Volume 13 | Issue 3 | Year 2010

When you’re already the only builder of 145-foot mega-yachts, what do you do to top yourself?
Simple. You build an even bigger boat.

This past March, Richmond Yachts launched the first of its kind 150-foot tri-deck motor yacht. If that wasn’t big enough news, a sister vessel of the same size will soon hit the waters.

Why is bigger better? What does a mere extra five feet provide?

Quite a lot, actually: “For starters, you get more tankage for storage,” points out Keith Kiselback, the Canadian yacht builder’s vice president of operations. “Also, the longer the vessel, the faster.”

Longer length also decreases pitch, he adds. “The boat rocks less from front to back, resulting in a smoother ride.”

A mega-yacht is defined as anything 100 feet or more in length, and Richmond makes the “mega-yacht of mega-yachts” capable of speeds of up to 18 knots. “The engine requires less maximum horsepower to attain optimum speeds, another key factor in the smooth ride,” Kiselback notes.

The vessel also boasts an added 20 percent in fuel savings, due to the bulbous bow. “When you figure you’ve got 13,000 gallons of fuel capacity, a 20-percent improvement not only extends your range but significantly reduces your operating expenses,” Kiselback says.

The yacht features six staterooms that sleep up to 12 as well as five crew quarters and a captain’s quarters capable of housing a crew of ten. Each stateroom has built-in entertainment systems featuring an LED television screen with movie-on-demand services, en suite bath with slab marble and granite counter tops, and marble lined showers or tubs. Sapele Mahogany trim, marble and teak flooring and mahogany furniture are featured throughout. Custom-built stainless steel sliding doors open automatically with specially designed hydraulic hinges to ensure flawless operation.

The galley features commercial-grade stainless steel appliances including a four-door refrigerator, three-door freezer, trash compactor, steamer oven, dishwashers, six-burner cooktop with 20-inch griddle, convection oven, regular oven range and microwave. A wood floor accents silver cabinets and granite counter tops. There’s also a complete entertainment system with LCD TV, DVD, CD and radio. A large Subzero wine cooler is located outside the galley in the main foyer.

There’s also a flybridge helicopter deck that not only provides full tie-down capability to secure the aircraft but dedicated space to welcome disembarking guests in style. “Helicopter decks are typically add-ons to the boat structure,” Kiselback says. “Ours is somewhat unusual in that it was engineered to be fully integrated not only into the boat’s profile but to the work flows and guest accommodations.”

The price tag for such amenities in a 150-foot yacht comes to $30 million. Currently, Richmond Yachts does not have a buyer for either boat, and neither is about to enter inventory. Yet.

“Typically, these kinds of mega-yachts are built to order,” Kiselback points out. “Our approach is different. By building to inventory, we can bring the boat to market much faster by eliminating delays in decision making that frequently come up when you’re dealing with a client who says, ‘let’s change this or add that’ or ‘now that I see it, I don’t like the color.’ Before you know it, costs are going up and delivery date is further away. For anyone interested in a mega-yacht, we’ve got something readily available; you don’t have to wait for years to launch, and it probably already has just about everything you’re going to want in this price range.”

Richmond Yachts’ market niche is pretty much recession-proof, he adds. “When the economy was really bad, we witnessed a little hesitation to buy. It wasn’t that our customers didn’t have the money. Rather, they were a bit embarrassed to spend so much when most everyone else was suffering through the difficult times. Having said that, I do know of some builders under contract with clients who dropped out. They were in the middle of construction without the funding to finish. But with our approach, we won’t ever get caught in that kind of situation. The economy notwithstanding, we had the funding ahead of time to build for our inventory. That’s another factor that gives us a little more control in getting the product efficiently to market.”

Further, the $30 million sticker tag is not necessarily a fixed price. “Everything is negotiable,” Kiselback says. “But we’re pretty confident that we have a reasonable and competitive price point for the value we offer.”

Consider the overall seaworthiness of the vessel, for instance: “A key decision-maker is always the prospective captain, and there are a lot features – in terms of latest equipment and capabilities, as well as crew amenities – to make any captain want to get on board,” Kiselback says.

Charter opportunities are another cost-ameliorating factor. “It’s frequently the case that owners don’t use their yachts all the time, so they’ll offer their boats for charter services. Certainly, our latest yachts offer unique features that make it particularly attractive for that.”

Richmond Yachts can build up to four mega-yachts simultaneously in a 70,000-square-foot shipbuilding facility located on a six-acre yard in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. Only a 15-minute-drive from the Vancouver International Airport and 30 minutes from the city, and situated on the Fraser River in Vancouver, the yard has more than 500 feet of deep-water dockage. A separate laminating facility houses the tooling and fiber-glassing operations.

The company recently added tooling to further automate its operations. “We’ve installed equipment to better handle the large pieces of marble, along with a water jet system to precisely cut the marble to fit,” notes Kiselback. “Our wood shop has new CNC machines to improve efficiency. As we do most everything in house, we’re totally on top of the quality of everything that goes into our yachts.”

This leading yacht maker, which also maintains a sales office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has about 160 employees. Despite the recession, it hasn’t had to lay off any of its people. “We’re very pleased about that,” comments Kiselback. “Again, that’s because our market is mostly recession-proof, but it’s also attributable to our efficient operations. We have the right number of people to maintain our efficiency.”

So after building one of the biggest yachts in its category, what’s next?

“We’re always looking forward,” Kiselback says, “and the next big thing is ‘green’ technology, to use a popular term. But that’s not to say it will be a primary buying consideration for our customers. It’s not like there’s going to be a demand for a sort of ‘Prius mega-yacht.’ However, if it comes down to two yachts that are functionally identical, we anticipate that our customers will probably pick the one that touts green technology. Again, it’s not the main thing, but if you can make people feel that their purchase has positive social and environmental consequences, the product will most likely appear more attractive, all other things being equal.”

Towards that end, Richmond Yachts is exploring the use of a diesel electric drive that not only consumes less energy but also significantly reduces engine noise, as well as a biomass sewage recycling system. Richmond is also looking to replace traditional lighting with more energy-efficient LED lighting.

“We are thinking of getting a little bit larger, but we’d never go beyond 164 feet,” reveals Kiselback. “At that size, you’re making a cruise ship, and you’re looking at a whole different set of regulations. We prefer to be the dominant mega-yacht maker rather than a bottom-feeder in the cruise ship category.”

That provides a sound heading for Richmond Yachts to continue full speed ahead.

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