We asked Peter Lürssen to explain to us the reason for the success of his yard. The longest and biggest yachts in the world, Azzam of 180 meters and Dilbar of 156 meters, have sailed away from its docks
by Francesco Michienzi – photo by ©Klaus Jordan
THERE ARE MANY ARTS, WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO MAKING LIFE EASIER.Some are cultivated for their needs; others recommend themselves for the advantages they present; others are appreciated only because they relate to topics that are pleasant to know. Among these, architecture and naval engineering are those that make a great contribution to the enjoyment of people, these are human activities that give matter a soul and a body.
The talent is able to give shape to the substance according to a project designed for a person who wants to make life happy, for himself and for the people he loves, through the construction of a pleasure boat. There are shipyards, which know how to give happiness with their constructions. We have been in Bremen to visit the Lürssen yard, which builds pleasure ships between 60 and 200 meters in length.
Astonishment and admiration are the feelings that guided me on my tour. With 8 production facilities in northern Germany, Lürssen has highly specialized ship equipment which allows more than 2,700 employees to build, overhaul and repair ships sixty meters long or more.
Lürssen Werft, founded in 1875 in Bremen, has always been managed and owned by the same family, now in its fourth generation. The brand is associated worldwide with the development and production of military and special ships, as well as luxury yachts, according to very high standards. We talked about it with Peter Lürssen.
You are one of the oldest private shipyards in the world that belongs to the same family for 4 generations, what is the secret of this continuity?
I think that our “Hanseatic way” of doing things is a crucial factor. Our word is our bond and this basically equates to a high level of confidence in our employees and their abilities, which is then coupled with sustainable management and, dare I say, a bit of daring here and there.
Your approach from an industrial point of view is very rigorous, how do you manage the need for flexibility that many shipowners have in relation to changes in ideas on choices already made regarding the design of the ship?
As long as a customer’s request for changes – even of a constructive nature – can be realistically implemented, meaning that they neither jeopardize the safety of the yacht, we will set everything in motion to meet our customer’s requirements.
How is your chain of command put together, how many managers report directly to the managing directors or to the Lürssen family?
As a family business with currently eight shipyard locations in Northern Germany and more than 2,700 employees, we rely more than ever on our management board with which we are able to consistently handle complex tasks with the necessary flexibility. Each of our directors heads a specific division and is in close contact with one of the Lürssen family members.
You built the two longest pleasure ships with the largest Gross Tonnage in the world, and last year you decided to propose to the market ships with dimensions around 50 meters, what are the differences in approach with these two types of superyachts?
While we are very grateful for the success of our larger builds, it is essential not to forget that our core business is between 50 and 80 meters. Although the preconception is that Lürssen only builds large yachts, we have delivered a considerable number of smaller vessels over the last 15 years, including 29 under-90-meter vessels. Over that same period, we have delivered 15 yachts above 90 meters. Whether it is a 50-meter yacht or a 90-meter yacht, we will use the same type of steel, the same type of paint, the same selection of interior designers, and most importantly: the same overall Lürssen quality. The difference is really only the size. Even before we get into the design and manufacturing process, we clarify together with the client his or her numerous requirements, which ultimately are crucial issues that will ultimately define the final dimensions of the yacht. How many family members need to be accommodated on the yacht? How many guests will be on board? What size should the pool be if there is one? What size helipad? Not only these main topics are discussed but also literally, everything down to identifying what kind of technology will be integrated onboard – from the galley right through to the engine room. From the results of this discussion comes a minimum size. At the end of all the considerations, length is always the sum of all the owner’s individual needs.
You are undoubtedly a model to be followed, and all the shipyards in the world are trying to imitate you, how do you feel about this?
We operate in a relatively small industry serving an even smaller circle of clients. Under these circumstances, we have always been in healthy competition with other shipyards, who, like us, are often family businesses or run by families and with whom we enjoy good relationships.
Do you think you have a social responsibility or a responsibility as a standard for the German and European boating industry?
As a family-owned company with strong roots, we have a special responsibility to our immediate neighborhood. At the same time, we are an export-oriented shipbuilding company and as such, we have a vested interest in maintaining the marine environment and ensure a positive yachting experience for future customers. Accordingly, we set high standards in environmental protection, and we are committed to maintaining an intact ocean ecosystem through the Blue Marine Foundation. We also attach great importance to sustainability concerning the selection of materials used on our yachts and we hone all designs to be as efficient as possible given the requirements.
Large listed multinationals generally have a very strict code of ethics. How do you view yourself in this respect? Have you been in a position to refuse contracts on ethical grounds?
We have implemented high compliance standards across the group. As we are also involved in a governmental business, we are accustomed to carefully evaluating everyone we deal with to a very high degree. We are also of course bound by national and international law.
Your engineering department has more than 600 people, is that the secret to impeccable construction? Is it about meticulous planning?
German engineering excellence is the cornerstone of our internationally recognized strength in innovation and exceptional quality.
This simple fact shows throughout our long history of consistently improving and pushing the limits of shipbuilding – and it shows in every detail of every vessel we build. We have around 600 highly qualified and experienced maritime engineers and in-house research and development (R&D) department. As such, we are equipped with unsurpassed technical expertise and resources. This dedication to engineering is also reflected in our continuous investments in state-of-the-art technology, hardware, and software as well as in our mindset. At Lürssen, we have specialists in all relevant engineering disciplines that form think-tanks to share knowledge, examine complex details and master even the most demanding technical challenges.
What is your idea of how the market will change in the short term?
The market in which we operate is undergoing constant change and we observe these change processes very precisely. To that end, we constantly exchange information with our customers. In the past, it was important to be seen while on the yacht in the harbor, but for today’s yacht owner, it is the experience that counts – that is, the valuable time spent together on board with family and friends in extraordinary places and settings. In addition, environmental protection is rightly playing an increasingly important role.
(Lürssen, amidst astonishment and admiration – Barchemagazine.com – October 2019)