Nothing quite embodies the excess of the world’s rich and famous like luxury superyachts.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and currently the world’s third richest person, Koru” (the Māori word for ‘new beginnings, life and hope’) is a USD 500 million mega-yacht dubbed ‘Y721’, almost double the price he paid to buy the Washington Post newspaper in 2013!
Bezos engaged Oceanco to construct the vessel in a Rotterdam harbour, where a bridge was dismantled to allow for its structure, and as it stands, it is the largest sailing yacht ever built.
Seen for the first time under sail in May 2023, the boat, as described by the New York Post, looks like “the boat from “Gulliver’s Travels” washed up on the island of Liliput” and dwarfs the Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s USD 80 million “Dragonfly” – the Australian-built 240-foot vessel commissioned in 2009.
Details of Bezos’s vessel have been kept under wraps, but the 417-foot superyacht is so massive that it has a yacht of its own, along with a helipad and mini-submarine, as reported by Bloomberg.
Wood Central understands that the aluminium and steel hull and three gigantic masts make the vessel half the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
No expense has been spared, with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reporting last week that the vessel is outfitted from bow to stern in undeniably beautiful teak.
Teak is used extensively in boat building
Teak is highly prized in luxury yacht buildings for its durability, water-repellent properties and elegant appearance.
And as the best teak on Earth is found in Myanmar, the EIA supposes that it will have been used for the acres of decking on Bezos’s yacht, although neither he nor Oceanco – who constructed the vessel – have confirmed it.
EIA’s repeated enquiries to all involved in the construction and fitting out of Bezos’s new toy – which has guest accommodation for 18 and a crew of 36 have been met with silence.
That’s because Myanmar teak is a controversial choice for a European yacht builder, especially one seeking to source the finest materials for a client which strongly supports environmental causes.
Since 2013, the European Union has taken a tough stance on imports of teak from Myanmar by member states, fearing it has been illegally harvested.
Five years later, it adopted the ‘common position’ that it is impossible to guarantee that timber from Myanmar had been felled legally due to failings in documenting the chain of custody.
The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) requires due diligence by importers to trace timber from when a tree is cut down through to importation by another country.
According to the EIA, this is impossible in Myanmar, so any timber imports from that country violate the law.
Earlier this year, the EU introduced landmark legislation, the first of its kind. It mandates that companies prove their products do not originate from deforested or forest-degraded lands, or they may face substantial penalties.
EIA holds concerns that the teak used in the yacht originated from Myanmar
In a piece published in Mongabay on Monday, Paul Woolwich, Head of Communications for the EIA, is quick to highlight Bezos’ pledges in support of the environment, including but not limited to a USD 1 billion commitment to combat climate change via the ‘Earth Fund’ and a new endeavour aimed at halting deforestation and desertification by planting twenty-million trees across Africa in an initiative known as ‘The Green Wall Initiative’.
According to Woolwich, the concern is not with the product itself but that the highest quality teak comes from Myanmar.
A country which has not only been accused of almost unprecedented amounts of illegal and uncompensated deforestation — relative to its total land area, having cut down an area the size of Switzerland since 2001 — but has also garnered the nickname of “blood timber” for its wood exports thanks to the bloody coup that took place in February 2021 and the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people.
Yachting for Forests: Tackling deforestation in boat-building
In May 2023, Wood Central reported on a new initiative urging designers, builders, suppliers, and owners to be more mindful of responsible sourcing.
It encourages the industry to set standards and demonstrate to the broader maritime world how it can follow suit.
The campaign is an initiative led by FSC. Some yachting stakeholders already avoid controversial or illegal products, such as teak from Myanmar.
On natural teak, Kristian Jørgensen, technical advisor at FSC Denmark, states: “We cannot talk about this industry without talking about the sector’s historical dependence on teak from Myanmar. Yacht decking has shown itself to be the Achilles’ heel of the industry. The luxurious look of the timber does not just justify the use of natural teak but by the extreme technical quality of the wood.”
FSC claims that timbers are used in masts, booms, luxurious yacht decking, the structure itself, and the yacht’s interiors, floors, and fine details on rudders.
Ultimately, it hopes the initiative will reach the fleet of over six million commercial ships and leisure craft found in European ports.