Behind the Dutch Dynasty

A tour through Holland's shipyards reveals how a charming tradition satisfies global demand.
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A tour through Holland's shipyards reveals how a charming tradition satisfies global demand.

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SIXTEEN JOURNALISTS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE enjoyed a late afternoon cruise along the scenic shoreline of the eccentric town of Urk, Holland, our quaint old wooden fishing vessel—an antique of sorts—oozing heritage from every splintery crevice.

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The early evening chill on the water would soon give way to a welcomed warmth emanating from an ancient conventional smoker oven on the bank, already eliciting the mouthwatering smells of freshly smoked salmon.

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Through the smoky air, a centuries-old boathouse appeared a charming respite, which was to be our dinner destination for the evening. At one point in time, this boathouse headquartered Balk Shipyard, another centuries-old institution and the pride and joy of Urk. Gathering around an old wooden table feasting on fish and Heineken in a family-style setting equivalent to a rustic New England clambake set a perfect tone for the week ahead on this 2014 HISWA Holland Yachting Group press tour—the Holland shipbuilding industry is alive and well, and has been for more generations than a typical family tree can trace.

The Netherlands has an outstanding reputation for a long history of building yachts, recently evidenced as seven Dutch builders were called to the stage during the World Superyacht Awards this May winning nine prestigious Neptune Awards that reflect their heritage, quirkiness and innovative capacity. Our week in Holland yielded behind-the-scenes insight into new projects and impending launches at many of these shipyards.

Feadship's de Vries Shipyard in Makkum

Feadship's de Vries Shipyard in Makkum

A tour of Feadship’s de Vries shipyard in Makkum showed off new builds including 44-meter hull 690 and 92-meter hull 1005. According to Feadship de Vries commercial director Bas Nederpelt, the builder expects to deliver the 690, a 101-meter and an 88.5-meter by summer 2015, in addition to a number of refits including a complete refit of the classic Feadship Olympia.

A Feadship apprenticeship program on site at Makkum currently has 20 students enrolled for a duration of two years with specialized emphases in carpentry, industrial painting and mechanical engineering. CEO, Dick Van Lent stated an impressive 40-percent client return rate citing factors including quality of service, both during the project and in after-sale.

The recent launch of the 46.2-meter Feadship Como draws attention to Feadship’s pioneering use of glass. The client requested unprecedentedly large windows in the hull and a wealth of glass in her superstructure. Following other recent launches that have highlighted the art of glass such as Hampshire II, Musashi and Venus, thoughts now turn to the next logical – but seriously complex – innovation, namely using glass structures to also support structural loads from the decks above. The advance of technology in the use of glass is radically changing the look of superyachts in the same way that it transformed land-based architecture. Today glass determines the look of most buildings, and its use on large yachts has been constantly on the rise over the decades. In 1960 the average proportion of glass within yacht silhouettes was around seven percent, a figure which had doubled by 1990 as windows became larger, were placed closer to each other, and played a far more prominent role in styling.

Daan Balk

Daan Balk

With a pedigree dating back several hundred years, Balk Shipyard is now in the capable hands of the seventh generation of the family, offering state-of-the-art rebuild and refit facilities, the product of major investments in optimizing efficiency. From building superstructure sections for the world’s top builders to some impressive refits in progress, the Dutch yard continues to showcase the high skill levels of its fiercely proud and dedicated workforce in Urk, Holland.

Balk Shipyard in Urk

Balk Shipyard in Urk

In addition to work on superyachts such as the award-winning Mikhail S. Vorontsov, Balk is completing its fifth major project with Heesen Yachts, constructing large sections of a new build. Pride in service is the driving ideal of managing director Dan Balk, who got his start in the family business handing tools to his father in a yacht engine room. Balk expressed the yard’s enthusiasm to work behind the scenes on new build projects, including a 65-meter project with Feadship, the superstructure of which is being constructed at Balk. The yard will also construct a new bow for Heesen's Seven Sins in September.

