Since 1987, the global superyacht fleet has expanded exponentially, growing from 917 yachts to an impressive 5,555 yachts over 30 metres in length by the start of 2023 (source: State of Yachting 2023 by Superyacht Times). The superyacht industry, has now evolved into an ecosystem for innovation and luxury.
However, amidst this growth, questions arise about why are there so many superyacht concepts and their role in shaping the industry’s future.
In our blog, we delve into the discussion of whether future yachts are destined to be mere statements of opulence or whether they hold the key to solving critical industry challenges.
Superyacht Concepts: Making a Statement or Solving Problems?
For many years, superyacht brands and shipyards developed concepts and propositions to try and entice clients to commission new yachts to build. Twenty years ago, as a fledgling industry, this used to be the territory of long lunches with clients and owners with discussions about how to fix superyacht ‘problems’ of the time. This would inherently move the superyacht industry on at a snails pace.
The prevalence of superyacht concepts in today’s yachting landscape is hard to ignore. It seems now that you can’t turn a page or click on the link without seeing a new ‘concept yacht’ which the shipyards design studio is aiming to captivate potential clients and gain a commission for.
In the world of superyacht design, it often seems like a showcase of the most exceptional 3D designers, each vying to present something that not only grabs headlines but also captivates the imagination of a demographic that may not necessarily translate into actual purchases. Concept yachts undoubtedly ignite discussions. We’re not dismissing the impact these designs have on a yacht’s brand or the ‘halo effect’ they create for the shipyard’s existing ranges. It’s undeniable that these visionary designs contribute to an overall allure for the yachting lifestyle.
While there’s undoubtedly a strategic approach in creating these avant-garde concepts from a marketing and PR standpoint, SEA Yacht Group raises pertinent questions: What drives the creation of superyacht concepts? Are we an industry of dreamers or do superyacht concepts tackle the core challenges confronting the industry? Are radical superyacht concepts mere marketing strategies to entice high-net-worth individuals?
While many concept yachts emphasise external aesthetics and luxurious spaces, some push the boundaries by integrating environmental-minded features. As seen in Boat International’s ‘’ and Superyacht Times’ ’ you can see there are both radical designs and those vessels including environmental-minded features for propulsion and fuel efficiency.
A real-life example is the 80-metre hybrid motor yacht Artefact, which incorporates sides and wings in Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP), a lightweight structure which is corrosion protected, and allows any future owners to change the design of the yacht using this material as it can be uninstalled.
Is the Superyacht Sector Doing Enough for Sustainability?
As societal pressure mounts, the industry finds itself under scrutiny from groups like Extinction Rebellion, labelling superyachts and their owners as “climate criminals.” This prompts the industry to evaluate its efforts in developing sustainable solutions. While some superyacht concepts promise eco-friendly technologies, SEA Yacht Group suggests that there may be an imbalance in how these concepts resonate with customers who can truly drive change in the superyacht industry, and at a faster pace.
Highlighting some of the advancements in yacht design is a good start. Lurssen’s 114.2-metre Project Cosmos in build incorporates a hydrogen fuel cell based on methanol, which will be launched in 2025. Similarly, the collaboration between Sinot and Lateral Naval Architect yields AQUA, a 112-meter yacht running entirely on liquid hydrogen and fuel-cell technology, emitting only water. The industry sees more of a shift towards sustainability, with projects like 88-metre Pegasus using robotic 3D printing to create a mesh framework integrating both hull and superstructure and utilising solar energy while converting seawater into hydrogen, producing zero emissions while offering an infinite range. The result is a robust yet lightweight vessel that will be crafted using less waste, material, energy, and time than conventional construction.
Industry Standards for a Greener Future
The Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss) and organisations such as the Water Revolution Foundation, Superyacht Eco Association (SEA) Index and Blue ESG are working towards establishing ISO standards, emphasising the need to provide owners with environmentally conscious solutions. Proposals for energy ratings akin to those for the automotive industry aim to guide owners towards sustainable choices and push the superyacht industry towards fostering a greener future.
Shaping the Future of Yacht Design: Beyond Aesthetics
Good yacht design extends beyond aesthetic appeal, encompassing technology, engineering, and fixtures that define the onboard lifestyle.
