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Cars / Yachts

Guide: Dutch Superyacht Builders

The Dutch affinity with water and home grown talent has helped the country acquire a world-renowned reputation for building some of the finest superyachts.

Jan 13, 2016 | By null

It was the Dutch who invented the concept of yachting; the word ‘yacht’ originated from the Dutch word ‘jacht’, meaning ‘hunt’. Over time the concept of a yacht changed from meaning a light naval vessel for chasing pirates, to a pleasure vessel used by wealthy Dutch merchants. And so began the use of yachts purely for pleasure, and fun.
HISWA Holland Yachting Group is a consortium of 45 Dutch shipbuilders and suppliers, all committed to putting the Dutch Superyacht Industry on the world stage under the umbrella ‘Think Yachts, Think Holland’.

Our friends at YachtStyle bring us this guide, an extensive look into the prime movers in the business of building superyachts in the Netherlands, specifically the region known as Holland.

Jeroen Sirag, export director of the Holland Yachting Group says, “heritage, creativity and innovation are the pillars that form the foundation of the superyacht industry and give Holland an unrivaled reputation for building ‘simply the best’ in the world.” Many Dutch shipbuilding companies started out as family-owned businesses and many of them still are. This continuity of knowledge gives the shipbuilding industry enormous depth; each generation passes on to the next the traditions and the passion for boat building.

The Dutch can be stubborn, and are proud of it. This works to their advantage, as it is their determination to build the best, and never compromise on quality, which means they are able to meet the requirements of the most demanding superyacht owners. Creativity is another positive trait, as it translates into boundless development, which allows them to be able to translate into reality many of the out of this world ideas that superyacht owners dream up. And to temper the mix, the Dutch do have a flexible side to their nature, which means that they are able to adapt to ever-changing regulations and client demands, turning unprecedented challenges and complications into ‘run-of-the-mill’ daily activities. Constantly finding innovative solutions for the things that have never been done before is a skill that makes this small country stand out.


One of the oldest and most well known of the family owned superyacht shipyards is Feadship. Considered by many to be the Rolls-Royce of the shipbuilding world, Feadship traces its roots back to 1849, when the Akerboom family bought a small shipyard off the coast of the Netherlands to build and repair boats. They joined with the Van Lent family in 1927, and then in 1949 together with De Vries, another family-based shipyard, founded Feadship. With a reputation par excellence, Feadship are leaders in the field of research and development and the yachts are built with the future in mind. Feadship believes that the build process is just as important as the product itself, and they work hard to involve the client during the build.

Dick van Lent, CEO of Van Lent shipyard

Dick van Lent, CEO of Van Lent shipyard

Over 450 yachts have been launched since 1949, and Feadship owners include royalty and celebrities from around the world; Gerald Ford, Charlton Heston, King Khalid of Saudi Arabia and Roman Abromovich to name but a few. The award-winning brand is gaining recognition in Asia with Feadship’s sponsorship of the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous in Phuket, and the recent tour of the 45m Helix to the Asian region, which lead to their first Chinese buyer. Some of Feadship’s recent award-winning launches includes Hampshire II and Como for Neville Crichton.

Como by Feadship

Como by Feadship

The most recent launches Moon Sand and Kiss will be on display at the forthcoming Monaco Yacht Show.
If it is a super sailing yacht you are looking for, then Royal Huisman is the shipyard yard to beat. Founded in 1884, this is another Dutch shipyard with family roots, and the new main shareholder Doeksen is another family run shipyard with a royal warrant. Alice Huisman is the fifth generation to be at the helm, and assisting her is the new managing director Roemer Boogaard who joined the company in June this year. In 1976, the shipyard built the 65ft Flyer for Conny van Rietschoten, who entered the 1977–78 Whitbread Round the World Race and won. Their success was repeated in the following Whitbread race (now called the Volvo Ocean Race) with van Rietschoten’s 76ft Flyer II (1981), which took line honours in all four legs. In 1984 the shipyard was awarded the Royal Seal by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and became known as Royal Huisman.

