An interview with Feargus Bryan, keynote speaker at the Superyacht Technology Summit.
Feargus Bryan has spent 38 years in the marine industry, working on large sailing ships as captain. In 2000 he then moved ashore to concentrate on yacht design and refit/build management and has technically managed multiple design, refit, and construction projects all over the world, ranging from 30 to 99 metres. His company Watermark Yachts is a bespoke superyacht management service, set up two years ago, which has managed several gigayachts.
Feargus’s roles both aboard and onshore give him great experience in the megayacht market. He has a bird’s eye view in his consultancy role, watching how technology is developing inside the industry – an industry full of innovation, but one which he believes is very fragmented.
Because of this, Feargus has set up the Superyacht Technology Council, alongside Jack Robinson, CEO of Superyacht Technology. Announced at the Superyacht Technology Conference in Barcelona in October 2021, the Superyacht Technology Council will offer guidance, direction and cohesion to the technologies out there.
Feargus told us: “There are a lot of aspects of yacht design, but you need to consider the yacht as one organism. Every single technology stakeholder in the design of the yacht – ETOs, designers, technology companies etc – has one job, to work together to be really ready for the next generation of owner. The millennials, modern owners, younger owners now hold a very different view of the virtual and physical world, and the yachts need to be ready for this.”
By this he means smart yachting: features like connectivity, security, yacht functionality, environmentally better travel as well as impeccable user experience are completely expected by owners and guests. Feargus stresses that everyone needs to think hard about interactions between builders, owners, guests, integrators, consultants and technology companies – to ensure that we are all working towards the same goals of excellent technology, an environmentally savvy industry and better user experiences. We need to start having those joined-up conversations now.
Every other industry looks to the outside to find inspiration, but traditionally superyachting has always been insular. We can learn so much about how mainstream and non-marine businesses work and raise our game. Our ultra-high net worth clients are used to mainstream technology in their homes and workplaces and expect that as normal on their yachts.
ISE can bring to us a whole number of innovations and conversations that we as an industry can learn massively from. However, superyachting as a boutique industry should be of great interest to all technology developers. We have adventurous, tech-savvy owners who have unlimited funds to invest in technological risks, to be the first to have whatever the product is.
We asked Feargus to discuss some of the main business or technology trends that are affecting the superyacht industry.
Safety and sanctuary
The pandemic has changed owners’ perceptions: instead of a party location or a holiday space, yachts are now viewed as a sanctuary. The consequence of this has been a real spike in yacht ownership, with order books very full. That means as an industry it is important that we raise our game, quickly. Supply chains have slid, and shipyards, designers, support companies and all the other stakeholders are going to have to rethink fundamental aspects of their business models to accommodate this trend. The yachts themselves need to look at how their operations can accommodate extended periods on board for owners and operating in restrictive environments.
Five years ago, the environment was a bonus conversation; now it is a topic of all conversations. Hybrid technology and non-fossil fuel technologies have become essential. These conversations force necessary change and make people think of the extravagant superyacht industry in a different light.
Cybersecurity is now regulated at management level and yacht level. Obviously, a reliance on faultless connectivity is essential. Again, this is a hot topic at all superyacht events and the environment of data security changes quickly. This is a topic which needs to be at the forefront of the minds of owners, owners’ representatives, shipyards and technology companies.
Currently there are five major shipyard groups all developing hydrogen technology separately. Consider the impact of having five separate systems in the industry, and the requirement for technicians to be able to work with each type of technology. Situations like this are the reason for the creation of the Superyacht Technology Council – to encourage the sharing of best practice.
Feargus, the Superyacht Technology Summit and the Superyacht Technology Council want to encourage conversations with all stakeholders and answer the question: ‘How do we make sure we are ready for the next five or ten years?’
He added: “As well as focusing on new technologies, the Superyacht Technology Summit should focus on the themes of working together, of collaboration. We all know the problems, but now we have the opportunity to get people in one place who all have an interest in refreshing the future of the superyacht industry. We need to see people from across the industry coming to this, so we have representation across all the industry: not just technology businesses, but ETOs, management companies, owners and captains need to see this and need to be heard too. See you there.”
Feargus Bryan is the keynote speaker at the Superyacht Technology Summit, which takes place on Thursday 12 May at ISE 2022.