Dilbar, Flying Fox, Amadea, Octopus, Kismet. These are just a few of the world’s most iconic superyachts to which Norwegian designer and architect Espen Oeino has lent his name. Name a prestigious superyacht builder, and it is highly likely that Espen will have collaborated with them on something incredible during his 20+ years of outside-the-box design.
With ongoing projects ranging from the AMELS 60 series to Nobiskrug’s highly-anticipated Project 794, Espen Oeino and his Monegasque team continue to dominate the superyachting design sphere. Yet we couldn’t help but notice, as NJORD’s announcement comes alongside ongoing construction on 182.6m research vessel REV, a similarity between these two very different, but very unique projects.
‘The initiators are both fellow Norwegians like me, both with extensive backgrounds in shipping and businesses related to the sea,’ Espen said.
It must be something in the water – quite literally – in Norway, as both projects share at their core certain philanthropic and scientific research missions. ‘Norway, or rather Scandinavia, has been at the forefront of sustainability for a long time. We are outdoor people, we appreciate the beauty of the outdoors and we want to preserve it.’
But aside from this and two rather staggering LOAs, here is roughly where the similarity between the two projects ends. Indeed, with exception to a much smaller and far less luxurious ship dubbed ‘The World’ 20 years ago (also Norwegian-built), there is no precedent for any vessel which quite compares to NJORD.
‘The idea was to try to offer a sort of superyacht experience to a limited number of people, with the facilities of a really big superyacht,’ Espen told us. Extra emphasis should be placed here on the phrase ‘really big’; aside from helicopters and hangars, NJORD will come complete with her own marina, as well as 118 luxury apartments onboard. ‘You can have your own galleys, your own privacy, if you want to you can have hotel services like on a superyacht. The idea is that you can offer all these things to owners without the hassle of operating your own superyacht.’
‘You know, there are clients I’ve worked with in the past, designed yachts for, who still go on cruise ships – because they like the community feel. There’s a whole community of retired people who, if they have means to, actually spend their lives more or less on cruise ships. And this is a whole step up, this is your home,’ Espen went on. ‘And as we have seen with today’s COVID-19 crisis, if you are still active and working, you can still work anywhere now!’
Although it certainly does not herald the demise of private yacht ownership, Espen agreed NJORD must be symbolic of a shift in ownership trends. Drawing a comparison with ride-hailing services such as Uber, he said, ‘I do believe we may see some trends or changes in ownership structures. As you can see with cars, many people are less inclined to buy their own cars and use other services without the hassle of ownership.’
‘So that’s what Kristian Stensby, the father of this concept, looked to offer a certain clientele. A real floating apartment with all the advantages of a yacht. You get to travel around, no need to pack and unpack, and discover new areas and experiences in comfortable familiar surroundings - it’s the best of two worlds.’
Although NJORD’s size and elements of her design recall that of a classic cruise ship, Espen was firm in his refutation of this comparison. ‘For a ship of the same size, you probably carry ten times the people on a cruise ship. You’ll notice from the outside there are far less lifeboats, and they’re hidden behind covers – this is something very different.’
This brought us on to the challenges of the ‘hybrid’ nature of this project – designing on such a large scale. ‘The challenge of course is to create spaces that are still intimate. You have to cater for a large number of people – but it’s important that you don’t feel like you’re sitting in a big restaurant, for example.’
NJORD’s 118 apartments come in varying sizes and degrees of customisation, with renowned designer FM Architettura also coming onboard as one of a few selected residence signature designers. Alternatively, owners will also be able to bring their own interior designers onboard.
Working with Jean-Louis Stutzmann who designed much of the interior layout and floor plan, Espen’s team has been working on features such as the beach club, tender areas, balconies and deck spaces.
The nature of the NJORD and REV projects are utterly unique and distinct in their own ways. This in mind, we couldn’t help but ask if Espen was simply getting ‘bored’ of conventional yacht design.
‘No! No, of course not,’ Espen laughed. ‘I do like doing different things. Marketing specialists will talk to you about your brand, your image – I don’t care. I just do my stuff, what I like to do. If I like a project, I like the people involved and the terms are right, I’ll do it.’
He did express praise though for NJORD and REV’s philanthropic aspects in with global research efforts. ‘I can really sense a change coming in the yachting industry, already with more and more ‘explorer’ yachts being built. But I think we have a lot to learn from the shipping community.’
DIV shipbuilding group will be undertaking the project for 2024 delivery, with NJORD’s hull and superstructure being built in Brodosplit, Croatia and outfitting to take place in Norway’s Kleven Verft yard. Once built, NJORD will fly the flag of the NIS (Norwegian International Ship Register) on her journey across all corners of the globe. She will be an ice-class vessel, allowing her to navigate even the most remote areas of the Arctic.
We look forward to bringing our readers more updates on this innovative project as construction progresses, as well as how NJORD’s success may impact larger industry trends once she begins her life on the water.