As part of an ongoing series of profiles of Dutch yacht designers and naval
architects, we talked to Ronno Schouten, head of design at De Voogt Naval Architects
HAARLEM _ If not for De Voogt Naval Architects, the world of superyachts would be full of cookie-cutter same yachts. The Feadship unit is the world’s 3rd largest design, architecture and engineering studio for large yachts. Its output is one long ‘Wow!’ moment.
“The market expects innovation from us,” Ronno Schouten, head of design at De Voogt, tells this newsletter. And De Voogt never disappoints. Its exploration of styles, designs, engineering techniques and building materials yields very hi-tech, very unique and ever greener Feadships.
De Voogt gave the 78.2m Venus of the late Apple CEO Steven Jobs, launched in 2012, a midship-to-bow band of glass and a glass-wrapped bridge. The design oozes Apple! Voogt followed this up with the 83.5m (274ft) Savannah, launched in 2015. It features an underwater lounge with a huge glass wall. Starting with Savannah, Feadship has been injecting environmentalism into superyachts. Instead of diesel-guzzling engines, Savannah has a single Wartsila 9L20 4-stroke engine. It feeds 1800 kW into 3 generators that charge a bank of lithium-ion batteries driving a large prop and a 360-degree propulsion pod. Savannah is 30% more fuel-efficient than comparable yachts.
“Sustainability in the superyacht industry is very topical,” says Schouten. “How green are our yachts? How can we improve on that? Our clients are interested in that.”
This year, Feadship launched the 58m Najiba which in sea trials used only 11.4 liters of fuel per nautical mile at a 12kn cruising speed _ up to 25% less than any equivalent motor yacht. Najiba’s range came in at over 6,000 nm, 1,000 nm longer than the contract specified!
“We outperformed all expectations with Najiba,” says Feadship Technical Director Roderick de Vries.
Feadship saves energy by shifting demand from devices _ washing machines, for instance _ to nighttime duty. This ‘peak shaving’ cuts power use by 10 to 15%. “We also save energy with LED lights, better insulation and more frugal AC units,” says Schouten. “We use residual generator heat to warm the pool. Garbage is processed and stored. Wastewater is treated.”
Feadship regularly stages in-house, out-of-the-box sessions to let its staffers vent creative ideas. It was in one of those sessions Savannah’s unusual, energy-saving propulsion system was first broached. Or an onboard system letting a captain set the ideal course and anchoring position. “Radar data about wave height and direction are combined with a yacht’s behavior data,” says Schouten.
At a recent brainstorming event, staffers from De Voogt’s exterior and design departments designed a superyacht bar based on an owner profile and particular style. In under 4 hours, they “developed the concept, ergonomics and available space,” says Clara Barni, a Feadship project engineer. “They made sketches and some even produced 3D drawings and rendered images. We organized this workshop as a team-building experience to share not only knowledge, but also perspective, which is priceless.”
Custom-building is a vastly over-used term in the industry, except when uttered by Feadship. The yard defines it this way: “Custom-building means starting every project, literally, with a blank page. It entails designing a bespoke superyacht that is entirely individual. And unlike any other in the world.” How many yards do that?
Every year, says Schouten, we create 10 or so provisional designs. “Basic sketches, really. If these trigger an order, we make 3D drawings, renderings and animations. Sometimes, we 3D-print a model. We do virtual reality presentations to give a client a realistic impression of a yacht’s sizes and dimensions.”
De Voogt spans 5 disciplines: shipbuilding, construction, interior, exterior and installations. About 6 months after engineering has begun, construction of the hull starts. Some 18 months after a project contract is signed, the bare hull is ready for finishing and that may take 3 years.
Feadship uses the “concurrent design” method that has staffers and suppliers “work from the same 3D model on the screen. “That way, we make real-time adaptations for all to see,” says Schouten.
Nothing pushes Feadship harder these days than sustainability. Last year, the yard launched Anna – at 110m the largest Feadship to date. Anna lacks the traditional engine-crankshaft-prop setup. It has an electric engine driving the prop. “If a promising engine alternative appears on the market, it just might replace the diesel engine,” says Schouten.
Feadship takes its market-leading positions very seriously. Lately, it has taken on a very ambitious project with potentially a vast impact on the industry.
“We are thinking about creating an efficiency index for superyachts worldwide,” says Schouten. “What we still struggle with is how to calculate efficiency. In commercial cargo shipping, you could use a weight-per-mile-transported norm, but that won’t work for superyachts. We could think of number of guests per square meters of interior space. We plan to stage a conference on that topic this year.”
A venerable brand
Feadship stands for First Export Association of Dutch Shipbuilders. It is a cooperative alliance of Dutch yacht builders, created in 1949 when selling yachts in post-World War Europe was a non-starter. But the US market was booming. Feadship presented itself to the American public at the 1951 New York Boat Show. Today, the Feadship partners are De Voogt Naval Architects, De Vries Group and Royal Van Lent Shipyard.