Marcel Onkenhout, CEO of Oceanco, was honored recently by the International Superyacht Society (ISS) with its Excellence in Innovation Award, given to a business or person demonstrating improvements and originality in their activities within the previous year. ISS acknowledged that, while other leading megayacht yards have had generations of success to lean on, Oceanco had, through Onkenhout’s steady leadership, taken the company forward in a far shorter timeframe. The shipyard he oversees in Alblasserdam, Holland, which is near Rotterdam, has a 476- x148-foot (145- x 45-meter), climate-controlled shed for building or refitting yachts of up to 426 feet (130 meters), and a private harbor with a 426-foot (130-meter) quayside. A ship’s elevator and three cranes, with a lifting capacity of 10 to 20 tons, offer transportation from build shed to water. The main building also accommodates two independent construction units, two machinery units, two carpentry units, two spraying facilities, and two outfitting units.
Onkenhout believes that true innovation in megayacht construction is the discovering of better ways to do things, being more creative in design while finding new ways to build yachts, and providing better after-sales service. Here he speaks frankly to Megayacht News about the ever-increasing sizes of yachts, Oceanco moving into sailing-yacht construction, and more.
MYN: How do you think Oceanco stands apart from other shipyards when targeting the super-size megayacht market?
MO: We hope we attract our owners because of our proven track record of building some of the most successful and recognized custom, large, quality yachts.
MYN: Outside Europe, where else do you think owners should seek to build a megayacht?
MO: It all depends what an owner’s brief is: what he/she is looking for in terms of the level of quality, build experience, technical reliability, after sales, price, etc. We know that some people choose to build in South America, China, or Down Under…it is entirely their prerogative. We are not in the position to suggest alternative places to build, as we believe that we offer unique yachts and build experiences.
MYN: Shipyards in Holland are building bigger and bigger megayachts. Is there a limit to size, and if so, what is the nature of that limit?
MO: I cannot speak for other builders; what I do know is we at Oceanco are building facilities that will be able accommodate the build of larger yachts.
MYN: Is it important to you that you are building the largest yacht in Holland, and if so, why?
MO: Of primary importance to us is that we succeed in building yachts of ever better quality, technology, and craftsmanship, and ensure our owners’ expectations are always exceeded during the build and during the lifetime of the yacht. The bottom line is not the size but a satisfied owner that is of primary importance.
MYN: Oceanco has recently been awarded contracts to build two large sailing yachts. Do you think this is the beginning of a switch away from motor towards sail?
MO: I think there will always be those who are sailing-yacht enthusiasts and those who prefer motoryachts. We do not see a quantitative shift in the market. Our goal is simply to produce and deliver high-quality, large custom yachts, whether they be motor or sail.
MYN: What are you allowed to tell us about either of these contracts?
MO: We cannot tell you much due to our confidentiality undertakings and out of respect for our owners’ privacy wishes. As these projects develop, and should our owners wish to, we hope to reveal more details.
MYN: Do you think megayacht building will ever return to the state it was in during 2006/7?
MO: Yes and no. Yes, I think there will be a renewed demand for larger yachts. No, in that I believe the industry has learned a lesson from the 2006/7 hype that resulted in numerous, unrealistic promises, from both yards and owners, being left unfulfilled.
MYN: What has to happen in the world before more millionaires buy megayachts?
MO: Education and awareness of the positive build experiences and the message to prospective yacht owners how the yachting lifestyle can bring joy to them and their families.
MYN: Oceanco has had several owners in the past. You now have financial backing from the Middle East. How secure is it, and how does having such security help you plan for the future?
MO: Our backing from the chairman of our company, Dr Mohammed Al Barwani, is secure. He has invested in Oceanco’s growth and future from day one, and Oceanco itself has an established and experienced management, proven track record, and strong asset base.
MYN: How do megayacht builders like you attract new owners into an industry when you are not allowed to talk about what they have done?
MO: Our yachts speak for themselves. We also believe we benefit from word of mouth from satisfied owners. We are experiencing sustained interest in Oceanco, so hopefully we are doing something right.
MYN: Do you think client confidentiality agreements are help or a hindrance?
MO: Client confidentiality agreements exist to satisfy owners’ requirements—be they security, privacy, competitive, or personal needs. We are there to provide a service to these owners, and if confidentiality is one of their requirements, then we are only too happy to comply. Everyone is entitled to privacy if they so wish.
MYN: Where (in the world) do you think the next generation of yacht owner will come from?
MO: I think in today’s world the very wealthy and successful live in several countries, with business interests and activities all over the world, so it is not really relevant where they come from.