While shipyards predominantly focus on capturing potential clients’ attention through external aesthetics, operational manufacturers, propulsion brands, and innovative suppliers struggle for recognition. Their contribution often gets lost in trade journals and doesn’t get to the ‘new thinking’ clients who are craving fresh ideas and innovation. And more importantly, BIG sustainable progression in their purchase desires.
Far from diving into technical details, there’s few shipyards in the world that successfully straddle the lines between fully custom yachts and those built on speculation. “Gone are the days of shipyards ‘accepting’ a client’s request for a particular feature or comfort. Now our clients expect shipyards and their flagship models to demonstrate these values and innovations in real life and now more importantly, before others,” said Malcolm Moss, CEO of Sea Yacht Group, recently in an IBI News interview.
We would be naive to expect that buyers understand that operational developments and sustainable solutions are something that is inherent and assumed in superyacht design and construction. This is always an area which demonstrates the value of having experienced and progressive project managers and advisors. And, at Sea Yacht Group, we would always recommend this. Supporting or advising an owner in their desires for the latest clean air purification systems. Or fitting the most efficient solar materials to generate power to the services of the yacht. This is part of the added value yacht consultancies provide.
In the next 10 years, we look forward to seeing how shipyards are really exploring the possibilities to move the industry on. Geographically, Turkey, Italy, The Netherlands and Germany dominate the superyacht construction industry, as they account for 81% of the number of superyachts in-build over 30 metres. Interestingly, the top 20% of the shipyards delivered close to 80% of the superyachts in the last ten years. If we look into the composition of the new-build sales for projects started for the client in the 40-50 metre range, the five top selling shipyards in this range are Italian and together account for 56% of sales (source: State of Yachting 2023 by Superyacht Times). Perhaps, like Formula 1, we’ll see a ‘drip-down’ effect on legacy yachts currently on the drawing-board, in production or on the water and it will be interesting to forecast which geographic region this springs from.
It’s evident that major shipyards such as Lürssen, Oceanco and Feadship are pushing and promoting innovations. Feadship’s Dunes concept, for example, represents a shift towards Net-Zero superyachts, incorporating sustainable materials and energy-efficient systems. The Cool Core Concept efficiently divides the yacht into temperature zones, achieving a remarkable 35% reduction in HVAC energy consumption. The propulsion system, featuring the ABB Dynafin™ and high-efficiency electric propulsion drive, marks a tangible shift towards a better maritime future.
Lifestyle trends are also shaping design. At the 2023 Monaco Yacht Show, the ARTEXPLORER catamaran showcased yacht ownership with a floating art gallery, and recently British design house Olesinski has revealed a spa and wellness-focused 70-metre concept known as Rise that will be built at Dörries Yachts in Germany.
Are Yacht Design Awards Relevant in Driving Innovation?
Innovation in yacht design is spurred not only by client demands but also by awards and competitions. While recognising the significance of initiatives like the Young Designer Awards, SEA Yacht Group questions whether these efforts are sufficient to drive the industry towards a more relevant and sustainable future.
Surely we can’t always rely on the biggest trendsetting superyacht concepts to be promoted via awards, competitions and rare client demands? We need to grasp innovation, engineering and technology that pushes boundaries – an example is one of the most iconic yachts delivered – Nobiskrug’s 143-metre Sailing Yacht A, which took six long years to build – contains the largest piece of glass ever manufactured for use on board, a 15-metre window for the underwater observation lounge.
Future innovation may come from influences that arise from the automotive and aeronautical industries – Italian shipyard Codecasa are in the process of constructing a 70-metre superyacht concept, the Codecasa Jet 2020, that looks like a floating jumbo jet. The vessel is also set to come with radar antennae installed inside carbon fiber domes “in the typical style of the AWACS airplanes,” according to Codecasa.
As the superyacht sector charts its course into the future, it faces the dual challenge of making a statement in luxury while solving critical environmental issues. Superyacht concepts, awards, and industry partnerships all play a role, but the true transformation lies in the collective commitment to industry standards and sustainable innovation.
SEA Yacht Group encourages readers to share their thoughts, projects, and visions for a superyacht industry that not only makes a statement but also leaves a positive legacy for generations to come.
We invite you to connect with us at email@example.com and stay tuned to our social media channels.
Author: SEA Yacht Group.