Over the years the shipyard has built some of the most famous maxi racing yachts, along with performance cruising superyachts that now compete in growing numbers, in the superyacht regattas around the world. Twizzle (57.5m), which was launched in 2010, recently participated in the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous, and the 43m Germán Frers designed sloop Sea Eagle commissioned for an experienced offshore sailor from Taiwan was launched in August 2015. Whether it is a replica J-Class like Hanuman, or the 90m Athena (the largest yacht built by the yard), or even the new Ed Dubois 58m nicknamed ‘The Beast’, Royal Huisman continues to make history by building some of the best sailing yachts in the world.

Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous 2013 Hanuman Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous 2013 Hanuman; Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Amels is another company with a long history. Situated on the estuary of the river Scheldt, Vlissingen has long been considered the spiritual home of Dutch shipbuilding. When the Dutch navy moved out at the end of the 19th century, the Royal Shipyard de Schelde took its place, and the historic yard is the site of both Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding and Amels. Since 1918, Amels has launched over 50 luxury yachts, and today there are eight new superyacht projects underway, including the largest ever Amels-built yacht, the 83m Amels 272. Their Limited Editions range (55m to 83m) began as an idea to create the perfect balance between full custom and semi-custom, and the recently launched 60m Madame Kate will be on display at the Monaco Yacht Show.

Roeland Franssens, MD of Holland Jachtbow

Roeland Franssens, MD of Holland Jachtbow. Photo: Guy Nowell

Holland Jachtbouw is a giant in the superyacht sailing world. Their recently expanded facilities based in Zaandam, located on the outskirts of Amsterdam, are turning out some of the most beautiful classic yachts in the world. The company has a superior reputation for top quality builds of innovative custom projects, and the skilled craftsmen take almost fanatical pride in their work to produce a world class product using efficient modern techniques and cutting edge technology, ultimately providing each client with an exceptional yacht at a realistic price level. Holland Jachtbouw enjoys close ties to the J-Class Association, and has become a partner to the (JCA) at a pivotal point in the history of this majestic class.


AMELS Shipyard in Vlissingen

The very latest J, Topaz, was launched from the shipyard in June 2015, joining her stablemate Rainbow who was launched from HJB in 2012. Exciting times lie ahead for the J-Class, which was recently invited to take part in the 2017 America’s Cup, and also for Holland Jachtbouw, who have exclusive ownership of the rights to build two more J-Class yachts – J9 and Yankee. At the same time HJB are at the leading edge of modern builds and have a co-operation with Multiplast for the build of carbon composite superyachts – undoubtedly the future for superyacht builds.

Superyachts to take you into the future are the speciality of the ultra modern shipyard, Oceanco. This state of the art facility is a privately owned custom yacht shipyard that builds full displacement yachts in the 80m+ range. Since its inception in 1987, Oceanco has built 26 custom superyachts up to 110m in length. Several 100m+ yachts are currently under construction, and the company has the ability to simultaneously build five yachts in the 80m+ category (in various stages of design, engineering and construction), delivering approximately two yachts per year. In 2008 the company acquired more land adjacent to their existing yard, and in 2010 they set about demolishing the old buildings and slips to make way for a new state of the art covered dry dock, which now allows them to construct yachts up to 140m – indoors, until the moment they float out of the shed. Also in 2010 the company was acquired by private investor Dr Mohammed Al Barwani, who is based in the Sultanate of Oman.


Oceanco’s spectacular 88.5m Nirvana

Oceanco maintains a sales, design, marketing and communications office in Monaco and its extended production facility (total of 8.2ha) is located in Alblasserdam, approximately 20km from Rotterdam, with unrestricted direct access via the inland waterway system to the North Sea. Some of the most famous yachts to have been launched by Oceanco include Alfa Nero (Y702) 82m, and the 75.5m Anastasia, which was on display at the Singapore Yacht Show this year. Several Oceanco vessels are currently under construction including a 106m and a 110m yacht.

