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Palfinger August 2022

Yacht design - why employ a Naval Architect?

Naval Architects are professional engineers who are responsible for the design, construction and repair of a wide variety of marine vessels and structure. Some Naval Architects specialise in the design and refits of leisure vessels and yachts. This could be anything from a small sailing boat to large cutting edge technology racing multi-hull yachts or all the way up to a super and mega-yacht, which is can be as complex as commercial passenger ship. 

Modern engineering is essentially a team activity conducted by professional engineers in their respective fields and disciplines. However, it is the Naval Architect who integrates their activities and takes ultimate responsibility for the overall project. This role requires managerial qualities and ability to bring together the often conflicting demands of the various professional engineering disciplines involved to produce a product which is "fit for the purpose". In addition to this vital managerial role, the Naval Architect has also a specialist function in ensuring that the design is safe, seaworthy and meets operational requirements. Depending upon the project a Naval Architect may be employed to represent the owner, management company and/or project manager or the shipyard. 

Trained as professional engineers, there are a wide range of opportunities for employment worldwide. Most Naval Architects will have a degree or diploma recognized by a professional body like the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) and will have a recognised national or international engineering qualification such as Chartered Engineer (C.Eng.), Incorporated Engineer (I.Eng.), European Engineer (Eur.Ing.), Professional Engineer (PEng or PE). Some may also be members of relevant industry bodies such as the Yacht Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA). 

Depending upon the size of the yacht (usually defined by length or tonnage), the maximum number of “passengers” to be carried and whether the vessel will be engaged in international sea going voyages or restricted to inland or coastal voyages it will have to comply with a range of national and/or international regulations such as; the Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2) issued by the UK Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), Maritime Labour Convention (2006), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) marine pollution (MARPOL) and Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) conventions. Aspects of the structural design of the yacht may also be governed by strict requirements of classifications societies such as Lloyds Register, ABS, etc. 

A superyacht design is a delicate balance between many factors including; speed, power, structural integrity, weight, stability and cost. A request to change any one of these factors will have an impact on many other aspects of the design. Increasing the maximum speed of the yacht even by just a couple of knots will require significantly more power, which may require more engine room space to accommodate a larger engine and fuel tanks. The extra weight from the engine and fuel will affect the draught and trim of the vessel, which will affect stability, vessel motions and increase the power required. A larger more powerful engine may even increase noise and vibration levels in the owner’s cabin. 

A superyacht will also function as a floating home and entertainment space, so in addition to the essential engineering calculations the Naval Architect must also understand the aesthetics of the design. Dubois Yachts on their website state that they ‘design beautiful yachts but they are also significant pieces of engineering. They marry seaworthiness with grace and this union spawns concepts which perform well at every level. The partnering of great design and excellence in naval architecture is at the heart of our philosophy’. 

If a Naval Architect is to be commissioned to undertake a yacht design it is important to establish who will own the copyright and intellectual property right to the design. It is also essential to clearly understand what the actual deliverables will be. This could vary from just concept design, a preliminary outline design and general arrangement all the way to construction drawings and plan approval. 

Another question to consider is whether the Naval Architect has Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance and how much cover does it provide. If things do wrong with a project what are the likely financial consequence and how important is it that damages or compensation could be claimed if the designer is proved to be negligence? Such insurance does place a significant financial burden on a small design company so someone that does carry significant amount of PI insurance is unlikely to be the cheapest quote. A prospective contractor may also be rather wary if the first question the clients ask is regarding PI insurance. Indeed some PI policies will also have a clause stating that its existence is not to be disclosed or discussed. RINA recommend its members have the appropriate level of PI insurance to cover the work they are undertaking and YDSA actually requires it members have suitable PI cover.

RINA membership

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Euronaval Apr - Oct 2022

Herbert Engineering

Uni Stratchclyde June 2021

Metstrade May 2022