The state of yachting today
Kommer Damen is not a man who needs much introduction. He has been the face and name associated with one of the world’s largest shipbuilding companies, the Damen Shipyards Group, for over 50 years. When he ventured into the yachting industry in 1991 with the acquisition of Amels, nobody could have predicted the success that would follow with his visionary build approach and the introduction of the Amels Limited Editions.
How certain were you that your build approach would work in yachting?
“We were building serial ships in our commercial vessels branch and that was quite the success, so I expected the Limited Editions platform to also be successful. The platform allows you to build better boats. You can put much more effort in the design and development of the vessel, whilst still offering your clients a shorter delivery time.”
How has the market changed over the last 20 plus years?
“We see a tendency to build larger. The largest yachts built in the 60’s and 70’s were about 40 to 45 metres and now we see the 60 and 80 metres yachts, like the ones we build. There is a demand for even bigger yachts as well, but I think that we, in the middle segment, are in the right range. And if we should decide to build larger yachts, we should do that semi-custom as well. It will come with its own set of challenges, there is more capital involved.”
What shifts will we see in the future?
“Looking forward 10 years from now, the main changes will be fuel related. Following the global tendency to try to have less impact on the environment, the way vessels are propelled will be different. Electrical, hydrogen, there definitely will be a change.”
Are there advantages to being involved in the military, commercial and luxury sectors combined?
“The combination of the three sectors provides stability within the organisation and I embrace them equally. Operating in three sectors means we are less dependent on different market developments and can share knowledge and learnings. Being powerful in so many markets and being the market leader makes the company as a whole stronger. The military market is a typical market for high end military combat vessels and the market for commercial vessels is more competitive. Yachting is different than the other markets in the sense that it is also a consumer market. Very intriguing, it is the pearl in our chain of activities.”
“It is not just our business. It is our life.”
What are the challenges and gains of being a family business?
“The big advantage is that we can take decisions for the long run. We can invest in new developments which will take years before they are profitable. Our long-term perspective also comes with a responsibility and commitment to preserving the legacy and reputation of the company for future generations.”
What has kept you motivated throughout your career?
“The challenges! Shipbuilding is a complicated business; its complexity requires specialised knowledge, while requirements, competition and cost price pose their own unique issues. For instance, can we build in a high labour cost environment like the Netherlands and still be competitive? That was a very difficult question. We created answers, and diverted a large part of our production to other countries. We are faced with new and different challenges all the time. It is exactly this problem-solving that can keep you interested in this business for your entire life.”
Where do you think the success of the Amels Limited Editions lies?
“The build approach. Because you repeat the same thing, you have a lower cost price, also the engineering costs are divided over the series instead of being applied to one ship. It has enabled more lucrative deals with co-makers, who are happy to participate in the series build. And, what we now also see is the Limited Editions yachts have a higher resale value in the market, which is an important factor for our clients.”
Which yacht would you choose to spend free time on with your family?
“No need to think twice - the Amels 80!”