Superyacht New Build from Design to Delivery: What Works and What Doesn’t

By Emily Dawkins

With the design sphere increasingly populated with eccentric designs and outlandish concepts, new build projects have seemingly become all the more challenging for industry specialists. We speak to TWW Yachts’ Management Director, Sean Ilbery, and New Build Specialist, Jean-Claude Carme, to gain an insight into their experiences with new builds: delving into how a project can evolve from an initial concept to the finished vessel.

There is no doubt that over recent years designers and shipyards have excelled in producing weird and wonderful yacht designs. Not only pushing design conventions, the latest concepts we have recently seen enter the market, go above and beyond to be more sustainable, groundbreaking vessels. For those in superyacht project management, the expanding eccentric design sphere is making the new build process a challenge. Or is it? 

For Sean Ilbery and the TWW Yachts team, they think differently. ‘We enjoy quirky concepts’, says Sean, ‘they are usually fun and exciting.’ Although he emphasises that, ‘like many ‘fads’ it is important to take a long view on their effect both from a technical and resale perspective.’ 

Inevitably, the advancement of quirky concepts has called for more careful analysis from those on the management side, due to new designs essentially entering the unknown. Sean explains that, ‘unique items and concepts require even more diligent technical review and consideration because there is often little or no historical experience to base decisions upon.’

Being in the new build industry, it is not uncommon for specialists to be approached with some of the most fanatical proposals. When asked what the most outlandish idea a client has ever suggested, New Build Specialist, Jean-Claude, reminisces back to his most unusual request: ‘We once had an enquiry from a client who expected his new-build project’s technical specifications to mimic those of a warship – including extensive weapon systems!’  Unsurprisingly, Jean-Claude was unable to accept the project: ‘In general, I would gladly accommodate unusual, even eccentric requests – after all, the extraordinary should be part of life, and of yachting; I clearly had no choice but to turn it down.’ 

With yacht concepts advancing in complexity year on year, we ask Jean-Claude about how he has seen new build trends evolve as a result of this: ‘I think that most yachting professionals have witnessed the same: an increase in the size of projects; an expectation of shorter delivery times, particularly in the “entry-level” 500 GT segment of the market; and renewed creativity in design. One clear trend has been the emergence of explorer yachts across all size categories as a distinct segment of the market – including both proper expedition vessels and those merely styled as such.’ 

Ultimately heading into a more sustainable future for the industry, Jean-Claude gives his opinion on the future of new build: ‘We live in a world with so much uncertainty – as recent events demonstrate – that most attempts at predicting what will happen next in our industry are probably destined to fail. However, I would expect to see fewer and fewer high-performance yachts and more “green” technologies, materials and standards implemented in new-build and refit projects.’ Alongside this, he predicts a, ‘continued growth in explorer – or explorer-styled – yachts, a strong charter market and a slow-down on the average size increase we have witnessed in the last two decades – given the physical limitation in marina infrastructure if for no other reason. I see the 55m-65-metre segment remaining quite healthy.’ 

With any new build project, having a combination of experienced industry specialists on one team is vital to ensuring the client receives the best overall outcome for their yacht. Sean comments on how this important combination of people further requires a customised set of stages, which are not necessarily linear: ‘There are a number of stages involved in helping a client realise their objectives for a new build project. The stages themselves are as variable as the large variety of builders, designers, etc. within the industry. TWW’s multi-discipline technical skills and knowledge of the players within the yachting industry allows us to fulfil our purpose; to act as the client’s agent dealing with these intricacies.'

In our discussion, Sean talks us through how TWW ultimately works to, ‘allow the client to enjoy the build process rather than being tied up in the tedium of the project administration, governance and control.’

So how does TWW Yachts ensure that a yacht is fitted with the best solutions for her owner, no matter the design? In short, advising its clients from a commercial perspective, with the additional expertise of the builder, designer and Owner’s project management team. 

‘While the broker may have his own technical opinion based on his experience, his primary duty is to advise his clients on how a particular idea may impact the yacht from a commercial perspective: how it enhances – or not – the enjoyment of the yacht, what kind of differentiation it provides for charter success, and eventually how it enhances its resale potential’ explains Jean-Claude. ‘As an example, we are currently managing the build of, in my opinion, one of the most spectacular 50m yachts ever built, featuring an advanced audio system and a large hi-tech outdoors home cinema, just forward of the foredeck swimming pool. A head-turner feature that involves developing specific engineering solutions in collaboration between the shipyard, the designer and the Owner’s team.’

TWW’s new build department offers a dedicated service to those looking to make the next stage in the yachting industry. ‘We would always recommend full-time project supervision through the entire project for our clients' states Sean. ‘Our team believe in focusing any spare hours on the same project, combining their technical knowledge and onsite familiarity to great effect on these systems drawing reviews.’ 

Superyacht brokerage, charter and management companies such as TWW Yachts are vital in providing crucial advice to a client looking to enter the new build world. We look forward to bringing our readers more news on TWW Yachts’ latest projects as, alongside the new 50m, Jean-Claude reveals: ‘I am actually working on the initial phase of one such [unusual and eccentric] project at the moment and hope I can disclose more in a few months!’ To find out more about new build and yacht management services, get in contact with Sean, Jean-Claude and the rest of the TWW team today. 

"We once had an enquiry from a client who expected his new-build project’s technical specifications to mimic those of a warship – including extensive weapon systems!"

Jean-Claude Carme, New Build Specialist, TWW Yachts


"We once had an enquiry from a client who expected his new-build project’s technical specifications to mimic those of a warship – including extensive weapon systems!"

Jean-Claude Carme, New Build Specialist, TWW Yachts
By Emily Dawkins