An unfinished symphony: MARIN’s pursuit of onboard comfort

By Robert Wielaard

WAGENINGEN – To most of mankind, superyachts, cruise ships and ferries look worlds apart. But – and don’t tell superyacht owners this – to the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands they are basically the same. The reason: passengers and crew on above categories demand ever more onboard comfort, user convenience and luxury.

Delivering that is MARIN’s core business. In fixing windage, drift, instability, weight distribution, noise, thruster vibration and other issues, a computer sees no difference between a large superyacht or a ferry.

MARIN Team Leader Yachts Enrico della Valentina

The world’s largest independent maritime research organization has a yachting department of 7 members, up from 4 a decade ago. “That growth,” says Enrico della Valentino, Marin Team Leader Yachts, “reflects rising demand in the explorer yachts and mini luxury cruise sectors. And that has brought markets like cruise-ferry vessels and yachts close than ever.”

MARIN (400 staff, annual turnover €45 million) takes on challenging issues. It is helping Feadship get the custom builder’s YETI eco-label initiative off the ground. The Yacht Environment Transparency Index would show how green yachts are. Much like those colored bars on household appliances.

MARIN’s Volvo Ocean Race work

MARIN also heads 2 ISO large yacht working groups: One explores ways to fairly compare yachts in terms of seakeeping and stabilization. The other studies a dynamic positioning norm for large yachts. MARIN has worked on iconic projects but cannot name all due to non-disclosure agreements. Exceptions include several Sanlorenzo yachts and the 109m (357ft) Bravo Eugenia. The latter is the first of a new wave of ‘smart’ Oceanco-built yachts that achieves energy savings of 30%.

What lies ahead? “I have a couple of additional things, but don’t want to ruin the surprise ahead of the Monaco Yacht Show,” says della Valentina. “But prepare yourself! We are going to fly on foils! Also, the trend of vertical bows might have peaked. New shapes are about to come out.”

MARIN works with partners through Joint Industry Projects, multi-annual research undertakings to explore anything from wind-assisted propulsion to windage issues to thruster performance. It is not unusual for a JIP to attract a dozen or more big-name maritime companies from around the world.

Yachting sector JIPs “are few and far between,” says della Valentina. “But the sector does benefit from other JIPS.” Like one that deals with onboard comfort and analyzes comfort levels. “It aims to obtain comfort criteria that not only give a numerical value, but also include the human interpretation of this comfort level,” says della Valentina.

Oceanco-built 109m Bravo Eugenia

Another JIP focuses on noise, vibration and efficiency issues in thruster systems. A soon-to-launch JIP will investigate the implications of jerk on the comfort of passengers.

Assessing onboard comfort is tough. Which explains why there is no industry standard.
“The new frontier of MARIN’s research is combining our hydrodynamic knowledge with active control systems and onboard tools to assist with the comfortable operation of a yacht,” says della Valentina.