AMSTERDAM – A decade after a US financial crisis triggered a long global recession, the superyacht industry worldwide has recovered unevenly, says Boat International’s 2019 Global Order Book survey. It ranks Dutch builders among the best performers that have become leaders in pricey, high-end, highly customized craft.
BI reports that worldwide 830 motor yachts of 24m (79ft.) and up are under construction, or on order. Topping the chart are Italy (379 projects, averaging 37m (121.4ft) and the Netherlands (75 projects, averaging 62m (203.4ft).
The BI survey reveals glaring gaps, however. Yards in Italy and the Netherlands, it says, have seen a 9.7% hike in orders since 2017. But orders for Turkish, Australian, Norwegian, Australian and Chinese yards have declined. And those for US yards have just about evaporated: down 67% since 2010! BI tracks yachts starting at 24m (79ft), rather than 30m (98 ft), calling that a length at which “manning and class rules begin to apply.”
The boom for Dutch yards is rooted in ambitious expansion projects and a knack for turning out highly customized craft from the boards of big-name designers. Unlike Italy, the Netherlands is not a nation of serial builders. These days, the average price of a Dutch-built superyacht is about €57 million, industry figures show.
With 1,380m (4,527ft) in build today, Feadship is now the world’s No. 5 in terms of boat length, according to the BI survey. It will go higher when it opens a 4th hall, in the Port of Amsterdam, in 2019. There it can build to 160m (525ft). Feadship began 2019 by launching the 58m (190ft) Najiba whose sleek, minimalist exterior is so typical of today’s Feadships. “Oceanco, meanwhile” says BI “jumps to 12th place, from 17th, with 5 projects on order, 4 of which exceed 100m (328ft) in length.”
Few epitomize the glory days better than Heesen Yachts. It has plans to expand capacity and workforce. Heesen excels in building fast yachts of 40 to 80m (131 to 262ft). The yard began 2019 with the launch of a 55m (180m) yacht with a Van Oossanen-patented Fast Displacement Hull _ the first of 5 yachts Heesen will launch in 2019. It has 13 in build. These include the yard’s largest ever, an 80m (262ft) all-aluminum craft with a top speed of almost 30 knots. “We see a stable and slowly growing number of serious customers,” says Heesen Yachts CEO Arthur Brouwer.
Spec-building spooks US yards these days, but European rivals embrace the option to cut delivery times in half. Heesen has made a strategic move into the spec-built 50 to 60m (164 to 197ft) bracket. “We see that segment as a core market with the best potential, alongside the full custom 60 to 80m (197 to 263ft) bracket,” says Brouwer.
In 2018, Heesen announced several projects including a 57m (187ft) explorer, the yard’s first. The yard is also committed to build beyond the 500GT regulatory boundary. It has built sheds and docks where it can optimize the length and volume of boats. It has also beefed up its interiors division and will expand its workforce. “Heesen is a fast-growing organization right now,” says Brouwer. “We see stable growth…which translates into further growth in turnover in the next 3 to 5 years.”