Growing number of billionaires keeps Heesen Yachts optimistic

Despite the difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Heesen Yachts is still functioning reasonably well. And although last year was better, the management of the Dutch superyacht builder expects to be able to conclude 2020 profitably.

That’s what Heesen’s CEO, Arthur Brouwer, and Chief Commercial Officer, Mark Cavendish, told the international press on Wednesday September 23th in a first-ever virtual breakfast. Streaming live from the shipyard in Oss via Zoom, the Heesen management provided insight into the global superyacht industry on board the newest venture Project Triton. The press could hear Heesen’s news and have an exclusive sneak preview of its interiors in an unprecedented “Owner’s tour” of the yacht.

This virtual press-conference came in place of Heesen’s traditonal presentation at the opening of the yearly Monaco Yacht Show that usually takes place end of September. Due to the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s edition of the yearly show had to be cancelled.

Market update

It was Heesen’s CEO Brouwer that gave an update on the ins and outs of the firm. At the beginning of this year (January 10th), Heesen still expected a glorious year ahead: with no less than 13 yachts under construction at a total of 731 linear metres and, more impressively, a total gross tonnage of 10,114 GT, and with deliveries that span though to 2023. This year, the shipyard planned the launch and delivery of 4 new yachts in the 50-55 metre range. And the first two months went perfectly, Brouwer said, but then the Covid-19-pandemic also hit the business operations of the shipyard in Oss.

To reduce the amount of people on the workfloor and the docks, Heesen changed its operations from one shift to three shifts and sent into homeoffice the ones that could. And although the pandemic caused enormous disruptions with the flexibility of the workforce, for Heesen the impact of the pandemic was very limited. For this the CEO paid tribute to Heesen’s ‘very robust and supportive workforce’. ‘With three to four months to go this year we are pretty busy,’ Brouwer said.

On spec and less fuel consumption

One of the unique selling points of Heesen’s business operations is that it can deliver yachts at short notice. From all the yachts Heesen is building nowadays, about half is on order of a specific client and the other half is on spec, developed in cooperation with the finest yacht design studios. When it is clear what Heeesen will build, the yard takes the project to the market. For a growing number of potential buyers this proves to be an attractive option. It allows them to step into an ongoing project and can obtain a yacht designed according to the latest insights of what a modern superyacht should offer at short notice.

Heesen is especially renowned for its fast superyachts, but also builds ever more yachts that excel in moderate fuel consumption and a cleaner operation of exhaust gases. In that respect, Heesen is now building its first yacht with a propulsion that meets the Tier 3 standard that limits the NOx-emission. According to Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cavendish, Heesen now has 4 yachts on offer. In May next year is planned the delivery of the Altea-project, the first high-speed aluminium yacht of a new design.

Project Triton

At the end of October is expected the delivery of the 50-metre Project Triton. This cutting-edge design features a bulbous bow, which allows it to glide through the water with ease. Two MTU 8V4000 M63 engines provide a top speed of 15 knots. It boasts a range of 3800 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 13 knots. This yacht will soon go to sea for its sea trials. To reach the North Sea, the mast on top of the yacht has to be removed as it has to travel 125 kilometres along the river and pass 11 bridges.

This Project Triton yacht is the first in a long time that still has no owner. Normally, all on spec-built yachts have found a customer before delivery. Yet CCO Cavendish doesn’t worry this yacht will eventually not find a customer.

Optimistic outlook

Overall, the management of Heesen is optimistic about the future. ‘I think the market will go back. We will have a loss of sales in 2020, but the number of deliveries is still growing and will keep on growing,’ according to Brouwer. That sales were falling back also had to do with the difficulties of the restrictions that were enforced on travelling between Europe and the US. Therefore, it was difficult for especially potential buyers from the US to visit the yard in Oss. The American market is still the most important one for Heesen. With special assistance of the Dutch and US authorities and the US ambassador in The Hague, Heesen succeeded in still getting some American clients to Oss.

An important issue now for Heesen is to make its yachts more environmentally friendly with especially less climate threatening exhaust gases. ‘Greener technology is a huge item. Also, our customers are pushing for it. The most obvious solution is hybrid technology. Battery packs are still too heavy for superyachts,’ Brouwer said.

According to Cavendish, Heesen is well positioned for the expected uptake of the superyacht market after the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided. ‘We are extremely well prepared to handle a second wave of the pandemic. The number of billionaires is and will still be growing for years to come and sailing with a superyacht is still the loveliest way to enjoy your holiday,’ Cavendish said.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.