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For the yachting professional on the Mediterranean


Article by ONBOARD Magazine

superyacht support vessel


Damen is one of the world’s largest shipbuilders, with 35 shipyards around the world and more than 6,000 vessels delivered. Since their acquisition of Amels in 1991, yachting has evolved into a substantial part of their extensive portfolio and represents a market that this family-owned business is truly passionate about. In 2008 they became the first shipyard to create a purpose-built Yacht Support combining its shipbuilding

expertise in commercial markets with its superyacht knowhow. With 15 unique Yacht Supports delivered to date and more under construction, what is it about these Damen support yachts that is proving such a winning formula?

Around 2005, they began developing their own newbuild support yacht concept based on their successful SEA AXE hull form, an innovation developed and patented by Damen for their high-tech offshore, navy and coast guard clients and of which they have delivered more than 200. “In Yachting, we saw a new opportunity for the SEA AXE to lift our clients’ experiences to a higher level and we went for it. It’s the entrepreneurial spirit that has driven our family business for a century,” explains Rose Damen, third generation family shareholder and Managing Director of Damen’s yachting division. “Today, our Yacht Supports, with their renowned SEA AXE design, can be found all around the world – US, Caribbean, Tahiti, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, Antarctica and more.”

The new generation of younger superyacht owners are certainly influencing the rise of support yacht popularity. Conventional yachting ideas are changing. Many want to head off the beaten track and don’t want to be limited by the size of the mother yacht. They want to enjoy more active vacations with lots of water sports, diving, fun on the water. To achieve the complete high-end yachting experience, these owners are looking to boost capability with additional practical and functional configurations that work to their own adventure needs, that can house the most exhilarating equipment and provide the space and capacity to facilitate all of this.

Damen’s Yacht Support range provides the flexibility to achieve just that and Rose Damen explains how. “A Damen Yacht Support is not a conversion of an obsolete supply boat. It is a purpose-built luxury yachting solution that can be used as stand-alone vessels with guest and crew accommodation or to support the mother yacht. Within the range each design is continuously evolving in that owners and potential clients have the option to customise and enhance the vessel subject to their specific needs. The versatility of the Damen Yacht Support platform allows owners to think of the complete yachting solution that is right for them.”

Damen Yacht Support
Damen Yacht Support
Damen yacht support power play

Capacity and practicality are key, both for the owner in terms of enjoyment and for the crew when it comes to operation. In terms of the Damen Yacht Support range, this means large deck space providing storage away from the mother yacht for a multitude of craft such as various RIBs, limousine tenders for transfers to the marina, day boats for exploring the coast, wakeboats, dive tenders, fishing craft, beach landers, sailboats, plus lots of jetskis for the whole family. Submersibles and underwater adventure are increasingly popular and the design of the Yacht Support is also suited to large dive centres with trimix dive facilities. And it doesn’t just have to be water related. Snowmobiles, 4-wheel drive vehicles, light aircraft or seaplanes are amongst the popular choice of additional transport modes to carry on board.

With such tenders, toys and cargo on board, crew need the assurance of expert and professional handling. The Yacht Support delivers just that with heavy duty lifting gear and control systems. Features such as the A-frame launch and retrieval system enable safe and controlled lowering into the sea and positioning on deck whilst the high performance knuckle-boom crane is a workhorse unmatched on any conventional yacht. “We call them toys, but at this level we’re really talking about heavy pieces of machinery that need to be transported and deployed safely and professionally in a variety of conditions,” says Mark Vermeulen, Product and Development Director.

Helicopters are a major attraction for superyacht support, and create much less disruption on the mother yacht. The Yacht Support provides a personal airfield wherever you are in the world with the option of a dedicated hangar and below deck fuel station. “Helicopters are getting bigger and bigger and they tend to have a longer prep time. They sit on deck with motors running and the pilots are plugging in routes. If that’s happening on your yacht, and you’re trying to have a cocktail, the noise is quite annoying. Another thing you’ll find is that it pulls the crew away from the rest of their tasks. So having it on a Yacht Support, it’s a totally separate environment. Landing and taking off is easy, it’s safe, it’s got the right crew and the right amenities. So your yacht can carry on running as you like it,” explains Kenan Seginer, helicopter pilot and superyacht captain.

It’s not all about the toys. More gear needs more people and the Yacht Support has been designed with this in mind with the space and facilities to carry the extra staff needed to operate it all, for example, submarine pilots, helicopter pilots, dive and expedition guides, deckhands. In addition, a Yacht Support can be used to accommodate staff that owners want nearby, but not on their yacht, such as security teams and executive staff.

Another purpose is to carry provisions, refrigerated goods, china, laundry and luggage, spare parts – all necessary when yachts are heading off the beaten track where there is little infrastructure. Few conventional yachts have the space to store so many provisions. And importantly, the support yacht also stores all the mother yacht’s garbage in cooled chillers and the waste water in large tanks. This is important and also required in many zero-discharge zones so that destinations are left as pristine as they were found.

It is the flexibility and capacity which makes the Damen Yacht Support so unique. The onboard facilities allow the adventure further afield with more provisions, more staff, more tools in place to deliver maximum enjoyment once there. The autonomy the range offers opens up a world of opportunities and discovery. The practicalities ensure a smoother, safer and more extensive operation. It’s very difficult and costly to achieve the same capability in one luxury yacht, which is constrained by exterior design considerations. The combination of a luxury yacht and a support yacht is a much lower total cost of ownership and is what Damen refers to as ‘the Smart Stretch’. It is far more economically viable to add a yacht support vessel than it is to upgrade a 50m superyacht for example to a 90m for the capability to accommodate additional needs and requirements in terms of supplies and equipment. Adding a Yacht Support is a logical extension of an owner’s existing fleet and offers owners more versatility.

superyacht support vessel
Damen Yacht Support AXIS1