Sailing into the Future: Yachting Experts' Insight on the Industry

Posted June 19, 2023 in Brokerage & New Build by Ashleigh King

Navigator talks to yachting experts on their predictions for the future of this exceptional industry.

The Experts

Paris Baloumis Group Marketing Director, Oceanco

Espen Oeino Naval Architect

Jim Dixon Managing Partner & Creative Director, Winch Design

Daniel Ziriakus President & COO, Northrop & Johnson

How do you think the yachting landscape is changing?
EO The entire yachting landscape relies on yacht designs that work alongside the ocean rather than in juxtaposition to it. The environment is a top priority for just about every client I meet with; it is has moved way beyond the normal green-washing that we witnessed in the past. Just three years ago, many clients wouldn’t even mention the environment, but now, with the combination of obvious climate change that we can all feel and see, and the restricted availability of fuel due to recent, turbulent events, every client is asking about ways to make their yacht more sustainable, and many are willing to go much further and invest seriously in finding solutions.

DZ With sustainability a key consideration for all businesses
in the 21st century, it is hardly surprising that the superyacht industry is following suit and adapting its offering. No one needs a yacht to live, but we all realize that sustainability is high on the agenda and something that must be addressed. Raising awareness is critical and that’s something that Northrop & Johnson is doing with our Responsible Yachting Strategy. We are also seeing a change in both charterer and owner cruising habits, with many seeking out new destinations. I only see this trend growing, with future owners using their yachts for more remote exploration.

JD We are seeing an increase in younger owners, who are typically more in tune with the effects of climate change and ocean pollution and are more likely to request or be open to innovative and sustainable yacht design.

PB Thankfully, we have been fortunate to work with some very ambitious and forward-thinking clients who have given us the opportunity to make an impact in the area of sustainable yacht builds. At Oceanco, we recognized even before the pandemic that there was a cultural shift in what our client base want or would want from their yachts. It’s a dwelling, a home, with little boundary between how they live on board and how they live ashore. The division between “vacation” time and “work” time is not as it used to be. Technology allows these lines to be blurred.

What do you believe is driving this change?
DZ It is evident everywhere you look that the yachting landscape is changing, driven by a number of factors, including a younger generation of yacht owners, new technology, and most importantly, an industry-wide desire to protect the ocean.

EO There are numerous reasons why the industry is evolving. The industry is slowly making headway in its quest to reduce carbon emissions, while clients’ cruising patterns and onboard living habits have had an impact on the design of recent deliveries. I only see designs evolving as younger owners place more importance on the environment and have a tendency to avoid being associated with opulence.

JD We are typically seeing that our family-focused younger clients seek to protect the ocean to ensure its good health to be enjoyed by future generations, hence their desire to learn about and use the latest in sustainable and environmentally-friendly offerings.

“Everyone in the industry needs to collaborate in order to safeguard yachting for future generations” Daniel Ziriakus, Northrop & Johnson

How do you see your role in the future?
EO As designers, I believe we have a role to fulfill to ensure the success of the industry. Some of the most important decisions are made before a client has even selected a shipyard that will affect a yacht’s efficiency. From the type of propulsion to the hull design and general layout, every facet of a yacht’s naval architecture will have an impact on the environment it moves in. We should always try to anticipate developments in propulsion solutions/systems and endeavor to incorporate a degree of flexibility into new yachts so that they might be adapted to whatever energy source may become available in the future.

DZ Everyone in the industry needs to collaborate in order to safeguard yachting for future generations. Not only for clients and their children but for the livelihood of all those involved in the industry – from the builders and the designers to the suppliers, brokers, right down to the crewmembers – everyone’s cooperation is essential in making the industry a success now and in the future.

JD We have the power to affect real change by showing our clients beautiful, durable, authentic materials that are also sustainable. We have a dedicated sustainability specialist in-house who has created an incredible resource of information on faux alternatives, how every material is sourced, manufactured and composited, and the advantages of each application.

PB A key part of Oceanco’s identity is our drive to be an industry pioneer. The world doesn’t stand still, and neither should our yachts’ capabilities. We have been investigating new themes and demands through Oceanco’s NXT initiative for three years now, and that work will continue to evolve and change over time. With our newly revealed Energy Transition Platform for AEOLUS, we have shown that there are feasible, future-proofed pathways to net zero available to our clients.

What type of yacht do you see in the future?
EO I think multihulls are the way forward. At the moment, catamarans and trimarans remain something of an anomaly, but with their vast deck space and lower hull resistance, and therefore increased efficiency, I think they will become more acceptable in the superyacht arena. The Cannes Yachting Festival had a whole lineup of powercats on display, and a number of new concepts are based on multihull forms. Our studio is currently working on designs with multihulls, including a 78’ (23.9m) catamaran with Silver Yachts. This is a space to watch.

DZ We have also seen a rise in the popularity of exploration-style yachts. Clients are looking to enjoy yachting in a much more autonomous way and have a desire to use their vessels to explore off-the-beaten-track cruising areas.

