Superyacht Owners Seek Performance and Sustainability

Credit: ABB
Credit: ABB

Published Dec 26, 2018 10:39 PM by Thomas Hackman

While superyachts have a reputation for competing on design and scale, more owners are choosing efficient and environmentally-sustainable technologies.

Superyacht owners often prefer to keep the details of their designs under wraps because part of the pleasure of having such a vessel lies in knowing that no one else does. To an extent, the superyacht market will always be unpredictable because it involves individuals. Owners will be bringing not only what could be hundreds of millions of dollars to the table, but their own references and personal preferences to ensure their vessel is truly exclusive. The last word in lavish interiors, state-of-the-art entertainment systems and an array of kayaks, jet skis, perhaps even the odd mini-sub – these are just some of the “accessories” of modern superyachts.

Maturing designs, maturing technologies

Superyacht designs are, however, maturing: even the edgiest of designers have been obliged to align their ideas with the principles of naval architecture and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea which sets safety standards for vessels.

With ABB being closely involved in the propulsion, automation and control of superyachts for decades, we are seeing a clear trend: owners are increasingly opting for more sustainable and efficient technologies. Such forward-thinking owners are often identifying greater automation of shipboard decision-making tasks as beneficial for vessel performance. 

These owners are also seeking the same remote diagnostics services and 24/7 technical support from ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Centers enjoyed by their commercial counterparts. At present, more than 800 vessels are now connected to ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Centers – giving them 24/7 support.

Increasingly, given its ascendancy in the cruise sector, owners are also asking yacht builders why they do not recommend energy-efficient, higher performance and quieter Azipod® propulsion in the first instance over conventional shaft technology. The question is especially relevant for those interested in exploration, given the preference shown by owners of ice-going tonnage for Azipod® propulsion. At present, over 80 ships bound for icy waters are equipped with Azipod® propulsion. 

Azipod® has also become the industry standard for cruise vessels, saving over 700,000 tons of fuel in this sector alone.

Superyacht owners are more and more proactive in seeking out technologies that are likely to bring value to the segment in the years ahead. In June, for example, ABB was invited to share its thoughts on fuel cells as an energy source at the Superyacht Design Forum in London’s Chelsea Harbour.

Seeking zero-emission solutions

ABB’s role in developing energy-efficient and greener solutions for the cruise ship market is often seen as an attraction by superyacht owners, especially as the arrival of smaller expedition cruise ships has coincided with the emergence of exploration yachts.

ABB has been playing a central part in the development of pioneering zero-emission solutions for the maritime industry – including fuel cell systems for passenger vessels. One of the recent examples is the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Ballard Power System to jointly develop a fuel cell system for sustainable marine e-mobility, scalable up to 3MW (4000 HP) and fitting within the profile of a traditional marine engine running on fossil fuels.

For prospective specifiers of environmentally responsible superyachts, such developments are of more than just interest: the ABB technology that will ultimately bring renewable fuel sources, batteries and fuel cells into the power mix is already available.

Thomas Hackman is Segment Manager, ABB Marine & Ports, where he takes global responsibility for ferry operators and yacht owners.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.