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Behind a new generation of superyachts lies an intriguing idea, if industry professionals are to be believed: that some first-time buyers of the ultimate luxury item aren’t that interested in material possessions.
“New owners are more into experiences over things,” Rainer Behne, chairman of BehneMar Yachting Consultancy, told CNN. “This is not the generation that wants to buy, buy, buy,” adds Abeer Alshaali, executive management officer of boat maker Gulf Craft. “It’s the generation that wants to go out in the world and see what there is to find.”
So where does that leave high-end ship builders? Enter the “explorer” superyacht with travel in mind. Think Ernest Shackleton, but with a Cordon Bleu-trained chef at hand. Alshaali describes long-range engines, solar panels for additional power and hybrid hulls “that can withstand any kind of storm.”
Growing demand for long-distance, durable luxury vessels is steering the industry into new waters. “People are looking towards their boats to mimic what they’re seeing in other places – whether it’s in real estate or in cars,” she adds. “Innovation and technology, sustainability; all sorts of new materials.”
At the Dubai International Boat Show 2019, the biggest event of its kind in the Gulf, the industry came together to show off its wares in a city with a long maritime history.
From the days of pearl diving to the discovery of oil to its colossal freight port, the sea has offered much to Dubai. The boat show, now in its 27th year, has risen to become an important event in the global calendar, and Dubai’s seafaring tradition is manifesting in thousands of new berths popping up in harbors around the city.
“It’s a regional and international hub,” says Alshaali of Gulf Craft, which manufactures vessels in neighboring emirate Umm Al-Quwain. “At the end of the day, we sell to the east and we sell to the west.”
Over 400 seacraft featured at the show, but perhaps the most radical vessel wasn’t there in person. Dutch company Oceanco used the event to unveil its 345-foot concept, the Esquel. Named after a meteorite and equally at home in the Mediterranean and the Antarctic according to Oceanco, the explorer superyacht is straight from the pages of an Ian Fleming novel.
The Esquel’s cruising range of 7,000 nautical miles could take its crew roughly a third of the circumference of the world before needing to make port. With a business hub for remote working, chandelier-finished master suite and fire pit in the lounge, it’s not spartan accommodation.
Oceanco say there’s convertible space for laboratories, suggesting the vessel could be utilized by marine biologists. In the company brochure, Oceanco also say it’s “ideal for couples or friends who want to take a ‘gap year’ from their everyday routine.”
Group marketing manager Paris Baloumis says Oceanco worked with a young designer, Timur Bozca of Bozca Design, “in order to fully embrace the millennial mindset.”
“We have dedicated approximately 500 square meters purely for toys,” says Baloumis. “Toys” being snowmobiles, jet skis, a helicopter and submarine, he adds.
“These days people are … looking for a place where they can relax,” explains superyacht specialist Ken Hickling, namechecking the Cloudbreak, a 238-foot vessel used by its owner as a base for heli-skiing in Chile, as an example.
“We’re seeing even younger people purchasing yachts, or families coming together and purchasing them together,” says Alshaali.
“I don’t think it’s just a millennial thing; I think it’s an overall cultural change, where people are saying ‘maybe my grandfather’s generation worked from 8am until 10pm and never enjoyed anything in their life – and we don’t want to do that anymore.”