Opportunities and challenges for the superyacht sector

As in Formula1, the latest techniques in the superyacht sector can be implemented in other sectors!

During one of the first content webinars of 2021, the focus was placed by NMT, RMSC and Maritime Delta on the superyachts sector. Hein Velema of RMSC member Marstrat started with an overview of the sector, which indicated that the influence of COVID-19 on the economy and specifically in this sector has grown; Billionaires have become even richer and yachts are seen as a safe place to be with family. The “Pre-loved” superyacht market has accelerated in the second half of 2020, as has the order book for new construction.

Hein asked the public why do we only think about building yachts when there is so much more in this market that the region can work with, such as the maritime business service providers. The operational market in this sector, such as the annual costs of keeping a yacht in operation, is very large for yachts. The greater Rotterdam region can expand its market share, it gives enough opportunities for surveyors, legal advice, repair-suppliers etc.

Yacht owners see that their image is changing, and further sustainability in the sector can help to improve that image. Economic necessity is not the immediate reason for greening, but this target group can be grafted to choose the Dutch superyacht sector, which is in the top 3 worldwide.

A good tool to make the production process, yacht operational life, and end of life insightful is the life cycle assessment tool. Robert van Tol of Water Revolution Foundation said this is important to optimize sustainable refits.

Dennis Bravenboer (Hug Engineering) immediately started, in order to entice the public to actively participate: If NL wants to acquire the same leading position for refit as for new construction, it is important that specialised suppliers like a cluster are involved at a very early stage. Building a yacht is a long journey, especially with advanced systems it is important to be part of the process early. A close cluster across the entire chain is therefore important.

There are many opportunities for the maritime sector. First, recently build yachts like to go back for maintenance to the country where they were originally built. If a combination can be made in NL with the ‘Northern Route’ and the plans for the Rijnhaven as Rotterdam Marina come thrue, during the winter storage a lot of operational work can be done, and the smaller upgrades and repairs become interesting. The promotion of the region in combination with the yards then becomes a win-win situation.

In addition, Robert indicated that the superyacht sector is not dependent on regulatory innovation but can accelerate innovation. As an industry, it’s good to go further and share the latest insights. As in Formula1, new techniques in superyachts can be implemented in other sectors. Hybrid propulsion in Northern fjords is becoming more important in terms of environmental considerations and Mediterranean ports are also looking at stricter rules. Our industry can already respond to this by developing and peddling high standards with the owners themselves.

One of the recommendations during the webinar was to look at the initiatives in e.g. Italy that can be found in the smaller yachts market (up to 500 GT) regarding sustainability – that target group is forced to switch faster, because of the limited technical space on board and they build more often in series, so sustainable options should be chosen because of the long lifespan of an innovation.

Unfortunately, a question from the public about concrete plans for a sustainable refit yard had to be answered the negative, but the speakers will work together to make this a reality.

Briefly, we thought about human capital, which will remain important, and more attention may be paid to that. There are specialized courses, but the innovative designs of e.g. Feadship lead only incidentally to orders – a good topic for the next session on how this can be converted into concrete assignments.

Too many topics in too short a time, NMT, RMSC and Maritime Delta thank the speakers and hope to greet you again soon at the next combined idea-café!