Heesen’s Drontmann bullish despite headwinds

Robert Drontmann, sales director, Heesen Yachts.

Spring is a time for fresh hope and green shoots, tempered by the knowledge that storms are still possible.

That certainly seems to be the mood at the Heesen shipyard in the Netherlands as we caught up with Robert Drontmann, sales director, Heesen Yachts.

We asked Robert for his take on how the market is faring, business at the yard and trends in the superyacht industry. Here are his thoughts

How is business at Heesen?

We have had a strong start to the year, especially with the sale of Project Jade. So far, in 2024, only nine new builds over 40m have been sold; we are delighted to be counted within these numbers. The sale is a testament to the hard work of our entire team and we are pleased to have once again worked with Jim Evans of SuperYachtsMonaco, who introduced the buyer.

It looks set to continue to be a busy year, with 13 yachts currently under construction. Four of these – Project Jade, Project Oslo24, Project Serena and Project Akira – are scheduled to launch and be delivered to their new owners this year.

READ: Jim Evans on the good, bad and ugly of broking

How has Heesen been affected by economic and geopolitical issues?

There is no avoiding the fact that global factors are impacting all ultra-luxury markets, including superyachts. The market has shown a significant slowdown since the highs that were experienced immediately post-pandemic.

However, Heesen’s diverse portfolio of series, smart custom and custom builds means that we are in a robust position as a yard. Our business model is based on consistently building four to six yachts a year and therefore we are less impacted by market fluctuations.

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What is your major pain point?

As a proud Dutch shipyard, I have to say that we don’t have pain points, as we are so well organised!

However, we are constantly striving to recruit the next generation of talent to join Heesen. The shipyard is in a region called Noord Brabant, which is 150km from the sea, and no other shipyards are nearby.

Typically, Dutch people do not like to relocate or commute and therefore we need to ensure that talented locals choose to join Heesen after they have completed their studies. The future success of Heesen is in the hands of the next generation and it is vital that we maintain our high standards of skill and craftsmanship.

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Heesen Yachts shipyard in the Netherlands.

Heesen Yachts’ shipyard in the Netherlands.

What are you most excited about?

As I mentioned above, we have four yachts due to hit the water this year, which is always a huge moment of achievement for the whole team. Project Oslo24 will be a particular highlight as she will be the first 50m steel smart custom yacht with Heesen’s hybrid propulsion system.

I am also looking forward to this year’s boat shows, as they are always a great opportunity to catch up with existing clients and meet potential new Heesen owners. We just returned from a successful Dubai Show, where the atmosphere was vibrant and positive. The Middle East is becoming an increasingly important market, which was demonstrated by the fact that the 80m Genesis, the 56m Galvas, the 50m Rocket, the 47m Asya, the 50m Amare II and two classic Heesen yachts, Red Sapphire and Verse (ex-Ammoun of London), were all in Dubai. We met with their captains and crew, which is also extremely important to maintain and nurture the relationship with our fleet.

We will be heading to the Palm Beach show, where we will be displaying the new 50m Book Ends, and I am excited to get a feel for the American market in 2024.

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What trends are you seeing?

Your “typical” superyacht purchaser is constantly evolving, as it is how they use their yachts. A lot of owners are now looking for a more relaxed environment that can be enjoyed by different generations. As a result, there is a much greater focus on the flow between interior and exterior spaces and a constant connection to the sea. This trend was the inspiration behind many of the design factors on Project Grace, which we revealed during last year’s Monaco Yacht Show. She features full-height windows to allow additional light, sliding windows in the saloon on the main deck to allow air to flow in and a split-level aft deck terrace to maximise the exterior spaces close to water.

There is no doubt that there is an increased focus across the entire superyacht industry on trying to find a more sustainable future. A big area of focus for Heesen is the materials that we are using for superyacht interiors.  We are trying to utilise an increasing number of recycled materials and are also looking at alternatives for materials such as teak. These are small tweaks, but owners are increasingly wanting to know the provenance of materials used on board.


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