Boating in a Portrait | Barbara Amerio: “Sailing with reduced consumption and emissions is possible. And the market is proving us right”
The practicality of traditional artistry together with a strong experimental spirit. These are the characteristics of Amer Yachts – Gruppo Permare, a company in San Remo headed by Barbara Amerio, leader in yacht shipbuilding at an international level
Barbara Amerio is at the top of Amer Yachts – Gruppo Permare, the company from San Remo, leader, at an international level in the building and design of low environmental impact yachts. Symbol of “Made in Italy”, Barbara Amerio was called, in 2017, to represent “Bello e ben fatto [Beautiful and Well Made]” for Italy at the Italian Design Day Al Madinat, in Kuwait.
An international event, organised by the Foreign and Development Ministries at the beginning of March, and which formalised the excellence of Amer Yachts and its Italian knowhow. That skill of consolidating years of work, entrepreneurial skills and the practically of traditional artistry together with a strong spirit for experimentation.
Barbara Amerio, your company could be defined as “family-run”, a family making luxury yachts with knowledge and professionalism passed from generation to generation. What are your childhood memories tied to the family?
We are a family in everything and anything. I am the tip of the iceberg, the one who speaks to the press, while my family are more reserved. My brother, Dodo, has great technical skills, my father, Fernando, a nautical pioneer, is a living encyclopaedia. He was already well known in the industry when the first large shipyards in Italy were taking their very first steps. He started out as a mechanic, and created Permare from nothing in 1973 and is still following it closely. Now, even Noemie, my niece, is beginning to work with the company and creating her own niche.
My first childhood memories are tied to the sea: when with my brother and sister I would go with my father, taking part in his Cnis meetings, during the construction of Portosole and we used to play along the shore: the result can be imagined: we always ended up in the water in our Sunday best. Even family holidays were fun, when we went to Santa Teresa di Gallura to visit my father’s group of coral gathering friends, it was fun to listen to the stories of an enchanting underwater world. Clean seas with no plastic, unforgettable memories.
I also remember our rod fishing competitions where my mother always won. We had a great commander from Favignana, on board the family’s Cantieri di Pisa, who was an amazing cook. Sometimes we woke up at dawn and would go swimming offshore in the silence. A great privilege for those living in the sea. Happy times, then hectic work life began and it is increasingly difficult to find free time.
Have you ever met with any difficulty in being a woman at the head of a company making yachts, which is an industry that is mostly male dominated?
This is a question I am asked often and always surprises me. In the nautical industry there are another number of factors at play, moral integrity, preparation, skill and the quality of the product. What does it matter if you are a man or woman? For as long as people keep asking me this question, there is something off key in the workplace. The company heading up Permare is made up mostly of female employees, I have a daughter, a number of nieces, and work hard so they don’t have to work in a society of inequality.
You and your company have always proven you are very attentive about environmental topics. Including installing whale protecting systems on board. Is the nautical industry doing enough to protect their sea?
We live in the middle of the Santuario dei Cetacei and have taken part in the program, “Cetacei Fai attenzione!”, adapting it through the green pages present on board to incentivise sightings, transmitting to researchers the precise location at sea, and instructing on the appropriate way of approaching cetaceans. We were among the first in Italy to take these steps in the sector, drastically reducing consumption by lightening the hull, working on the bottom, weight distribution and using Ips Volvo Penta propulsion.
We have well understood how important it is to add elements from circular economy through the use of recycled and recyclable materials. We hope people will follow and listen to us. We can do more, we are just at the beginning and we are aiming at creating a hybrid, while we are carefully studying latest generation solutions like hydrogen. We are sponsors of a pilot project for French students who will participate in an event dedicated to renewable energy, in Monaco, in July.
I would like to take a moment to publicly thank Minister Costa who recently approved the ‘Salva-Mare [Save the Sea]’ decree which will help in the collection sea plastics, considered to be special waste and which cannot be sent off for recycling. It is a current topic and the Mediterranean is a closed sea which is very polluted, even though the solution would be to go plastic free as soon as possible. We need to work more on training, I have contacted a number of students and the new generation is very sensitive to environmental issues. It is our fault we are not reducing waste enough. There is a change in the feeling of luxury and those who are left behind will be criticised and will lose consent and well as money.
Environmental sustainability has moved from being a trend to normality. Does it still make sense to waste resources nowadays? On 25 April in Los Angeles we received an award for the “94 Superleggera” for eco-design in the “Boat & Transport category. The boat had already won an award in Amsterdam at the “Builders Award 2018”, in the “Environmental initiative” category. The market is proving us right: our clients are one step ahead, they have a green awareness and fully share in our philosophy to reduce consumption and emissions.
Beyond your job, what is your relationship with the sea, and how often to you go?
Respectful. I have always respected the sea, I only go out completely safely and with people I trust. I like to go slow and enjoy the views, staying in roadstead, swimming and exploring the shoreline through boulders and difficult to reach bays. I lived on board a boat in Portosole, during a summer move, using it as my home. And you know what I noticed when I got back home? That I was missing oxygen, the open air, being able to live on the sea makes you feel better, and there is nothing more wonderful than sleeping rocked by the waves with the skylight open to the stars.
Since then I stopped watching TV, I have completely detoxed, I prefer to listen to music and enjoy reading, especially stories of the sea. In 2018 I became the Italian ambassador for “Blue mind”, a book dedicated to the science of water and which I suggest you read. I started up a movement that supports the wellbeing of living in contact with the water and explains the numerous therapeutic properties of the sea. A precious book, that could be supported by our politicians who sometimes ignore the potential of nearly 8,000 km of coastline.
Photo by Claudio Colombo
BOATING IN A PORTRAIT. A project by Liguria Nautica and Claudio Colombo showcasing a gallery of Ligurian people or those who have ties with our region, who have left their mark on Italian boating, or who have deep rooted connections with our sea. For each of them, we present a photographic portrait take by Claudio Colombo and an interview with our journalist, Giuseppe Orrù, to better know each person, in their personal lives as well.