While renewable energy performance is of little consequence to the superyacht industry, it has had a negative effect on the group's overall net sales, which registered a 19 per cent decrease from 2012, totalling CHF 281.1 million. And Gurit Composite Materials sales decreased by 26.7 per cent to CHF 227.3 million.
Gurit explained that the loss was due to, “Sales to the wind energy industry [which] suffered heavily from the delayed tax credit renewal in the USA at the beginning of the year, but also from the ongoing low demand for glass fibre prepreg in Europe." "As a very positive contrast," the company explained, "sales to the industrial and marine markets developed successfully.”
To get a general sense of how the use of composites is faring in the superyacht sector following the release of these results, SuperyachtNews.com spoke to composite companies in the industry, with Future Fibres also identifying an uptick in the marine industry, especially in the last six months.
The company is witnessing, “more action as opposed to words, in terms of projects coming online – there is more substance to enquiries. This is partly to do with general economic uplift,” said Phil Anniss, marketing director.
Rhebergen Composites also noted an increase in requests for quotes in recent months; however, these requests were more from a refit perspective than new build yachts. “Although, especially with regard to the bigger projects, decision time for purchase can take months,” Ad Broos, managing director of Rhebergen Composites explained further. “So we’ve noticed a number of requests for new projects, perhaps an increase of the market potential, but this doesn’t consequently mean more business.”
Richard Acland, CEO of Green Marine believes that composites in the marine industry are being more frequently requested as owners, “want high performance with comfort and luxury.
"Where traditionally aluminium has been used for the hull structure, we are seeing demand for composite hulls, but with a fully fitted out luxury interior.” Green Marine is currently in the early build stage of two 30m projects and is also seeing increased interest in monohulls and catamarans.
With sales to the wind energy sector being identified as responsible for the decrease in sales by Gurit, Anniss did point out that in “non-marine applications, composites are accepted as being the future but high raw material and manufacturing costs are limiting penetration, other than in small niche applications. Broad commercialisation of composites in the commercial world is going to take quite a long time. It will come, but it is a long-term game.” While it may be a long game Broos noted that, “composites seem to be [increasingly] used in more sectors [such as] buildings, transport, art and aviation”, and Green Marine said the company is also seeing an increase in enquiries for commercial vessels built with composites.
All three companies were fairly positive that the superyacht industry would continue to increase the use of composite materials. And in the next two years Acland said that the industry would see more performance superyachts and catamarans built in carbon, whilst Future Fibres is seeing an increased level of confidence and acceptance of the company as a credible superyacht mast supplier.
“Composite is a material with great benefits for many sectors and expects a continuing growth in demand for the coming years,” said Broos. “In the superyacht business composite will remain an important ingredient to be able to develop the final touch in shape and an efficient lightweight construction.”