Boating: Accelerated Development
Four to six years typically pass from design to delivery of a custom superyacht. But the Amels boatyard in Vlissingen, Netherlands, has reduced that time to 24 months or less.
Amels builds its Limited Editions, a new series of 171-foot yachts, with standardized dimensions, engineering, and accommodations, but it also allows owners to incorporate their personal touches during construction. By predetermining the specifications, Amels can deliver a high-quality, largely customized vessel in the same amount of time usually required to determine the design of a fully custom yacht. The boats are expected to sell in the $30 million range.
Amels president Kommer Damen is the first of Europe’s major boatbuilding entrepreneurs to employ the semicustom method. As a young man four decades ago, Damen proposed that his family’s commercial shipyard implement standardization and modular designs to shorten delivery time, control costs, and improve the product. When the family vetoed his ideas, he bought his own yard. Today, his Damen Shipyards Group generates annual revenues exceeding $1.2 billion from more than 30 boatyards and related companies.
In 2004, Damen applied his streamlined production concept to Amels, a company he had acquired in 1992. He was so sure of the formula that he committed to building two yachts without securing a buyer for either. To shape those prototypes, Damen enlisted designer Tim Heywood, a former protégé of Jon Bannenberg, and Italian interior designer Laura Sessa, who in 2003 had worked on the Amels superyacht Lady in Blue.
The steel hulls and aluminum superstructures of the Limited Editions are welded in a Damen yard in Gdynia, Poland, where labor costs are relatively low. Each vessel then goes to the Netherlands—to the same assembly halls that build custom Amels projects—where it is modified to the owner’s specifications. For yachts that are delivered so soon after contract signing, the Limited Editions offer extensive customization. The owner of hull number 1, for example, tapped interior designer Peter Heuvelmans to create a rich, traditional interior with dark wood and elaborate fabrics. The owner of hull number 2 chose the light, casual decor of Sessa’s original renderings but requested a wider superstructure for the bridge deck.
Less than 90 days after Amels announced the series in September 2005, its first 171 was under contract; it is scheduled for delivery in April 2007. When the second hull was purchased a month later, Damen commenced work on another pair. The first of these has been sold, and the second was under negotiation as of September. Amels soon will begin construction of the fifth and sixth boats, for which Sessa has created two new interior schemes.
While continuing to build the 171-footers, Damen will expand the semicustom concept to include a 212-foot Limited Editions series, which will display a Heywood design and interior concepts by Andrew Winch.