At present, Rick Thomas, founder and partner of Nautical Structures, is developing a white paper for the industry, focusing on the man-riding element of tender handling. Prior to updating us about his latest projects on board, Thomas was keen to contextualise with an insight into the upcoming paper.

“This subject has been the elephant in the room for years. If you talk to any captain or deckhand who’s been in the business for a number of years, they will tell you that almost always you’re putting a crewmember, or two, in a tender when you’re launching it – just because of logistics,” Thomas begins. “Understandably, the insurance companies that underwrite these boats don’t want to hear about that, and the class and flag states only want to know about it if it is being legitimately done; however, there’s been very little effort done by our industry to protect the crew with properly engineered and certified equipment to do so,” he continues.

Therefore, Nautical Structures has been leading the charge on tackling this problem, by developing specifications and working with flag and class groups. “We’re going to be revealing later this year not only a white paper that talks about these problems, but also pointing to equipment that we’ve been building that is compliant and provides solutions. It’s a very unsafe practice unless done properly,” Thomas adds.

Thomas’ current projects incorporate this issue, as his team have recently delivered several specialised and unique pieces of tender-handling equipment, and are in the production of another unique and specialised submarine handling system. All of these are integrated into the structure of the yacht and certified for man-riding purposes.

“We’re delivering commissioning equipment at Turquoise Yachts on their MB72 project known as M/Y Blue (previously M/Y Lombok),” continues Thomas. “It’s a Hoek design, 54m expedition yacht, which we completed an innovative tender handling package for, and we built the whole aft deck structure of the vessel,” he adds.

Thomas and his team built the hatches for the vessel (pictured above), which were required for a 9m limo tender that’s carried under the main deck, on the aft end of the boat on the port side, and a rescue boat tender under a deck hatch on the starboard side. “At the head of both of those tenders, there is a large folding crane system that lives under a pair of deck hatches that runs athwart ship. What’s really interesting about this is that from the outside you just see what looks like a traditional, classic-looking expedition boat with no cranes or tenders visible. Because of the size and the classic Hoek design style, it’s fairly low freeboard to the waterline aft and so it’s got a very beautiful style to it. Then when they want to launch the tenders, the two hatches over the crane open up, the crane deploys out of the deck which it lives under and one hatch then closes over so that crew can walk around – and not fall into a hole where the crane was,” Thomas explains.

“After this, they can then open up either the portside large hatch and bring the limo tender out or they can open up the starboard side hatch for launching the rescue boat/crew tender. It’s SOLAS rated, meaning that the crew are able to deploy the rescue boat in less than five minutes, and the crane is also HOP (handling of persons) man-riding rated, because, with the limo tender, they open up the hatch and bring the limo out, board the limo from the vessel, and then put the limo into water with passengers on. That’s the correct and safe way to do it, and is also very innovative in terms of the way it’s stored and the way it’s deployed.”

The idea to conceal the crane was from a collaboration between Hoek Design, Turquoise and Nautical Structures. “We’ve done quite a few folding crane systems specifically to allow for this, having developed this design a few years ago. In this case, it was more than just an innovative crane – it was the whole integrated piece,” outlines Thomas.

“When you look at the back of the boat they gave over the entire back-engineering space to these tenders, the crane and the hydraulics that operate it. Most of the deck is therefore taken up by large hatches and that’s a lot of structure that you’ve got to figure out as well as hinging systems that allow these tenders to come out with, in some cases, less than 400mm clearance.” One set of hatches that Thomas and his team designed has a two-section hinge, which opens up twice to allow more clearance over it for launching the rescue boat, and this was a unique design that the team came up with to allow that to happen.

“This project is what I call a complete tender-handling system,” continues Thomas. “Often the shipyard will just buy the crane and then they’ll come up with a conventional way to put the tenders on the boat, or do something themselves, but this was a collaboration between shipyard, crane builder/hatch builder and naval architect.” M/Y Blue is set for delivery this summer and launched earlier in May.

The second project that Thomas is currently working on for a completely unique crane design is currently in build in North Carolina, for a Florida-based owner who is an avid diver. The owner is building a 32m catamaran motoryacht, with an aluminium construction, which thanks to its catamaran design is a voluminous vessel.

“When handling a submarine you have to be highly protective about its acrylic dome, because if you damage anything you’ve taken a $1 million toy out of service...” - Rick Thomas, Founder and Partner - Nautical Structures

“We have supplied the tender-launching equipment and overhead beam cranes, as well as mooring equipment and, additionally, an innovative handling solution. The owner is working with U-Boat Worx in the Netherlands and has acquired a 1-atmosphere submarine that he will carry on board,” explains Thomas. The owner has experienced a challenge in launching it as the submarine is heavy (about three tonnes) and there is a helideck over his primary tender garage and the garage where he would carry the submarine. “When handling a submarine you have to be highly protective about its acrylic dome, because if you damage anything you’ve taken a $1 million toy out of service...”

