Building your own super yacht

February 22, 2018
by Michael Breman

Interested in finding out more about building your own yacht? Who best to ask than the leading super yacht builder in the world ? German yacht-builder Lürssen has earned an international reputation as the No. 1 specialist in exclusive, custom-built yachts. The privately run company was founded in 1875 and remains solely in the hands of the 4th generation of the Lürssen family. With a workforce of 1800, Lürssen maintains seven state-of-the-art facilities at Bremen-Aumund, Lemwerder, Berne, Rendsburg, Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg and Wolgast. Its main headquarters are located in Bremen.

Lurssen has built the largest super yacht in a record time. Azzam (picture above), the 180m yacht was built in three years. How do you explain this success and what lessons can you share with a prospective owner looking to build his own yacht in a record time? 


It should not be the aim of an owner to build his yacht in a record time. Azzam was an exceptional yacht and we don’t expect to build yachts in this size often. The same applies to Dilbar (156 m), the world’s largest yacht in regards to gross tonnage, which we delivered mid May. You cannot compare those unique projects with a 85 m yacht.

But we can say that we have the man power and the highly qualified people to allow us realize such projects on time and on budget. Projects which have never been built before and which cause a high risk for the shipyard. You need to have specialized and experienced employees who are able to handle those mega projects. The reason that we were able to build Azzam in such a record time is that we are constantly optimizing the build process. It is a huge logistical process which should not be underestimated.



On the importance of putting the right team together 


Building a large yacht is a challenge not only for the shipyard but also for the owner. The successful realization begins right away in putting together the right team. To start such a big project the owner has to find a person whom he trusts. This can be either his captain (in the case he already has a yacht), his personal assistant, a yacht broker or designer or somebody at a shipyard. In some cases the owner handles matters directly with the yard as he has done his pre-selection in advance.

The process normally starts with the selection of the designers for the exterior and interior design. In some cases the owner already has a preference for or has past experience with a specific designer. In other cases the shipyard can suggest a designer. For this we have to listen carefully to the client and the chemistry has to be right.

The technical project manager for the owner is another important selection. In some cases the owner chooses the captain of his former yacht or somebody else he trusts. There are professionals in the yachting industry who have lots of experience in supervising such a big project and as we know those people we can be of help to assemble the right team.

Some clients may choose to work with a yacht broker instead of going directly to the shipyard of their choice. Most of the brokerage companies have very professional employees who have lots of experience in realizing a new build project. ​ How to choose the right shipyard? This also depends on certain parameters. What size range can the shipyard build and do they have the experience? what is the delivery time? what kind of quality is expected? is the client looking for a brand which keeps its value? and last but not least, the price has to be the right one!



What are the different stages of a super yacht new build project?  


The first stage for an owner is talking to a designer and/or shipyard to explain his requirements. The next step would be the design phase – exterior styling and the general arrangement plan. This phase can take from 6 to 12 months or even longer – depending on how concrete the ideas of the client are. In case the shipyard has not been involved so far, this would be the time to send a tender to a selected group of shipyards. The shipyard will then analyze and evaluate the project, work on a specification, which is necessary to offer a price and delivery time. This process can take up to anything from 2 to 6 months.

After the selection of designer and shipyard and after defining a contract, the shipyard needs about 6 to 12 months for the engineering before the actual building process can start. This time frame is quite flexible and depends on the complexity of the project.

During the design and engineering phase the interior design also plays a big role. As the interior needs to be built in parallel to the yacht it is important that the design of the interior sticks to a certain time frame as well. Timely decisions are crucial.  ​



How to select the right shipyard for one’s project? What are your specificities compared to other builders?


The size of the yacht should fit in the portfolio of the shipyard. In our case, Lürssen is probably the only shipyard which offers such a large size range. Today we build yachts from 60 m up to 200 m. We have different shipyards within the group which handle different sizes and this way the client can be assured that he has the right team at the right yard.

A yacht is a big investment and the complete process can take up to 5 years. The client will want to make sure that his money is safe. In the last 25 years we have delivered 50 yachts from 40 to 180 m. This should be proof enough that Lürssen is a healthy and sustainable partner in the process.

Furthermore, with more than 1800 people in the Lürssen group we have the man power and engineers to realize any challenge which may occur during the building period.

During the past years we have constantly invested in our facilities. We have added three shipyards which concentrate purely on refit, repair and conversion. In addition to our new build facilities we offer enough space so that our “children” can come home for any kind of job. Lürssen also offers yacht management and crew training – the Lürssen client can be assured that we are not leaving him alone after delivery – we offer the full spectrum of service, with one target: A happy owner.



How many people are involved at the shipyard ? ​


There are different stages during the building process and they involve different numbers of people. From the shipyard site we have a project manager and sizeable project team which accompanies the project throughout the build.



How are the cost and payments distributed during the project life cycle?  


This is similar to a house construction. The first payment comes with the contract or even before with the letter of intent to secure the building slot. The next steps are contract based at objectively identifiable milestones such as steel cutting, keel laying, launching, etc and the final payment occurs at delivery.



What are the most common project issues to be wary of ? 


Ideally, you make all of the decisions upfront and stick to them! We try to keep the numbers of VTC’s (Variation to Contract) as small as possible as they cause additional time and money and hamper the orderly production process. But unfortunately there is no project without changes!


What is the standard guarantee of a new build ? 


We normally cover the yachts with a 12 months warranty. Individual parts of the build may have longer warranties and these then of course apply.

Michael Breman is the Sales Director at Lurssen. After graduating in Engineering Design and Construction at the Institute of Technology in his native Australia, Michael drew upon both his weekend hobby and his academic training to forge a lifelong career in the yachting industry. As a professional sailor, Michael has logged some 200,000 nautical miles that included many offshore regattas culminating in an extensive 4-year circumnavigation whilst working as a captain.