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January 2005

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



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Emile Bilterijst, managing director of the Moonen shipyard, interviewed by Fabio Petrone


Dutch shipbuilding, and especially if we are talking about metal hulls, traditionally represents a point of reference for many international competitors, above all regarding the quality of the vessels produced. The great vessels built there - motor but also sail - cause a great stir and undoubtedly add lustre to the whole Dutch nautical industry, a production sector consisting of numerous other concerns. Yards that are perhaps less famous in our country but whose technical abilities, expressed in low production and great qualitative substance, are unquestionable.

Moonen is a name which sums up this concept perfectly. A medium or perhaps small yard, if compared to the extra large size that certain Italian concerns have taken on, which has based its production on a range of 20 metre to 40 metre vessels with steel hull and aluminium superstructure. It is known on the American market for its Bradfords, 90 and 92 foot boats that were launched recently, fruit of a partnership with the American company Bradford Yachts. They were designed by Vripack Design who interpreted their length with the classic look of the trawler, a once widely used workboat, especially in northern Europe. Moonen has lately achieved success through offering boats in small series, almost limited editions. This was the case with their 84 footer, of which there are four examples afloat, and will probably be the same with their new project for a bigger vessel - 114 feet - designed as an explorer yacht.

At the Munich Boat Show, dedicated to superyachts, we had the chance to meet Moonen managing director Emile Bilterijst. We talked about this new yacht, the 114 Explorer, but also about other interesting aspects of his company.

The 114 Explorer is a very important boat for us because it marks a further broadening of our market, our debut in the highly interesting sector of explorer yachts.

After the Bradfords, another classic style pleasure craft?

What is classic about this yacht is the concept of a safe vessel, comfortable, particularly tough and with a considerable range so that it can handle the longest and most demanding cruises with ease. For the rest, it's a boat which, from the technical viewpoint, will use the best possible solutions to guarantee a level of comfort that few others could equal. This in any case is also the philosophy behind all our boats. We invest a lot in both human and financial resources to ensure that every Moonen is a boat beyond criticism, equipped with increasingly reliable systems and with top level finish.

Who's the designer?

The boat was designed by René van der Velden, with the technical part by Stolk Marimecs in collaboration with the yard's design staff. Practically the same work group that did our Moonen 84, a yacht that is giving us a great deal of satisfaction.

Will it also have a steel hull and aluminium superstructure?

This is another part of our way of building. The hull will be displacement, in reinforced steel and therefore safe even in latitudes where ice is found. The vertical development, which is restrained, will be on three decks with the sundeck completely dedicated to relaxation and life in the open air. So I could also define it as a Mediterranean yacht, with adequate outdoor space for enjoying sun and sea to the full. The crew's night area and the four guest cabins, all with private bathroom, will be on the lower deck. On the Moonen 114, which will be launched in early 2006, the owner will have a forward area on the main deck, rendered really spacious by exploiting the whole breadth of the boat. The bridge and the skipper's quarters will be on the upper deck.

One feature of explorer yachts is their considerable range.

The boat has been designed to cruise for long periods, including without ports of call. This is why fuel capacity is no less than 45.000 litres. So at cruising speed of 10 knots she'll be able to sail no fewer than 4.500 miles. Maximum speed guaranteed by the two MTU 12V2000 engines will be 13 knots.

So with this boat you're starting a new line of explorer yachts?

This is what the yard expects. René van der Velden has already designed another two explorers. They're smaller - 90 and 76 feet respectively - and obviously from the aesthetic viewpoint they maintain the same family feeling expressed by the 114'. I'm very confident about their success, also because around 24 metres is still a very lively and competitive sector, notwithstanding the market trend towards bigger dimensions. To succeed in offering yachts of these lengths with great aesthetic personality and high technical content is one of the keystones in making a name for one's production.

You're concentrating a really interesting offer around the threshold of 80 feet, each time interpreting different forms of hull

Not just around 80 feet. To give you an example, by next spring we'll be launching another boat which in my opinion will have great client appeal: the Moonen 96, a yacht of enviable proportions, soaring, and really at home on the water. It will be a very spacious boat with no less than six guest cabins, one for the babysitter, plus of course accommodation for the crew of four and a large cabin for the owner. The design is by the "usual" René van der Velden while the generous disposition of spaces was carried out under the guidance of the Italian architect Alessandra Negrato.

Will this also be a long range cruiser?

In due proportion to the 114 Explorer, yes. The Moonen 96 will be suitable for long cruises, since at 9 knots she'll sail 3.500 miles.

And the maximum speed?

She'll do 13 knots.

I'd like to know your feelings about the market: what's the current situation and what will future developments be in the superyacht sector?

Undoubtedly the current situation in rates of exchange is very penalising for European shipbuilding. (Ed.'s Note: At the time of the interview the dollar was still far from breaking right through the 1,3 exchange rate with the euro). And not only for Holland and Moonen. In the USA, which represents a very vast potential user basin for all of us to some extent, we're losing competitiveness. We Dutch but also you Italians, the British, the Germans. Fortunately we're still doing well, although the question of exchange rate does force us to seek greater penetration into other markets.

Are you thinking about the so called emerging markets such as Russia or China?

I think those markets aren't yet ripe for certain types of boat. Sailing still has to grow there, it's at the outset. No, I'm thinking more of the Mediterranean market and all the world markets made available by this globalisation.