Moonen Yachts-The Magic of Moonen
In the last year, many luxury brands have taken a hit due to the onset of COVID-19 and as we’ve seen, many businesses had to close their doors entirely. So, in the face of this global pandemic, how has Dutch superyacht builder, Moonen Yachts, managed to not only stay afloat, but in fact grow the business?
We are in conversation with the Managing Director of Moonen Yachts, Marianne Hendriks, to get her insights on the success, current yachts in build and the future direction of the shipyard.
What has been the major challenge for Moonen in this past year?
On the one hand, I see the pandemic as a challenge, but on the other hand, we’ve proven that it’s possible to successfully sell yachts online. We were very successful in 2020. We sold two yachts last year, both entirely online. With 36 meter KOKORO (YN199), we arranged everything by phone, video, Whatsapp or email and all decisions were made online. The owner never saw the yacht in person until she was delivered to her final destination! It is definitely possible, it just requires a different approach.
During the pandemic, people have become used to communicating over Zoom or Teams, so it became easier to use these tools. When you build yachts on speculation like we do, there’s always a yacht in production which we can show to the customer, even online. It’s very important for many people to see something tangible, to experience the quality of the product rather than just looking at the drawings on a piece of paper.
In general, the pandemic has opened up new opportunities; people are searching for a place where they can feel safe and secure with their family and friends and if you are on board your own yacht, it’s your own secure bubble. Certainly it is not an easy period, but I think we should remain optimistic.
Since 2019 Moonen has been under new ownership, how is the shipyard travelling now?
We are doing well! In 2020, we sold two 36 meter Moonen Martinique yachts. The first yacht M/Y KOKORO, was delivered to her owner earlier this year and the second project YN200, will be completed by the end of this year for a repeat customer in the United States. Further, we have two more yachts in production, a 36 meter and a 34 meter. The enthusiasm and encouragement of the new Australian company owners, Matthew and Louise Baxter, in combination with the newly appointed management has lifted the spirits of all our employees and has pushed the brand to a worldwide top position. At Moonen we feel the support of the Baxter’s on a daily basis. Through their network and passion for yachting we are able to ramp up production and enter new markets.
Negotiations and sales are all done by our team in the Netherlands, but Matthew and Louise are more than willing to introduce us to potential buyers. In addition to Australia, Moonen finds customers in the US, Middle-East and of course Europe. We build local, we act global.
Since the new management was appointed, what fundamental changes have taken place and what is the strategy to secure the future for Moonen Yachts?
Last June, when I was appointed Managing Director and Nicky van Zon Technical Director, we developed a short, mid and long term strategy. Together we focus on the shipyards’ future and welfare. We still specialise in building semi-custom steel-aluminium superyachts in the 30-50m range and we continue to lay hulls before the client arrives. This part of our strategy has not changed, but we are no longer concentrating on refits or building full custom yachts. Of course, if a client comes to us with a custom project, we are open to discuss, but our main goal is to build yachts on existing platforms. Building on spec on a proven platform greatly reduces delivery time, improves the quality and still leaves the client plenty of room for personalisation. In terms of refit, we will only take on yachts from the Moonen Yachts fleet, no other brands.
The Moonen Martinique is a popular model, why did you decide to bring Moonen 110, a more classical yacht to the market?
That’s an interesting question, but the answer is clear. Our strategy behind this decision is as follows. Out of the entire Caribbean line, the 36 meter Martinique is certainly highly requested. In the same line we have the 42 meter Marquis with a slightly different exterior design and this also gains a lot of interest. However our classics, which are recognised by many by their typical flared bow, like the signature Moonen 97 and Moonen 84, still receive a lot of attention. These people want to build something more contemporary, but with classic lines, so we’re offering them the Moonen 110. The key features of this yacht like durability and seaworthiness are the same as in the Martinique and Marquis, they’re all designed by René van der Velden Yacht Design, however the exterior lines are different and therefore will attract a different audience. The production of Moonen 110 will not stop the production of Martinique, both strengthen the shipyards’ portfolio and they complement each other.
What do you think about the future of boat shows, given that some Dutch shipyards are calling for their radical reform?
It’s hard to tell at the moment whether boat shows will be the same in the future. I strongly believe that a change is needed and if a change can be generated by this pandemic then that would be good. Let me explain why. The entire superyacht industry exists of buyers and suppliers. The shipyards are focused on buyers and the suppliers on the shipyards. So both are needed, but do not necessarily have to be present at the same yacht show at the same time. Potential buyers go to shows like the Monaco Yacht Show to visit and eventually purchase a yacht. The yachts are on display including all the equipment and supplies, so in fact the owner sees the ‘whole package’. This means that the shipyard is not just representing itself at the show, but also shows all the brands of equipment that have been used to produce the yacht. From that perspective and in my opinion, there is no need to showcase the equipment separately at the same show. It also makes the show too busy, a little distracting. The owners, who definitely drive the business, should be treated to the best possible experience. This approach could lead to a smaller event, but more exclusive and better tailored to the owner’s needs.
Supplier events such as METS in Amsterdam are a great example of where the supplier industry has a major focus and podium. This is where the shipyards should go as a buyer.
Does Moonen Yachts have the resources to research and develop its own knowledge of sustainable yachting?
Given the new Tier III regulations that are fully focused on emission free and green yachts, this is now a hot topic that should be on the agenda of every shipyard. In terms of sustainability we are not at the forefront right now of building the most “green yachts”, however we certainly take the environment into consideration and we also adapt to rulings to comply with all applicable standards.
Our research and development department will investigate options for the use of diesel-electric propulsion systems, hybrid propulsion, or reuse of energy on board, but at this moment, as we build semi-custom yachts that are built on pre-engineered platforms, we do not have hybrid systems yet. In the future, when there is more demand for hybrid yachts, or in case the regulations force us, we will of course adjust our strategy, investigate the topic and offer this solution to our clients.
What has been your best day at Moonen Yachts?
I think it was on the 9th of October last year, when we launched M/Y KOKORO. I hadn’t slept well the night before because I was so stressed. We had all put so much effort into building this beautiful piece of art and in my dreams she fell out of the crane three times. We have a very experienced team here, so of course everything went very smoothly. I remember looking at all our employees standing at the dock at the quay and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction at having fulfilled a customer’s dream. It was the first yacht that the yard had built with Matthew and Louise Baxter and also under my guidance, so that was a very special moment and I definitely consider it my best day so far.