in the UK to do something similar —Printers Against Plastic, which works off the same format as the Clear Ocean Pact. Orme also says he will make plans for what comes next when they achieve their 1,000-vessel goal. “But it will probably be something related to sustainable yachting and VA tech (viable alternative technologies).”

“So far everyone in yachting that I’ve spoken to wants to make a difference to the problem of plastic pollution, so there is huge amounts of drive and determination to start making a change to the behaviors on board to reduce single-use plastic consumption,” Orme says. “We’ve just given the industry a little steer in the right direction and made it more accessible to achieve something with viable alternatives.”

Check out the site and get your vessel to take the pledge.