Seven steps to building a custom superyacht
Last updated: 18/04/2018
After years of consideration, research and planning, those who are fortunate enough to realise their own superyacht dream will experience many emotions throughout the process of desiging and building a custom superyacht.
Whether semi-custom or full custom-build, excitement, frustration and exhaustion will pave the way before fulfillment, but where should one start?
Yachting Pages relays the custom construction process for buyers and their support teams as they undertake a new-build project. After all, those in the know will be more prepared than most for the journey...
The custom superyacht build: Who’s involved?
The buyer and yacht owner will be the driving force behind the superyacht vision. Unless he or she has a complete understanding of every aspect of the construction process – practical, legal, fiscal and environmental – it will be vital to find a team of experts to work with to ensure the smoothest journey possible.
Yacht designer and naval architect: A custom superyacht will require a trusted design team to turn the vision into a legitimate concept. Made up of an interior designer and an exterior designer and/or naval architect, the team selected will depend largely on the type and style of superyacht that is required. Once selected, the shipyard will work hand-in-hand with the design team to finalise every detail of the vessel.
Owner’s representative: An owners' representative offers the buyer guidance and reassurance throughout the purchase, design and construction stages. They will negotiate the most favourable terms, protecting the buyer's interests throughout while helping to create a valuable asset. In some cases, the vessel’s captain may take up this role.
Project manager: The project manager will always be on hand to act as the go-between for the different parties involved in the build. This liaison is in place to ensure that every element of the project is handled efficiently and to the highest standard.
A project manager will ensure that all requirements are met, and that any impacts on the cost or schedule are minimised. They will handle the building process up to acceptance of the vessel, as well as preparing for the operational life of the yacht and possible issues during the guarantee period.
Shipyard representatives: The shipyard is where the superyacht dream comes to fruition. Besides having state-of-the-art equipment, it’s important that the chosen shipyard has a team of experienced representatives and skilled craftsmen who specialise in the chosen yacht style and preferred design.
How does the custom-build process work?
Typically not an impulse purchase, but the result of many experiences aboard previously owned yachts, charter yachts and friends’ yachts, a custom-build vessel is limited only by the owner’s imagination. Unlike series yachts, which can be customised and delivered within a year’s time, a new custom-build will often take years in the making.
Step one: Vision Each and every custom-build starts with a vision. Whether sail, motor, explorer, glider or green yacht, the decision is a personal preference with each having its own supporters. Namely, this decision is down to the type of lifestyle you wish to experience on board, but keep in mind that the vision and any subsequent changes can all have far-reaching effects on things, including the yacht’s cost, speed, performance, etc.
Step two: Choice With any custom-build project comes great choice and flexibility. Overwhelming yet also exciting, between them, the buyer and his or her support team will have the knowledge and connections to decide on who to collaborate and build with.
Step three: Design This is where vision begins to become reality. At the design stage, the project manager and/or owner’s representative will work closely with the shipyard and interior and exterior designers to ensure that the end result fits the owner’s specifications, but also to ensure that it meets marine legislation and technical requirements.
Gareth Twist of Yacht Solutions explained, “A yacht design is usually developed after a letter of intent (LOI) is signed, and a refundable deposit is paid into an escrow account to cover the design development costs. Once this has been approved, a build contract is prepared, the build milestones are confirmed and payment schedule agreed. Once all is settled and signed, the keel is laid and the build is underway.”
There will be a wide variety of hull and deck configurations to consider, and with the complexities of changing international legislation, it will be the project manager’s job to liaise with all vested parties to ensure that you are kept up-to-date on any necessary design changes or alterations.
Step four: Contract Once the shipyard has been selected, contracts can be drawn up. These will set the guidelines for the build, protecting the buyer from technical issues and delays. The planning process will typically go through five stages:
- Build specification
- Analysis and review
Step five: Build Once the design has been finalised and the contracts are signed, the construction of the superyacht will be moved to the shipyard facility where the expert build team will schedule and coordinate their projects. Working closely with the design team, the keel and hull will begin to take shape before the swim platform, tender garages and interior and exterior deck spaces begin to materialise. Finally, the finer details are crafted and extensively tested
Step six: Sea trials Sea trials are an essential and exciting part of the development of any new superyacht where the designers, naval architects, engineers, builders and technical teams will work together to fine tune the systems and iron out any issues.
Step seven: Delivery Finally, the superyacht is delivered to her new owner(s) and launched in a celebratory event. This is often also a time for feedback from the owner and the support team to help prepare and improve the build process in the future.
After the delivery, as the proud new owner you will now be free to enjoy your custom superyacht out on the open water. Consideration will have to be made to registration, crewing, management, maintenance and more…