What are some of the issues you are seeing within the yachting arena and what do potential owners need to be aware of?
Most yachts are way too complicated, maintenance-intense and lack the proper storage and service flow for what they are trying to do. Much of this is the result of trying to do too much in a relatively compact package. An owner's time is very valuable, so when the yacht arrives at an interesting destination, the owner and their guests want to explore the area straight away. They do not want to be told that they have to wait half an hour to have the toys deployed.
Another example is all of the fabulous cushioned furniture spread around the deck, and when a quick rain shower descends, there is no place to quickly store or deploy them. Even the simplest things such as how to get coffee to an owner anywhere on the yacht, and have it arrive hot, is important. From what I see, there is very little thought given to the basic needs required for the yacht to function as smoothly and effortlessly as owners imagine.
What impact does the 500 gross tonnage threshold have on ownership?
The current method of measuring the gross tonnage is written primarily as a method of taxing commercial vessels and in so many ways is simply inappropriate for the superyacht industry. Unfortunately this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. For example, if a 497gt superyacht chooses to put a wind enclosure around the perimeter of the sundeck, the enclosure must be of flexible awning material that can be removed and stored or risk getting blown off in a seaway. If the same space is closed in with portable glass panels then the gross tonnage can easily go to over 600gt and now the vessel is subject to significant increases in the building and operational costs (which could easily be in the millions of dollars/euros). There is no difference in the use of the space or the sea keeping of the vessel nor its ability to carry ‘cargo’, but the resultant implications are significant. While the intent of the system is to provide transparency to the rules, the result is that many owners are going to smaller vessels or in many cases abandoning yachting altogether, as it is simply an administration nightmare.
What technological advances can we expect to see on the yachts of tomorrow, and what areas of the yacht require fresh thinking?
We are involved in several superyacht projects that will make significant advances in three areas. Active sound and vibration dampening systems that not only help absorb sound and vibration, but also produces localised energy harvesting for a variety of purposes. The second key area is the use of Electrochromic glass that can reduce the heat loads in a superyacht by up to 90 per cent. The third point is the use of adaptive resonance technology, which allows for ‘short range’ charging of devices such as lights without penetrating the surface. This eliminates the need to penetrate the surface to install a light, providing a side benefit of removing a point of entry for water. These technologies will emerge very quickly over the next year and over the next few years will help make superyachts better, smarter, and more efficient to build — that’s a pretty good combination.