Moonen Shipyards has long been known for custom and semi-custom motoryachts that typically range from about 80 feet to 100 feet. The Dutch builder often refers to them as “pocket-sized superyachts,” and the expression is apt for the exceptional level of fit and finish accorded these vessels, given their length. But these days, pockets need to be a lot bigger—and deeper, too—since the company recently delivered its new flagship, a 124-footer christened Northlander that raises the company’s bar another notch in both size and quality.
Besides being a great new motoryacht in her own right, Northlander is a fitting showcase for the capabilities of Moonen Shipyards as they gradually begin adding larger and larger yachts to the top end of their range, business which continues on a strong basis. Recent and coming deliveries include a 99-foot, all-aluminum motoryacht which launched last year, two 97-foot steel/aluminum yachts due to be delivered this year, and a 110-foot steel/aluminum motoryacht planned for a 2012 launch. In addition, the yard completed extensive refits of two earlier Moonen yachts last year.
All of these projects are done with the same attention to detail that befits Moonen’s move up the size meter, but it was a 94-foot build from a few years ago that really changed the company’s direction. That yacht, Nilo, was the company’s first all-aluminum build of that size, and is the personal yacht of Salim Erdem, principal owner of Merit AS of Turkey, and the latest owner of Moonen Shipyards.
Speaking with Erdem and Moonen Managing Director Emile Bilterijst aboard Northlander, we discussed the company and its future. “I am the living proof of how a spirit of cooperation at Moonen can create a better product,” said Erdem. “Several years ago I chose Moonen, after visiting several other yards, to build Nilo.” Erdem told me he has “no short-term plans” to move any part of Moonen’s production to Turkey, an obvious possibility in light of the country’s well-established and growing boatbuilding industry. “I didn’t enter Moonen for just a financial investment or for profit,” Erdem said. “It is more a symptom of a passion to continue moving the shipyard forward. Yes, we are pleased with the facilities, but we are more interested in the spirit and humanity of the team and its quality.”
The team to which Erdem refers includes more than just Moonen employees. Bilterijst is a graduate naval architect who has a hand in the planning of every Moonen yacht, but he disclaims credit for their design, giving that instead to outside design consultants that change from boat to boat. For Northlander, the list included Rene van der Velden Yacht Design, Art-Line Interior Design, and Stolk Marimecs, as well as Moonen’s own engineers.
Such a diverse and changing mix obviously requires coordination, and that’s where Bilterijst shines. As a designer himself, he knows what’s involved and can keep the team members working together without having them step on each other’s toes. It’s a critical part of the process that is recognized by Erdem as a path to excellence. Making the most of the skilled players brought into a build means the result will be greater than the sum of its parts.