Cars / Yachts

Asia’s Leading Yacht Builders Part 2: Yacht Style Special

With yachts made in Asia in global demand, Yacht Style looks at the productivity and innovation of some of the leading builders, from east to west.

May 13, 2019 | By John Higginson

Taiwan has historically been Asia’s leading builder of superyachts, with Horizon and Ocean Alexander regularly appearing in the top 10 of the Global Order Book.

The FD85 and FD87 from the popular Fast Displacement series by Taiwan's Horizon Yachts

The FD85 and FD87 from the popular Fast Displacement series by Taiwan’s Horizon

The vast majority of yacht building is in the southwest city of Kaohsiung, where Horizon has over 800 staff working across its four shipyards and marina, and is still led by CEO John Lu, who co-founded the company in 1987.

Horizon is most popular in the US and Australia, followed by Europe, a diversity reflected by its regular presence at the big shows in Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Sanctuary Cove and Sydney, and Cannes and Monaco, while this year it also exhibited at Palma in late April.

The yard builds motor yachts and powercats, and last year’s launches included a custom-built CC115 designed by Cor D. Rover for South American owners. The model was based on the hull design of the RP110, but extended to fit a large beach club with a hi/lo swim platform configured to launch the owners’ seaplane or the tenders via a custom track system. A foredeck theatre area was also added.

However, Horizon’s production is now dominated by the FD (Fast Displacement) series introduced by the FD85 in 2016, with the first 87 based on the same hull appearing early last year. The company has sold nine FDs and is building FD70, 77, 87 and 102 models.

Horizon’s record-breaking single-shot vacuum infusion on a 140ft hull

Horizon’s record-breaking single-shot vacuum infusion on a 140ft hull

“The FD Series has had unprecedented success, attracting attention – and orders – from the global market,” Lu said. “The number of FD yachts delivered in 2018 alone proves we are on the right track.”

This year, Atech Composites – part of the Horizon Group – broke its own world record set in 2005, completing the infusion of a 140ft motor yacht hull and stiffeners in a single shot, using vacuum-infusion technology and its proprietary 3D resin flow.

Fellow Kaohsiung shipyards like Ocean Alexander and Johnson are more focused on the US market. Founded by Alex Chueh in 1977 and led by his son Johnny since 2000, Ocean Alexander specialises in motoryachts from 70-120ft, but recently entered new territory with the Divergence 45, its first outboard model. The yacht is built at the shipyard’s Merritt Island facility in Florida – where the 70e is also manufactured – and had its world premiere at Miami.

The smallest production boat ever designed by superyacht specialist Evan Marshall, the Divergence 45 has patented door-within-a-door foldout bulwarks that expand the beam from 13ft 9in to 19ft 1in.

Also from Taiwan, the Johnson 80 in Kaohsiung

Also from Taiwan, the Johnson 80 in Kaohsiung, one of Asia’s yacht building hubs

This year, Johnson – founded in 1987, like Horizon – launched an 80-footer that’s now the entry-level yacht for the Kaohsiung yard, which builds up to 115ft. The four-cabin Johnson 80 has a top speed of 27 knots, a 6.30m (20ft 8in) beam, external lines by Bill Dixon and an interior by Karen Lynn.

“The Johnson 80 is sure to impress yachting enthusiasts all over the world, and the flexibility of the design will appeal to owners in ways production builds just can’t match,” said Andy Huang, President of Johnson.


Thailand-based Bakri Cono is renowned for its pioneering work in the use of solar technology on yachts, although the feature isn’t included on the new Heliotrope 48 powercat delivered this year to a Hong Kong company.

Built in Thailand, the Heliotrope 48 is delivered to Hong Kong

Built in Thailand, the Heliotrope 48 is delivered to Hong Kong

Other recent deliveries include a Heliotrope 48 to Australia – the yacht exhibited at the Sydney show last August – and several 41ft sailing catamarans, plus an RS 38 fast interception boat for Myanmar.

Founded in 2004, Bakri Cono was originally situated in Ocean Marina, but since 2015 has operated out of its privately owned 20,800sqm facility in the PMG Marine Complex in Rayong, southeast of Pattaya.