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At Heesen Yachts in Oss, the order book is strong and the yard is full, both while celebrating the recent delivery of Monaco Wolf amid the builder’s latest “The Future Is Now” campaign. In the works at Oss are a 42-meter, 55-meter and 70-meter. Heesen revealed its new Fast Displacement Hull Form, which will improve efficiency by 30 percent over its traditional displacement hulls. The 42-meter under construction featured radical new underwater fins which employ natural thrust to achieve around 40-percent more efficiency.

Heesen's new fast displacement hull in progress

Heesen's new fast displacement hull in progress

Moonen Shipyards has introduced the new Caribbean series of motoryachts. Leveraging on the success of its classic-looking superyachts over the last two decades and offering a refreshingly modern twist, the Caribbean range combines a distinctive and timeless style with all the attributes that will ensure a high resale value. Six different designs have been unveiled, ranging from 85 to 126 feet. Moonen has sold the first model in their new Caribbean range, Martinique. Managing Director Emile Bilterijst shared commitment to serving returning owners with refit work as well as looking ahead to a new range of “pocket-size superyachts.”

VIDEO: THE ANATOMY OF AN OCEANCO NEW BUILD

Standing under the brand-new Y709 superyacht Equanimity at Oceanco it’s hard to express the view as the 91.5-meter superyacht towers overhead. Oceanco has since successfully delivered the vessel to her proud owner. With a 14.5-metre beam, her chic exterior styling is the combined work of Oceanco and Andrew Winch Designs.

Oceanco's latest launch, Equanimity (formerly known as Y709)

Oceanco's latest launch, Equanimity (formerly known as Y709)

At Amels, the shipyard’s two most recent deliveries—the 55-meter Serenity J and the 65.5-meter Z—were docked and ready to depart.It’s been a busy spring for Amels, with three new builds and three refits completed within a short span of time. At the yard was the 60-meter hull number two of the 199 series, which will be delivered in the spring of 2015. The third of the series is ready for construction. Two Amels 55-meter designs are also in progress with expected deliveries in mid 2015. Said Amels managing director Rob Luijendijk, “I think yachts will continue to get bigger and bigger, but we will continue to see people enjoying the smaller end yachts. We all need to continue to make a bigger effort to do our best for clients, old and new."

 Albert Hakvoort, Jr. discusses future plans at the yard

Albert Hakvoort, Jr. discusses future plans at the yard

Our visit to Hakvoort presented a fresh take on the HISWA tour—absolute transparency, with the yard permitting photographs on its current project, the 61-meter Golden Age, due to launch in spring of 2015. A 63-meter is next on the books, due to launch in 2017. In the hangar, with few inches between the shed ceiling and the vessel's sky lounge, it’s apparent that the yard has almost exceeded its limits in size range for builds and refits, to which Albert Hakvoort, Jr. hinted at a plan to upsize the facility in the future.

Royal Huisman’s Huisfit division in Vollenhove, is refitting 138-foot (42-meter) carbon composite offshore racer Mari-Cha IV. The yacht is being be re-commissioned as Samurai for an owner who wants cruising amenities to complement the yacht’s renowned sailing performance. Modifications include a new deckhouse, superstructure and cockpit by Rhoades Young Design. Huisfit is also performing a complete overhaul of the onboard systems, including high-speed hydraulics for the winches, alarm monitoring, entertainment and navigation. A lifting keel will replace her canting keel and she’ll have a new color scheme, as well as easier-to-maintain look-alike teak decks.

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 PHOTO GALLERY

THINK YACHTS. THINK HOLLAND.

The HISWA Holland Yachting Group fosters international trade by strengthening the role of a carefully selected group of companies located in the Netherlands. The Holland Yachting Group is part of the HISWA Association; HISWA stands for the Netherlands Association of Enterprises in Water Recreation. The members of the HISWA Holland Yachting Group are all committed to offering specialised products and services of premium quality. This has given them a strong position on the international market and a reputation to match.

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