Ask The Experts: Building a superyacht

For many people looking to buy their first-ever yacht or boat, the process can seem overwhelming. In the third of our series on the initial stages of interest in the yachting market, we asked some of the world's most expert yacht brokerage companies - including Burgess, EdmistonFraser YachtsSimpson Marine and Y.CO - about how to go about building your own yacht rather than buying from the pre-owned market...

What are the first things I should do if I want to build a superyacht?

Consult a broker who will analyse your requirements. These will include but are not limited to: How many guests would you like to be able to have on board at once? Which cruising areas you are likely to want to focus on with the yacht? Which facilities are important to you and will the yacht have the capacity to accommodate them? What is the range that you need the yacht to have, ie will it need to cross oceans on its own, will you be doing a lot of exploring where it’s hard to get fuel for perhaps a long period of time and distance travelled? What sort of budget do you have to work with? Your broker will advise as to which would be the most appropriate shipyard to complete your project. Edmiston

After having chosen a broker with project management experience, the next step is to establish exactly what the experience of owning a yacht means to you. The right broker will take you from the initial concept right through to delivery, a process that can last from three to five years. Working together with your representative, you will begin by defining key elements such as size and layout, facilities and features. From this detailed insight, your broker will guide you through the process of selecting the most appropriate shipyard, design teams and technical advisors, then overseeing the tender process before the project itself begins. Y.CO

When should I approach a yard? Should this be before or after I have a design in mind?

We would recommend that any client thinking of building a fully custom-built yacht engage with an independent broker or project manager like Y.CO from the very beginning. Y.CO has excellent relationships with all the major shipyards, naval architects and designers worldwide. We are able not only to advise on the selection process but also to use our networks to negotiate the best deal for the client with all suppliers. Rather than approaching a shipyard with a design, we recommend involving the shipyard in the design process from an early stage, to ensure the best translation of the client’s vision into a viable reality. Y.CO

Once you know what your requirements are, your broker will advise whether it would be more appropriate to order a semi-customised or a fully-customised yacht. Shipyards offering semi-custom yachts will often have an in-house design team with whom you can liaise. For a fully custom yacht, your Edmiston broker can assist you in approaching a number of interior and exterior designers to start to bring the project to life. Once you have a design, you then need to approach a yard to make the project a reality. Edmiston has a long-term relationship with the finest shipyards in the world. Edmiston

What are the advantages of buying a yacht from a series platform as opposed to totally custom-built?

Because it is built on a platform that has already been tested and proven, and there are fewer man-hours involved in customisation, buying a series-platform yacht is cheaper. You can usually expect to have much faster delivery of the vessel, too, because you avoid the lengthy research and development process. Edmiston

It’s really two very different experiences and there are advantages to both. The obvious advantage of a production yacht is the speed of delivery: fully custom-building can take up to five years. Buying a yacht from a series platform allows the owner to know exactly what they are getting in advance and to visualise the yacht before it becomes a reality. This does remove the ‘tailor-made’ element of a new-build, but this level of personalisation really depends on the client’s requirements. Y.CO

When is the best time to appoint an owner’s rep and what skills/experience should they have?

Building a yacht requires lots of expertise. The yacht broker will act as the owner’s representative and study your criteria for your ideal yacht and will propose several designers that would be able to create the lines of your dream yacht. Then the broker will put in place a full team of experts from the naval architect to the engineering company. The choice of the shipyard where the yacht would be built will then take place. The process to design a custom yacht can take from three to eight months alone, before the actual build process starts. David Legrand, Sales Broker, Fraser Yachts

An owner’s rep can either be the owner’s captain (if he has a current or previous yacht) and/or a professional yacht project manager. An owner’s representative is the main point of contact between the owner and the project manager and shipyard. In some instances, the owner’s representative can be both project manager and owner’s representative. The owner’s representative is responsible for ensuring that the project is on track within the budgeted cost, overseeing all aspects of the planning and construction and updating the owner frequently. The best time to appoint an owner’s representative would be prior to the search for a shipyard to build the yacht, as the owner’s representative will be invaluable in negotiating with the shipyard. With such a large responsibility, the owner’s rep must possess extensive knowledge and understanding of yacht construction, strong skills in time management, budgeting and managing relationships. Simpson Marine

When should the crew be brought in to the yard for the build project?

Depending on the size of the yacht, anywhere from approximately six months before delivery is a good time to bring on the captain, maybe one year for the engineer. For larger builds [ie those over 70m], captains and engineers may be employed much earlier to oversee the building of the yacht and that it meets all of the owner’s requirements. David Legrand, Sales Broker, Fraser Yachts 

The first person to join the boat is the yacht captain. If the owner is an experienced boat owner, they will normally ask their yacht captain to work alongside the project manager to ensure that the yacht is built to their specification. Otherwise, the captain will normally join the boat when it is launched in the water and the interiors are being completed. This way, the captain has ample time to go through the boat’s machinery, electrics, electronics and equipment to familiarise himself (or herself) with the boat’s systems. The captain will then supervise the chief stewardess, who is in charge of the soft furnishings (beddings, linen, and owner’s and guests amenities), and chef, who will be in charge of the galley (kitchen). Simpson Marine

Are there any rules and regulations that control the choices that can be made for the design of the yacht’s exterior and interior?

The Large Yacht (LY) Code and class regulations will affect numerous things [relating to safety], such as the layout of the yacht – eg sub-divisions to stop fires spreading or flooding – as well as the choice of materials used to make sure they are fire resistant etc. The cruising programme can also affect the design, whether the yacht will be offered for charter or for private use, and the number of people that are expected to cruise onboard. David Legrand, Sales Broker, Fraser Yachts

For vessels under 24m (80ft), all naval architects and designers will take into account the relevant ISO standards to ensure that the yacht is seaworthy. Apart from this, there are no other standardized rules or regulations pertaining to the design of a yacht’s exterior and interior. However, bigger yachts above 24m should be registered under a ‘classification society’, much like ships are. A ‘classification society’ is a non-governmental organisation that establishes and maintains technical standards for the construction and operation of ships and offshore structures. Simpson Marine

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