For the last three years things at Nobiskrug have been fairly quiet. The German yard has been keeping a low profile, working hard on the extremely confidential project White Pearl, an epic sailing yacht over 140m shrouded in secrecy. The Superyacht Owner caught up with managing director Susanne Wiegand at the London Yacht, Jet and Prestige Car Show ahead of the project being launched to discuss confidentiality, evolving client bases and the yard's position in the market.
TSO: There are whispers that we will finally be able to see White Pearl out in the open soon…
SW: Yes, she is a bit too big to hide anymore! We started construction in March 2012 and have not communicated about her at all, following the strictest confidentiality agreement. But right now we are dismantling the shed around the vessel and preparing the flooding of the dock. We will soon take her out of the dock and relocate her for the finalisation period at the beginning of May and prepare her for sea trials. She will then be in the public domain then, so expect photos soon. It is quite exciting for us. She is the biggest yacht Nobiskrug has ever built and she will come out as one of the biggest worldwide, whether you measure that in length or in volume. She will no doubt raise our profile. People will talk about this boat.
TSO: Do you think clients have changed over the last five years?
SW: I do not think there has been a huge change. There are maybe more young people coming to us now, reflecting the growth of wealth in certain regions I think; the US, Asia, the Middle East. The US market is coming back thanks to the exchange rate developments at the moment. I think that focus we were seeing on the Russian and Middle Eastern markets for a while is more balanced again. The market is widening. I think customers are more and more courageous in terms of designs and less courageous with respect to the commercial model.
TSO: The commercial model in terms of where they decide to spend their money?
SW: Yes. The story of a client starting a project and the shipyard not finishing, going bankrupt and breaking promises is becoming less common. Clients are more cautious. There always used to be a yard that was more desperate for the order and would say yes. This led to inevitable problems. The confidence and trust of the owners was damaged with every bad experience, which was really bad for the market. Ultimately the shipyards with a profound, solid business model, financial strength and knowledge have survived and are coming to the fore. The industry has undergone a healing process, a cleaning process, and is stronger. I’m not saying that all new shipyards are bad or unprofessional but it is a market where experience is very important.
TSO: Where do you see Nobiskrug’s position among the wider shipyard fraternity?
SW: That is a good question. Before I answer, I think it is always important to structure the market a bit because it is different whether you address smaller vessels, semi-custom yachts or production boats for example. There are very few yards that are able to build fully custom yachts because it requires specific levels of capacity, engineering and project management. I think there are only a few yards in Europe that fall into this category: the usual Dutch yards, the German players, Fincantieri. These yards can cope with this challenge. We are definitely one of them. Nobiskrug’s facilities and capabilities definitely mean that it is in the top five I think.
Nobiskrug was the yard behind Siren, Triple Seven and Sapphire; the three yachts that owner Debra Reuben and designer Katharina Raczek spoke about in Issue 16 of The Superyacht Owner. You can read a preview of the article here.