Heesen Yachts was the first Dutch shipyard to construct yacht hulls in aluminium. Since then the company has become a world leader in design, engineering and construction of high-performance motor yachts. Founded by Frans Heesen in 1978 in Oss, the breakthrough year for Heesen was 1988 when American entrepreneur John Staluppi commissioned Heesen to build a yacht that could do more than 50kts. The result was Octopussy, later renamed Octopussy 007, after the 1983 James Bond film. In 1992 the shipyard expanded its business to include the construction of traditional displacement yachts, and today they deliver superyachts in the 30m to 80m size range – and beyond.

Over 35 years Heesen has delivered nearly 170 yachts, and the current fleet includes aluminium, steel, displacement, semi-displacement and the new revolutionary fast displacement designs. The spectacular 65m Galactica Star received a number of awards after her launch, and in 2014 Heesen Yachts signed their largest project to date, a 70m aluminum fast displacement yacht, codenamed ‘Project Kometa’. Built in collaboration with Espen Oeino, she will have a top speed of 30kts and is scheduled for delivery in 2016.

Continental I 20.00 Wheelhouse Croatia

Elegant Continental series from the van der Valk shipyard

Hakvoort is one of the smaller shipyards in Holland, but they have mastered the building process in steel, aluminium and wood, and build motor yachts and sailing yachts up to 65m in length and have a purpose-built facility for major refits. Situated in the beautiful and historic village of Monnickendam, the facilities include two enclosed and temperature controlled docking and construction halls, along with a metal workshop. In 1919 Albert Hakvoort purchased a shipyard, and then went on to lay down the firm foundations of a thriving business that would eventually put the name of Monnickendam back on the world maritime map. Hakvoort Shipyard started out building fishing boats, moving into the superyacht niche as the demand grew. The yard has remained firmly in family hands, passing down from father to son several times. In fact, entire families of craftsmen have worked at Hakvoort for generations, helping create an atmosphere of personal involvement in company and community alike.

Wim van der Valk

Wim van der Valk

Another passionate Dutch yachtsman and watersports enthusiast, Wim van der Valk founded the company that bears his name and remains the driving force behind the shipyard. Located in Waalwijk, the shipyard was founded in 1968 and has built a rich heritage in both steel and aluminum motor yachts. The elegant Continental series is the signature product, and the shipyard has produced over one hundred yachts of this design. The yard has begun construction on an all-aluminum 24m semi-custom Continental Trawler 2395 Flybridge model that has been designed for the yard by Guido de Groot.

Holland boasts some wonderful yacht designers as well as shipyards. Guido de Groot Design are specialists in innovative interior and exterior design of luxury superyachts. De Groot spent six years as a car designer in Paris with French car manufacturer Citroën before launching Guido de Groot Design in 1997. Guido’s passion for yachts began back in 1986 when he saw the fourth “Highlander” close to completion at the Feadship De Vries yard. Awestruck by the majesty of this 45m masterpiece, Guido started drawing yachts in parallel with his career in car design. The next decade was spent learning everything there was to know about luxury yachts.

Marnix Hoekstra and Bart Bouwhuis are the creative directors of Vripack. Since 1961, their office has created over 7000 designs including Star, which was built in China. Known for their high quality no-nonsense-go-anywhere ships that roam the seven seas, Vripack believe that good design shouldn’t meet all requirements – rather, it should surpass them. The company’s holistic approach is crucial when working with cutting edge design and technology and they believe they don’t just design yachts; they ‘engineer fantasies’.

Holland has an absolutely unique connection to the sea, and the success of the superyacht industry in the Netherlands is most entirely due to the calibre of the Dutch Shipyards and suppliers who wave their wands and weave a kind of magic that translates into something beyond the best.

Story Credits

By Suzy Rayment (Editor-at-large, YachtStyle)

Photos by Dick Holthuis (opener), Guy Nowell, Carlo Borlenghi and Franco Pace

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