The role of independent consultancies in superyacht construction
by Dudley Dawson, James Roy, Tim Thomas
As yachts get larger and more complex, the dividing lines between the top yacht builders and commercial shipyards are becoming ever more blurred.
Not only are the former now building vessels with global capabilities and the requirement to support crew and guests numbering into the dozens, but they are also equipping them with environmental, propulsion and command and control systems that would put many a cruise liner or passenger ferry to shame.
Along with that, some of the materials being used in superyachts would completely mystify many commercial shipyards owing, as they do, their provenance to the aerospace industry.
It is only natural that, as the superyacht industry develops, it should see specialisations emerge as it outgrows the one-stop-shop approach. New trends have created a demand from yards and designers who, from time to time, need access to highly specific skills and expertise, but for whom hiring such individuals full time would not be efficient or cost-effective, and this is what has driven the increasing importance of the independent consultant engineer.
An example is BMT Nigel Gee, a multidisciplinary engineering/design consultancy serving the superyacht industry. With its substantial team of engineers and naval architects, BMT Nigel Gee is well positioned to provide advice and solutions for the many issues that can arise with superyachts.
While the company’s core skills are naval architecture and production engineering, the firm also offers consultancy services on everything from structural analysis to performance predictions, weight verification and proof-of-concept studies.
Providing support to other designers is an area of significant activity. This can vary from hull form optimisation, whether it be for speed, sea keeping or fuel efficiency, right up to the full naval architecture package working alongside a stylist and yard. A recent example of this is the collaboration between BMT Nigel Gee and Design Unlimited, which has to date produced detailed plans for a 40m luxury catamaran, using the former’s particular expertise in multihull design, and 60m and 72m motor yachts.
Another aspect is ensuring that a design is not only seaworthy but also that its electrical and mechanical systems sit harmoniously alongside the aesthetics and demands of luxury living.
Independent consultancies are skilled in outfit design, whereby they ensure that equipment and machinery blend in with the yacht as a whole. For example, this might involve ensuring that tender launching cranes articulate away unseen.
An equally important process is ensuring the individual systems and components are designed so that they can be manufactured and installed in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Employing consultants who are experienced in production engineering from the very beginning of a new build can save a yard substantial amounts of time and money.
BMT Nigel Gee recently worked on Derecktor’s 85m Cakewalk. The company was brought into to handle the detailed engineering from structural development to outfitting and provision of full pipe spools, and a similar exercise is currently under way at Devonport for Project 55, a challenging and innovative 96m motor yacht designed by Redman Whiteley Dixon.