Lürssen celebrates 140 years of shipbuilding
by Philip Reynolds
Lürssen, one of the world’s leading builders of custom superyachts, celebrates its 140th anniversary this year.
This family-run shipyard opened its doors for business in 1875 when Friedrich Lürssen built the very first motor boat, REMS, with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.
The actual anniversary is celebrated on 27 June, the day Friedrich Lürssen set up a workshop in Aumund, Germany, near Bremen, where the builder’s headquarters remain.
Friedrich initially wanted to join his father’s boatyard but his father encouraged him to set up on his own as it would be challenging for one company to feed two families. It was wise advice. Within 11 years, Friedrich’s shop went from constructing racing rowboats to building the world’s first powerboat.
Gottlieb Daimler, founder of the eponymous engine company, wanted to test his new invention. The engine only put out 1.5hp but it was a tremendous achievement that paved the way for modern propulsion. By the time Friedrich’s son joined the company in the early 1900s, Lürssen had built a raceboat with a 40hp engine capable of nearly 35 knots.
Otto was a key player in Lürssen’s history. His leadership saw the shipyard build many award-winning speedboats. There was Lürssen-Daimler in 1911, the winner of the Cote d’Azur prize and Grand Prix de Nation, with a 102hp engine.
Saurer-Lürssen followed a year later, winning the Prix de Monte Carlo and setting an unofficial world speed record of 32 knots. Lürssen started building boats for American clients. One of the more famous was the commuter yacht Oheka II, for Otto Herman Kahn, a New York investment banker, with a 34 knot top speed.
The third generation of Lürssen family members, Gert and Fritz-Otto, became involved in the late 1930s and remained in place after the war years. That period saw the shipyard continue producing powerboats for private clients and the German navy alike. The naval craft included patrol boats, anti-mine vessels, frigates, and corvettes. They remain important contracts for Lürssen.
And so to the era of megayachts. Under the guidance of cousins Friedrich and Peter Lürssen, who took over in the late 1980s, this side of the business has expanded with a strong emphasis on yacht construction.
The first, the 55 metre Pegasus II (now Platinum) was delivered in 1962. Since then Lürssen's biggest yachts have been some of the world’s most renowned, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s 127 metre superyacht Octopus in 2003 and the 138 metre Rising Sun, delivered to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in 2004 and now owned by music mogul David Geffen.
Lürssen employs more than 1,000 people at its Bremen facility and has a handful of other shipyards in northern Germany. Over the years with the help of its employees, Lürssen has launched more than 13,000 yachts and ships.
Peter Lürssen, CEO of Lürssen Yachts, said: “As a family company it makes us proud and happy to be able to look back, in a turbulent industry, on 140 years of successful shipbuilding history on the River Weser.
“At the same time, our company anniversary motivates us as a family business to continue manufacturing unique ships for the global market together with our employees and to successfully live up to our great-grandfather’s motto to impress through performance and quality.”