Fortunately, Thomas and his team came up with an innovative submarine-style handling solution. “We designed a knuckle-style crane that will store underneath the helideck and we’ve mounted it to a periscoping standpipe. There will be a deck hatch that will cover the crane, the crane will then come out of the deck above the helideck, the hatch will close and the submarine is going to be stowed under the deck, beneath where the crane will deploy. The submarine [with its own locker] will be picked out of the water by the knuckle- style crane and brought inboard to the locker to be stowed,” Thomas explains, illustrating the innovative way in which they have integrated a launching system so that the owner does not lose the utility of his helideck.

This vessel is in construction at present and we are building the crane right now. It’s the first in this kind of application where you’re integrating a submarine below a deck with a launching system that is specific to that submarine and only that submarine. The vessel is 60 per cent complete and will be launching in 2021,” Thomas concludes.

Moving from below sea level to above, Besenzoni have revealed their flybridge telescopic cranes with a moulded fibreglass cowling and a streamlined line to guarantee an elegant design for a somewhat bulky accessory that must be installed on the deck. “In this way, it becomes a pleasant component to the eye, as well as being absolutely essential for the handling of water toys and hulls,” explains Giorgio Besenzoni, CEO, Besenzoni.

The wide range of hydraulic cranes for the flybridge includes models with lifting capacity for loads ranging from 300kg to 3,000kg ensuring safety and security. Customisations, such as auxiliary hydraulic pumps on the G 350 model to enable launching of a tender in case of emergency, and certifications are possible according to the flag requirements such as the SOLAS certifiable G 624 model.

Another key product from Besenzoni this year is the multi-function external gangway with automatic movements for telescopic elevation, with the function of a davit for lifting tenders or jet skis. “They are suitable for yachts requiring such products due to the sizes of the platform and the arrangement of the transom,” outlines Besenzoni. “The passerelles have a polished or painted stainless-steel structure and a teak grating boardwalk with courtesy lights. The automatic stanchions with rope can be installed on the right or left according to the owner’s needs.”

The gangways are produced in many models that differ in length, lifting capacity, rotation and aesthetic characteristics such as the materials of the platform, the colours of the paint, the type and position of the stanchions. The SP 603 model features a touchpad panel remote control to operate from the cockpit, combined with an electro-hydraulic unit.

“We must add that Besenzoni now builds customised products under the brand ‘Unica’ with lifting capacity and customisable characteristics and certifications with the various naval registers are possible,” adds Besenzoni. “With 50 years of industry experience as producers of nautical accessories for both Italian and foreign shipyards, we have decided to shift our focus for future commitments by dedicating ourselves to a new important sector – superyachts.”

Besenzoni have created this specific division to achieve this ambitious goal – ‘Unica’ – Unique Yacht Accessories. “We have made Unica with the specific intent of satisfying the growing market demand, and guaranteeing and consolidating the relationship with current prestigious clientele that are also evolving towards the range of superyachts,” Besenzoni continues.

Unica’s goal is to satisfy all customer needs, from the planning to the realisation of custom-made items while also providing valuable support for on-board assembly and after-sales assistance. “Unica products are the result of a perfect synthesis between functionality and an expression of Italian creativity,” emphasises Besenzoni.

“Our strengths are present in the wide range and very high-quality level of products, and our proven ability to develop completely customised solutions. Thanks to the diversification and specialisations of the operators and technicians, who work in the most various complex situations, Unica can study and devise unique projects. Our flexible

approach, advanced technologies and awareness of the importance of teamwork are the effective resources that enable us to provide a service made to the customer’s measure. With Unica, we offer all the tools at our disposal to shipyards and shipowners to create products that reflect their needs and personality.”

Highlighting the innovations within materials being used, Shipyard Supply Co. has recently completed new dock steps that are available in GRP, carbon and wood. “You can hinge the top step to create a shoe storage space, and also include the yacht’s logo,” commented Luke Porter, commercial manager at Shipyard Supply Co, also recognising the desire for custom-made products similar to Besenzoni’s launching of Unica. “The attached GRP step is painted to match the yacht’s colour scheme and has Flexiteek treads with the yacht’s logo,” Porter adds.

Taking into consideration the products explored within this article, it is clear that a crucial part of product development within the mooring and deployment equipment sector is the notion of customisation. From custom cranes, designed to move an owner’s new submarine, to steps branded with a yacht’s identity, owners seem to increasingly want their products to be personalised and unique – a recognisable trend within many luxury industries.

This is an article originally published in issue 202 of The Superyacht Report. To access the full library, please click here.

Profile links

Nautical Structures Industries

Besenzoni S.p.A.

Hoek Design Naval Architects BV

Shipyard Supply Co.


If you like reading our Editors' premium quality journalism on SuperyachtNews.com, you'll love their amazing and insightful opinions and comments in The Superyacht Report. If you’ve never read it, click here to request a sample copy - it's 'A Report Worth Reading'. If you know how good it is, click here to subscribe - it's 'A Report Worth Paying For'.