Plastics in the crosshairs in the IFBSO’s afternoon workshop session, as conference enters final day

The environment was front and centre, and it was plastics that were in the crosshairs in the IFBSO’s afternoon workshop session on the third and final day of the ICOMIA/IFBSO Congress 2019 in Split, Croatia. “We can start a revolution here today – we have the outreach and we’re at the sharp end of the business,” announced session chair Peter Franklin, urging the show organiser delegates to spread the environmental message and educate the upwards of two million visitors that attend boat shows around the world each year.

Single-use plastic objects and fishing gear make up something like 70% of rubbish in the sea. Significantly, only 1% of plastic pollution floats on the surface; the rest sinks, degrades and enters the food chain when it is absorbed as micro particles, by algae. Guest speaker Madhuri Prabhakar of the Plastic Soup Foundation explained how it was tackling plastic pollution at source. For instance, it recently launched a ‘beat the microbead’ app, which enables users to check whether particular sun creams, shampoos and scrubs etc contain plastic microbeads. Fellow guest speaker Sara-Jane Skinner of the Blue Marine Foundation outlined the problems of over-fishing and initiatives being taken to ringfence larger areas of ocean from human activity.

Delegates agreed to set up a working group to develop a simple, targeted, IFBSO-branded visual message raising awareness about plastic, that should be presented in a dedicated space at shows to drive home a consistent message to consumers. The idea of a ‘Plastic Free show’ was suggested; delegates agreed it would be a significant challenge, but a concept worth investigating.

Not just business as usual

The conference got underway earlier this morning with what turned out to be an unusually emotional AGM for the IFBSO. Traditionally something of a house-keeping session, this year’s gathering saw IFBSO president, Goetz-Ulf Jungmichael, step down following a two-year tenure and the inauguration of the NMMA’s Jennifer Thompson as the association’s first female president.

Jungmichael thanked his fellow members for their trust and belief before affectionately praising the association’s longest-ever serving member, Bengt Wallin of the Goteborg show, who is retiring as treasurer. Wallin took up the post back in 2001. Hanse Thorslund of the Stockholm International Boat Show now takes up the treasury baton.

Prior to lunch, a keynote presentation by the Croatian Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure highlighted an expansion of its online yacht registration portal and e-services as well as amendments to its maritime code. Croatia, and its Adriatic coast, lays claim to being the world’s number one bareboat charter destination – the number of registered charter vessels grew last year from 4,108 in 2017 to 4,378, with the number of guests and overnight stays rising accordingly to 567,072 (553,363) and 3,693,457 (3,657,177) respectively.

Croatian lighting design specialist Dean Skira rounded out the morning session with an inspiring look at lighting design and called on the marina designers and boatbuilders to embrace more creative lighting design solutions.

The conference draws to a conclusion later this evening with a gala dinner, hosted by the Croatian Boating Industry Association.