It’s been a hectic couple of days in Amsterdam’s enormous Rai conference centre. I’ve been speaking to the majority of the UK contingent about what they thought of the show and the wider, global marine market. The consensus is definitely more positive than seen in recent years, with an upbeat outlook for 2014 – reflected by the 230 new exhibitors and a completely sold out superyacht pavilion.
There is no denying the marine market, and especially the middle market METS largely caters for, has struggled since 2008. Countless brands have disappeared but those who managed to survive to tell me they have learned from the experience and have more focused objectives – consolidating product ranges, improving quality and pushing R&D.
This renewed emphasis on R&D was visible throughout the show, with several major developments on display, including from MTM’s client VEEM, who were showcasing its revolutionary new gyro stabilisation system, the VEEM Gyro 40. There was also a raft of new devices vying to be recognised by the annual Dame awards, with Future Fibres’ German partner, Kohlhoff, nominated for its new LOOP Snake furling cable system.
At the inaugural award ceremony, it was Sleipner Motor AS which took the grand prize for its latest fin based stabiliser. Designed to better suit the modern hull forms, Sleipner Motor hopes that it will enable fin based systems to continue their dominance, in the face of increasing competition from gyro-based products from the likes of VEEM and Seakeeper.
During the final session of The Superyacht Report’s Global Superyacht Forum, designers Ken Freivokh and Martin Francis, as well as land-based structural engineer Mitsu Edwards turned the tables and asked owners to better embrace emerging new technologies, with Freivokh remarking: “The onboard experience needs to be made more exciting…and the onus is on owners to take these risks”.
The land-based architecture was acknowledged to be ‘streets ahead’ of naval architecture because of investors’ failure to innovate and Blohm+Voss’ Patrick Coote bemoaned the failure of owners to break from the yachting mould. This prompted a plea to owners “to follow the lead of the industrialists of the revolution”, who commissioned the projects that championed the inventive ambitions of the era’s engineers.
In spite of this supplication for owners to take more risks, overall, most of those I chatted with agreed that 2014 should see order numbers continue in the positive trajectory seen in 2013. Orders were said to be up on this time last year and for some, order books are now extending to 2015. There are still countless widgets to be sold before we replicate the highs of 2007 but it seems the UK marine industry has turned the corner and is up for the fight.