Sea — August 2001
By Capt. Bill Pike
The Great Yacht Co-Op
|Part 2: Dutch Boatbuilding continued|
Why? Although such sweetness and light may have to do with the altruism that may or may not glorify the Dutch national character, a more likely explanation entails a quick look at the business model the Dutch use to build yachts. The essence of it is the use of highly skilled subcontractors, most but not all of them Dutch. In fact, Dutch builders these days are not so much creating yachts as assembling them from parts in much the same way that automobile manufacturers are assembling automobiles from vendor-supplied components in the United States. Instead of conventionally creating a yacht from the keel up with a multifaceted workforce–as we do in America–and adding a bunch of vendor-supplied auxiliary components, just about everything in Holland (including hulls, interiors, and superstructures) is farmed out to off-site subcontractors who complete the parts, truck or barge them to the yard in ready-to-install form, and often do the installation work as well.
The virtues of this system are numerous. With lots of stuff being crafted off-site, building schedules in the yards can be both simplified and speeded up. The bulkheads, decks, and framing members of a motoryacht, for example, can be treated for noise and vibration attenuation at the same time the interior is being created in a another town and the electrical system prefabbed in yet another town. With separate jobs being handled by specialized companies in different locations, one artisan is not messing up another’s work or schedule. And instead of having to maintain a huge, expensive labor force skilled in every conceivable discipline, most Dutch shipyards are free to streamline and specialize their workforces so employees can concentrate on overseeing the efforts of subcontractors who are experts in their own fields. The kicker is that because many of the yards in Holland use the same or related subcontractors and because many of the subcontracted workers have held jobs at one yard or another, the whole system has evolved into a sort of giant melting pot of technology where cooperation and shared R&D are virtually guaranteed. Compare this to boatbuilding in the United States where most manufacturers are ruggedly individualistic, sharing the boatbuilding load with vendors of peripheral products only and keeping new developments under wraps whenever possible.
Which is the better, more progressive system? Here are just a few of the groovy technological developments I came across in Holland:
• secondary main engine raw-water intakes located closer to the waterline than the primaries, to facilitate shallow-water running
• sophisticated, computer-enhanced noise- and vibration-attenuation systems for marine air-conditioners
• fin-type stabilizers that limit vessel roll at anchor as well as underway by means of extra-powerful, extra-fast hydraulics
• computer-powered, touch-screen panels that monitor all ship’s systems as well as all navigation functions
• interconnected inverter banks synergized with gel-type batteries capable of silently powering air-conditioning and other high-draw onboard systems for extended periods at anchor
• secondary ultra-steady, gyro-driven autopilots for boats that occasionally ply narrow rivers and other restricted inland waterways
• radiators for engine room cooling, so less salt-laden, corrosive intake air needs to be pulled in underway
• coarse (50 microns or so) prefilters on diesel fuel delivery systems well upstream of primary filters
• efficiency-enhancing, full-shroud propeller nozzles
• and finally, propeller-protecting skegs on twin-prop displacement-type yachts.
Although I’ve certainly
seen a few of the above features on American boats over the past couple
of years, I expect to encounter all of them eventually, either on production
or custom-built vessels, on this side of the pond. A pretty fair endorsement
of the Dutch way of doing things, I’d say.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.