New build market trends

Director of Projects Kevin Laverty discusses the latest trends in the new-build market.

New Build

By Kevin Laverty
Hill Robinson IMN
29 March 2021

Standing still is not an option for the fast-growing Hill Robinson. Offering unparalleled services to assist in the safe and efficient running of superyachts, adding specialists to Hill Robinson’s management, charter, build and crew divisions is crucial to increasing its in-house capacity and expertise.

The recent promotion of Kevin Laverty to director of projects marks a new chapter for Hill Robinson’s project management division. Here, speaks to Laverty about his observations with regards to current trends within the new-build market.

Size and design
While there are still clients who believe big is best, Laverty notes the re-emergence of the 70m segment, with the typically larger yacht builders of Lürssen and Feadship building a number of 70m-and-under projects at the moment.

“If you only need to accommodate 12 guests, a 70m yacht is more than big enough in my opinion. Any bigger and you end up with multiples of the same space,” Laverty explains. “There are also many more places that a 70m yacht can go than a 140m yacht – it can still fit into ports and anchorages rather than having to anchor two miles off shore and tender in.”

Another recent trend that Laverty welcomes is an increase of designs that reintroduce a more classic profile; “The industry has seen some fantastic avant-garde designs of late, but I have also seen some more classical details coming back into the design sphere, with both deck camber and sheer. It is going back to the idea of function over form,” he adds.

The explorer yacht concept has also soared in popularity in recent years, with the number of projects being built to an explorer specification higher than ever. For Laverty, the growing appeal of explorer yachts comes from the new and different ownership experience that they can provide, as well as wider societal changes with regards to how conspicuous wealth is viewed.

“These days there is a lot of discussion around wealth inequality and so ostentatious statements of wealth like superyachts are becoming unacceptable in certain walks of life,” Laverty explains. “Maybe that is driving people away from the Mediterranean and to places away from the crowds where they can have a vacation but also partake in some science and research and do something good for the world. So, I think there is an element of altruism behind the trend and we do see younger owners coming into the industry who are attracted by the idea of combining adventure and their desire to see the world with something of scientific value.”

Integrated technology
On-board technology has progressed significantly in the last 10 years, from the days when integration used to mean a television on the wall. Nowadays, however, Laverty sees tighter technology being integrated into the fabric of the yacht, leading to whole elements of the interior of the yacht becoming virtual.

“It’s easier now to integrate bigger LED displays into a vessel, which means that these displays can be used to modify the outfit of the room and grey the boundary between what is real and what is virtual,” says Laverty. “The technology is no longer a TV on the wall, but a wall that happens to be a TV. Or a glass elevator with the walls of the lift shaft covered in LED displays to give the impression of descending underwater, or rising through the clouds.”

The other major change to on-board technology, according to Laverty, will be gesture control; “With gesture control now features in the top-end BMW cars, it is inevitable that it will be on superyachts soon too. The idea of having an iPad dedicated to a room on board to control lights, heating and entertainment is outdated. The Crestron app is already available on an owner’s own device, which uses GPS locations to present the controls for whichever room they are in. But gesture control is going to happen within next year, if not already.”

Smarter owners
The other key market trend that Laverty observes relates to the clients, with owners increasingly understanding the new-build process and investing time in the pre-contract stage. “By the time clients come to build their second vessel, they have learnt a lot. Also, more owners are coming into the marketplace, wanting something different and wanting to be involved in the process of creating something different,” he concludes.

“The good thing is that, in this day and age, you don’t have to be able to read a drawing to understand the build process because of technology like 3D rendering and virtual reality. So, the owner has the ability to experience the space in a virtual world before anybody has committed a man hour to producing it. Owners are enjoying the tweaking and revising part and understand what the build team is advising with regards to layout and operational experience, so are investing more time in that process because it’s fun and they are able to contribute.”

And such a trend can only be a positive for the market; the end result is a better-informed customer with a better-fitting product.

Through a combination technical, legal, fiscal and operational expertise, Hill Robinson’s strength lies in its ability to advise clients on anything from engineering to ownership structure and crew employment. By having such specialties in-house, the company is leading the way with regards to professional project management.

Written by Bryony McCabe,