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Life Cycle Assessment for Boats environmental product declaration
Barbara Busetto

In recent years the sustainability aspect is becoming increasingly important in the evaluation of products both by individuals, who pay more attention to this aspect when purchasing products, and by governing bodies who seek to implement policies that support sustainable development.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool widely used in different industrial fields to measure the environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its life cycle, i.e. from the collection and processing of raw materials to the end of the product's life, including the production and use phases. One of the many possible applications of this tool are environmental labels based on LCA studies which are known as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), these are mostly used as a marketing tool towards consumers and/or other companies with the aim of conveying environmental performance by defining a product's environmental footprint through a series of environmental parameters. Given the growing public interest in the issue of environmental sustainability, it is increasingly important to regulate the communication of environmental claims by  private companies, this is why one of the winning points of EPDs is that it reports objective and third-party verified data.

Like all technical performances of a product, the environmental footprint is also a quantity that can be measured and, in order to compare this metric between the same type of product, the ways of assessing environmental impacts must follow the same “rules”. This is way international voluntary standards have been developed by ISO Organization in order to define the general methodology for carrying out LCA studies. Furthermore Product Category Rules (PCR), published within a program operator, are specific voluntary rules which provides the instructions on how the Life Cycle Assessment for a specific product category should be conducted in order to introduce harmonized rules for a specific product type, enabling the comparison between EPDs, and reducing systematic errors due to methodological choices and arbitrary assumptions.

Over the past few months, we have been involved in updating the Product Category Rules for the marine industry, which have been finally been published for the public consultation period by Environdec, the world’s most widely used program operator for publishing Environmental Product Declaration. The key points of this rule is the wide scope of products which can be assessed, indeed different vessels type can be assessed, from leisure to commercial vessels and either vessels used for scientific research purpose. But not only vessels can be assessed using this rules but also the characteristic components used in the maritime industry, in this way the entire supply chain engaged in the vessel building can provide third-party verified data to prove the environmental footprint of each component in the vessel lifetime framework. Furthermore vessels are durable goods, usually it is considered that a vessel should “live” for about twenty years, the aim of the rule is to enable the certification of the environmental footprint of products in every phase of its life span, from early-design to the use phase in order to encourage designers, manufacturers and users to monitor environmental impacts through EPDs at every vessel’s life stage. Three main phases were identified: concept and detailed design phase, in this case a Project type EPD will be published; the construction phase, in this case a Product type EPD will be published; and finally, after the vessel launch, the usage stage, in this case a use phase EPD will be published.

The application of this rule finally gives everyone the tools to measure and share in a certified and comparable way environmental performances of “YACHTS, SMALL CRAFTS, OTHER VESSELS AND PARTS  THEREOF” , as stated by the rule title, to fight against the Greenwashing phenomena, namely the process of conveying misleading information to make the company or product more environmentally sound.

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