Credited for an innovative and creative approach to management, Marcel Onkenhout lets SB in on his plans for the business.

Oceanco, founded in 1987 and one of Holland’s younger yards, has been steadily earning a sterling reputation for innovation and craftsmanship. Since its inception, Oceanco has consolidated its position as a builder known for pushing boundaries and attracting ‘visionary’ owners with plenty of imagination. 

In March 2010, the company was bought by Dr Mohammed Al Barwani, the chairman of MB Holdings and an individual with a wealth of business experience based in the oil and mining industries. The strong brand name Oceanco represents and its connotations with Dutch build quality were alluring for Dr Al Barwani, who said he saw the acquisition of Oceanco as a “golden opportunity”.

From the outset, Dr Al Barwani was keen to emphasise that he had made a long-term commitment to Oceanco and was eager to invest in ambitious upgrade and improvement plans for the Alblasserdam facility.

In November 2012, expansion plans began. Michele Flandin, marketing manager for Oceanco, explained to SB, “Oceanco is moving forward with the construction of a 160m dry dock that will accommodate a new generation of yachts in the 100m-plus range.” Flandin revealed that, despite the economic climate, Oceanco was prospering with a healthy order book extending several years ahead.

Heading up the Oceanco family is Marcel Onkenhout, who was promoted to CEO in 2010, following his role as deputy managing director. In October 2012, and very much inline with Oceanco’s ideology for pushing design and engineering boundaries, Onkenhout was recognised with the International Superyacht Society’s (ISS) Excellence in Innovation award. The ISS acknowledged that while other successful yards had been building on generations of success, youthful Oceanco, with Onkenhout’s steady leadership and creative thinking, was standing head to head with the industry’s longest-established and most respected yards.

Oceanco Marcel Onkenhout

(Left) A computer generated image of Oceanco’s new 160m dry dock facility. (Right) Oceanco’s CEO Marcel Onkenhout

Tell us about how Oceanco facilities are being improved — what’s in the pipeline?

Oceanco is currently building a new state-of-the-art 165m long by 52m wide by 32m high dry dock finishing hall in order to accommodate yachts up to 140 metres in length. This new facility will be completed in 2014. With our current premises we deliver one to two yachts per year and this new facility will enable us to almost double

our capacity.

Since specifically targeting the 100m-plus market has your position within the industry strengthened?

The 100m-plus market is a natural progression following on from our owners’ yachting needs. I think our position within the industry has strengthened more because we have focused over the past 25 years on always trying to satisfy all our owners’ needs — be they for quality, design, delivery, experience or warranty, and if anything our target is and always has been to improve on this.

How is the yard’s performance measuring in comparison to your competitors?

We have the utmost respect for our competitors; yet we do not measure ourselves only in comparison to others, we simply work to our own stringent set of standards, all the while keeping an eye on the market and ensuring we are up to date with new trends and technologies.

What is the biggest cause of hesitation for owners signing new contracts?

Whichever way we look at it, building a yacht is an expensive and complex transaction. A yacht contract is also one of the most significant personal acquisition decisions in most owners’ lives, which is of course taken seriously and diligently.

Have you noticed signs of optimism towards the future? When do you think the GFC will end?

We are seeing signs of optimism toward the future in that there are a number of enquiries and commitments, particularly for larger 70m-plus yachts. Forbes’s recently announced a 17 per cent increase in the wealth and number of billionaires, which is naturally an opportunity for the yachting industry.

Where do you see the emerging markets?

The traditional superyacht buyers were from Europe, the U.S.A and the Middle East. Today, new wealth is created by innovative entrepreneurs all over the world. Demand for superyachts is now growing from new emerging markets such as BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as well as wealthy Russians and CIS countries, who have all become important buyers.

Can you talk about your plans for building environmentally friendly yachts?

We have a number of environmentally friendly features on yachts we have under build but unfortunately cannot disclose any details yet.

oceanco shipyard

At Oceanco’s current base in Alblasserdam in the Netherlands on to two yachts a year are built

How are you planning for the implementation of MARPOL? Do you think SCR is the most realistic way yachts will be able to comply?

MARPOL is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions designed to minimise pollution of the seas, including dumping, oil and exhaust pollution. Its stated object is to preserve the marine environment through the complete elimination of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimisation of accidental discharge of such substances. Our marine engineers are working hard on the implementation of the exhaust emission levels and fuel consumption of our yachts. The SCR technology is probably more adapted to the luxury yachting segment. Field test and extended durability runs have confirmed

the effectiveness and durability of this exhaust after-treatment technology and this will hopefully improve further in time.

What characterises an Oceanco owner?

I believe our slogan captures very well an Oceanco owner: visionary. Oceanco specialises in the building of large luxury custom megayachts and we try to represent the highest possible quality in this sector. Oceanco’s design team works with other world-renowned designers, such as Nuvolari & Lenard, Espen Øino, Andrew Winch, Terence Disdale, Sam Sorgiovanni and Igor Lobanov to name but a few. This, coupled with the best state-of-the-art Dutch engineering technology, enables us to satisfy our clients’ requests and build them extremely unique yachts.

On a personal level what have been your biggest challenges as CEO?

As a husband and a father I am naturally concerned and responsible for my family and want them to achieve the best from life. As CEO of Oceanco, I have an extended family to be worried about — namely the entire Oceanco team. As with most in the yacht industry, the crisis was a testing period where all of our beliefs in what we were doing and trying to achieve were tested to the limit. Through perseverance, we have weathered the storm well with no delays or cancellations. We recently launched an 86m and are scheduled to launch a 91.5m and a number of other new projects thereafter.

Can you give us some insight into your management style?

Today Oceanco is standing head to head with the industry’s longest-established and most respected yards. I have tried as much as possible to inspire all employees at Oceanco to be original through my team development and business management. Oceanco’s maxim ‘Yachts for Visionary Owners’ clearly extends itself now to visionary management. Innovation is finding better ways to do things — being more creative in design, finding new ways to build yachts, and providing better after-sales service. I believe that the most important success at Oceanco has been the creation of a positive working relationship with Oceanco’s clients and co-makers as well as with its employees and the industry.