About 80 staff including students from two vocational schools work at the site, which has a 3m-deep pool able to test yachts up to 80ft, direct sea access and its own launching pier.

Grand Banks, Malaysia’s best-known builder, is based in Pasir Gudang in the southern state of Johor, north of Singapore where Grand Banks Yachts Limited – which has owned Sydney-based Palm Beach Motor Yachts since 2014 – is listed on the Singapore Exchange. The Group continues to upgrade its facility, where it has increased useable covered space and implemented robotics to accelerate the design and prototyping of new boats.

The Grand Banks shipyard in Johor, Malaysia

One of Asia’s renowned yacht brands, Grand Banks builds in Johor, Malaysia

The company produces the Grand Banks 60, Eastbay 44 and the Palm Beach series of yachts including the GT50 that premiered last year and will be followed by the GT60 and GT70. The new Grand Banks GB52 will premiere at Cannes in September.

The company is enjoying a strong run, having posted a 10-year-high profit of S$9.5 million (about US$7 million) for the 2017-18 financial year, then secured 12 sales – including three GB60s – in the last quarter of 2018 for a net order book of S$42.8 million (about US$31.6 million).

The US is comfortably the largest market for Grand Banks, which is known for its classic, trawler-style boats, having been founded as American Marine in Hong Kong in 1956 before opening a factory in Singapore in 1973.

Gulf Craft is the dominant yacht builder in West Asia and has a wide range of yachts from 27-175ft, including the Majesty 140 launched in Dubai last year along with the Majesty 62 and a Touring 48. The GCC is the yard’s largest market, followed by Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Built in the UAE, a Gulf Craft Majesty 110 in Dubai Creek

Built in the UAE, a Gulf Craft Majesty 110 in Dubai Creek

The yard is completing its biggest-ever yacht, the Majesty 175, which will succeed the 155 as the yard’s biggest model. Designed by Cristiano Gatto and scheduled to launch in the third quarter of this year, it will be the world’s largest commercial yacht over 500GT made from advanced composite materials and certified in full compliance with the MCA LY3 Code, according to Gulf Craft.

Gulf Craft’s other brands include the Nomad Yachts, Oryx, Silvercraft and Utility Series brands, and with several commercial contracts as well, the company employs about 1,500 staff, headed by CEO Gregory Yeakle who took over from Erwin Bamps last year.

UAE is also home of the spectacular Foiler, ‘The Flying Yacht’ that premiered at the Dubai show last year and looks like a getaway boat for James Bond.

Enata, one of the Middle East’s leading composites manufacturers, builds the Foiler in its 7,000sqm yard, which employs about 200 people across its three divisions: Marine, Aerospace and Architecture. The company was founded by French entrepreneur Sylvain Vieujot and its work is diverse, from making foiling kitesurf boards for the Olympics to building the dome for the second-largest mosque in Mecca.

Foiler, ‘The Flying Yacht’ built by Enata in the UAE, cruises in Saint-Tropez

Foiler, ‘The Flying Yacht’ built by Enata in the UAE, cruises in Saint-Tropez

Alois Vieujot, Manager at Enata, said: “We are a family of sailors and kitesurfers, and have used foiling in kites and catamarans for
 a decade, so are aware of all the benefits of foiling. We produce professional drones, racing sailing boats and kitefoils, so the Foiler is really a blend of all those technologies, a very natural step for Enata.”

The Foiler is now available in various layouts, while new options include a hardtop, joystick controller, head-up display and a 740hp hydrostatic propulsion system that offers a 20 per cent increase in fuel efficiency at top hydrofoiling speeds compared to the first model.

Whether it’s Aquila’s wraparound swim platform, Bakri Cono’s solar power, Horizon’s infusion technology or Enata’s radical Foiler design, Asia’s yacht builders are proving their innovation is starting to match their build quality and productivity.

The full article appeared in Yacht Style Issue 46 along with profiles of yards in China, which are covered in a separate article on Luxuo (see below).

Email for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at:

Asia’s Leading Yacht Builders Part 1: Yacht Style Special



Back to top