Superyachts taking shape on Southampton's shore

James Roy

In conversation James Roy Yacht Design Director BMT Nigel Gee

Shamrock Quay, a bustling marina nestling on the banks of the River Itchen, famously took its name from the J-class yacht, Shamrock V, which was built on the site in 1931 to challenge for the America's Cup.

These days the place is home to one of the world's top independent marine design consultancies, BMT Nigel Gee.

And it is this highly skilled team of naval architects and marine engineers who help to create some of the most glamorous vessels that have ever taken to the sea.

Their expertise takes the design from the computer screen to reality and many of the superyachts they work on will have a multi-million pound price tag.

From craft that look like a traditional yacht to others that wouldn't look out of place in the latest sci-fi movie, the 65-strong team of experts at BMT Nigel Gee have worked on them all.

Yacht Design Director James Roy is in charge of the team.  From a young age James decided that drawing boats was what he wanted to do for a living, so when at 13 he came across a leaflet advertising Yacht Design at Southampton Institute his fate was sealed and in 1996 he graduated top of his year with first class honours

"When it comes to superyachts there is no doubting it is all about creating very big boats - the bigger the better and they are more elaborate with ever more fancy designs," explained James, who is pictured with a superyacht that cost £200m to build.

The demands of their elite customers can be very exacting, confided James.

"They can be focusing on anything from the colour or type of paint to low-energy usage or incorporating the latest technology.

"I even had one client who was entirely focused on which way round the bed would face in relation to the cinema screen," he said.

BMT Nigel Gee undertook their first superyacht project back in the early 1990s with a 40 knot, 38m yacht and didn't start marketing themselves in that sector until 2004.

It is their reputation for creating high speed craft that has allowed them to diversity into superyachts (accounting for 50 per cent of their business) and also excel at more niche projects like creating safe craft to support the emerging wind farm industry.

"The wind farm vessels are used for support and servicing as well as transferring crews out to the wind farm sites. We invested in developing these craft from 2008, building on many years of research and development.

"In the future wind farms will be placed further offshore where the conditions are harsher so the emphasis is on creating small boats that are capable of going into these environments," explained James, who is a keen sailor himself.

Nigel Gee started the company in 1986 from his back bedroom and it arrived in Shamrock Quay in 1999 via Bishopstoke and Hamble.

What started as a small naval architecture practice has developed to become a leading global independent naval architecture and marine engineering design group. In 2003 the company become part of the BMT group.

Having started with a limited range of high speed ferry designs, they used this as the platform to build an order book that has included commissions for the US Navy.

"Looking to the future yachts will still be the largest part of our business but we are also trying to get into the oil and gas market.

"We are looking at developing high speed vessels for crew transfers."

"Southampton is a great place for us to be from a resource perspective. A lot of the industry is based locally - with many of the major player like Lloyd's Register based in the city."

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