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Naval architects: designers of your dream yachts

Naval architects: designers of your dream yachts

Regulation limiting imagination?

In the past, the challenges that architects faced on behalf of clients were straightforward, as they involved understanding Mother Nature and the laws of physics.

Today, things are considerably more complicated for both the owner and the architect, and the culprit are the regulators. SOLAS, MARPOL, ABS, RINA, DNV, MCA, IMO… the list of regulatory and classification acronyms is endless, and with each comes another complicated, confusing and sometimes conflicting set of requirements. Next is the Maritime Labour Convention, which will soon regulate the design, manning and operation of yachts in unprecedented ways.

Holland is especially concerned about regulations for yachts over 500GT, but smaller yachts are not immune. ‘New rules confuse both designers and regulators, and add to cost and time,’ he says. ‘Shifting commercial requirements on to yachts is difficult.’

‘The more legislation, the more challenges we face,’ observes Marnix Hoekstra, co-owner of Dutch company Vripack. As well as undertaking its own design projects, Vripack provides support services to other naval architects and designers. ‘The fun is gone, so some owners are considering building smaller yachts. Too much hassle from police, customs, etc.’ At the same time, he notes, ‘Some owners are used to air and land legal requirements, so are more accepting of regulations.’

The modern naval architect must design the yacht to meet specific speed, weight and range goals, and comply with ever-increasing regulatory requirements

The architect’s process

Taking all that into account, the modern naval architect must design the yacht to meet specific speed, weight and range goals, and comply with ever-increasing regulatory requirements, while still providing accommodations, appearance and amenities to fulfil the client’s wishes.

The architect’s job is more complicated than ever, but otherwise, the process of getting from a clean sheet of paper to a finished yacht remains much the same as it always has. Starting with the file and preliminary meetings with the client, the architect makes the first circumnavigation of the design spiral, balancing a myriad of conflicting demands and making the decisions that are required in the process of informed compromise that is known as naval architecture.

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