EO Many owners are now looking for simpler yacht designs that have a more robust, commercial exterior but that allow for all manner of activities. Formal spaces have been given over to house more water toys and other amenities to entertain guests for longer periods of time as yachts go further afield.

JD The explorer yacht market is most certainly growing as clients look to explore more remote destinations. Clients want to be able to navigate around the globe for extended periods of time in a seven-star environment and it is essential that their yacht can thrive in any terrain, no matter how harsh and inhospitable. We will see more and more yachts with increased tender storage for maximum exploration, ice-class hulls and increased crew capacity to set out on longer expeditions. At last year’s Monaco Yacht Show, we launched a new explorer yacht concept with Heesen – the XV67. This hybrid yacht is both a luxury yacht and an explorer that is at home in the Mediterranean but can also visit the Galapagos or the Arctic.

PB Oceanco yachts tell the distinctive stories of their owners, who come to us with visions that go beyond the yachts that already exist – sometimes even beyond our notions of what a superyacht can be. Clients’ increased interest in traveling even further off the beaten track is perfectly aligned with what yachting can offer, and the industry needs to take advantage of this by building yachts for autonomous exploration. The rise of gamma destinations and ocean exploration goes hand-in-hand with the increased interest in high-impact conservation and sustainable builds. At Oceanco, we have already built some groundbreaking yachts in this area, from BLACK PEARL, with her ability to regenerate power by fully utilizing her sails, to the LIFE design approach used on BRAVO EUGENIA, which gave her best-in-class hydrodynamic efficiency and 30 percent less fuel usage compared to a conventional motor yacht of the same size. And, as mentioned previously, with Oceanco’s Energy Transition Platform pioneered on AEOLUS, there is a net zero pathway for clients. With sustainability being the priority for most of us out there, it’s not so much a question anymore, but a definite.

Do you see designs changing to suit onboard living habits?
EO People are coming around to the fact that most yachts operate in warmer climates and, therefore, clients spend the majority of their time out on the deck, while internal spaces are heavily underused. We are already seeing a shift in layouts to reflect this, with more living spaces outside and formal dining and sitting areas being discarded in preference for relaxed areas that blend the inside with the outside. I like the idea of adapting the design ethos of a Bali beach house into a yacht layout, whereby only the sleeping areas are air-conditioned and external living spaces are protected from the elements. Reducing internal spaces that need air conditioning will have large energy-saving benefits.

DZ More and more clients are looking to spend prolonged periods on board, which means new sensibilities on how a yacht is used. Office areas have become the norm, while connectivity is more important than ever. Multi-functional, family-friendly spaces are also key areas as multi-generational families spend more time on board together. Interior designs are more conducive to relaxation, with wellness areas and beach clubs becoming the norm on yachts of a certain size. These trends also matter for the charter market as guests are looking for yachts that have all the amenities – not just in the latest water toys but gyms and spas, and if possible, therapists and trainers within the crew.

JD Our clients are seeking more contemporary, open-plan spaces, with huge expanses of glass allowing light to flood in and the guests to feel close to the natural world around them. Designs are stepping away from the formal dining and entertainment styles that are traditionally found on board older yachts. These trends are showing a true desire to switch off when at sea rather than continuing with formal, business-like entertainment. We are also noticing a continuous step back from the traditional shiny and ornate interiors that have adorned the waters for years for a preference for a pared-back, warm design using light woods, stones and materials that result in clean and fresh spaces.

PB Clients are leading far more active lifestyles and toys continue to be very popular. A wider range of choices is available now, and the clients enjoy the varied experiences they can offer. Tender garages, therefore, need to be large enough to fit the whole spectrum available.

What evolutions in technology do you see in the future?
DZ Technology plays a major factor in every aspect of the industry. From power management to the advances in sustainable materials used on board, evolving technologies reflect the importance of environmental concerns in yachting. Still, while new propulsion methods are undoubtedly of paramount importance, we must not lose focus on the technology that we can use today while developing tomorrows. Advancements in diesel-electric and heat recovery systems are all huge gains that we are seeing more frequently in yachting, while small gains – like replacing halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, better insulation and water purification instead of plastic bottles – all have a role to play in the quest to make yachting greener.

EO As designers, we continuously adapt to new technologies that increase a yacht’s efficiency, but overall, in my 35 years practicing naval architecture, propulsion has basically remained the same. However, there are some exciting variations on existing electronic technology that will, if predictions are correct, be an amazing breakthrough for yachts.

JD There is no denying that the technology available across all design disciplines is increasing rapidly, and as a studio, Winch Design are constantly researching new techniques to make every part of a project as seamless and innovative as possible. Whether it’s sustainable developments within yachts and aviation or increased automation and use of AI in interior design, we take pride in creating firsts in the industry. Winch is also preparing to utilize hydrogen fuel cell technology wherever possible and is growing in confidence when speaking to clients about carbon-neutral methods of propulsion. Working with a number of different shipyards who are actively pioneering the development of hybrid technology is enabling us to progress this at a faster rate.

“Oceanco yachts tell the distinctive stories of their owners, who come to us with visions that go beyond the yachts that already exist” Paris Baloumis, Oceanco

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