Being Holger Kahl

A Constructor's perspective

“Pushing the boundaries. Exploring new ideas. Making the impossible possible”: while reading the mission of German shipyard Nobiskrug through the voice of its Managing Director, Holger Kahl, we understand clearly why Imperial is perfectly pairing with them. Sharing the same passion for unique challenges and uncompromising quality in construction, it was obvious that our roads would end to cross once again after the successfulk delivery of 73.50-metre Project 783 in 2012. With the successful keel laying on February 2019 of Project BLACK SHARK, the new 77m superyacht common project together with Winch Design and Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design, the collaboration is now on the good path!

To celebrate these excellent relationships called to gradually grow in the future, we had the privilege to seat with Holger Kahl and talk about the involvement of Nobiskrug within the superyacht industry. Understanding why Nobiskrug has decided to explore a more bespoke approach in all new construction superyacht things is interesting: where all shipyards have, nowadays, decided to maximise the productions chains and boost them, Nobiskrug has developed a completely different philosophy. As a yacht fan above all, Kahl is also sharing some tips for a successful charter journey, on board or ashore. We are pleased to share with you, below, this interview offered by one of the giant of the superyacht world.

Holger Kahl portait and shipyard pictures: courtesy of Nobiskrug


IY: What makes Nobiskrug different?
HK: At Nobiskrug, we are not a mass builder. It would of course be possible to boost our production lines and take more on, but this is a highly individual business with a strong and intensive focus on the customer. If you have too many jobs underway, you run the risk that each project will become a number – and here, each project has a face. In most cases it’s the face of the client and that’s part of what drives us to push ourselves, because at the heart of each project is the knowledge that we’re working for a unique individual.

IY: What is the practical impact of that individuality?
HK: It enables us to concentrate on the personal needs of the client rather than having to commit to too many projects and losing focus. A one-off yacht is the most luxurious thing you can buy, so it deserves this level of concentration and that’s why Nobiskrug is special. It is special because of its size, its focus and its central ideal about building individual products for individual clients.

IY: Do you enjoy the challenges of that unique ‘one-off’ approach?
HK: Absolutely. Individual builds are much more interesting than the semi-custom approach because everything is different. There is never a moment when you get bored. You’re permanently challenged by technical and commercial issues and that’s what makes our segment of the industry so exciting.

IY: Presumably, you get some quite outlandish requests from your clients?
Our clients do tend to expect that our individual approach means they can have everything they want, but we still have to build yachts that follow the rules so not every wish can be granted without compromise. Instead, there’s an ongoing process of moderation that we carry out among the designers and technicians with the desires of the client at the forefront of the discussion. We have to explain to the client exactly why there might be certain restrictions and why this or that might be a valuable alternative. We have to come to a solution that feels right for the customer. It’s just a question of how effective you are at the moderation stage.

IY: So how does your collaboration with Imperial work?
HK: It all started with Imperial managing a yacht that was built here about seven years ago (the 73.5m superyacht, Project 783, delivered by Imperial in 2012 and managed by the company until its sale was finalised in 2017). At the time of delivery, it was sold to a new owner who was assisted by Imperial during the buying process and who appointed Imperial to manage the yacht. From then on, we collaborated on that yacht, talked about new projects and built some new motoryachts together, so it’s a collaboration that has covered the full range of Imperial services. That includes everything from the management side; from the advisory side during a sale and purchase project; from the advisory side during the construction period; and from the advisory side when there is a project under investigation to assess whether a client wants to make a purchase or not. It’s really easy to work with a company that has that kind of scope, experience and expertise.

IY: What is the best thing about a charter holiday?
HK: Well for me, the crucial question is what is the difference between being a charter guest and the owner of a yacht. Coming from the ownership side, you have your individual yacht conceived specifically for you; whereas if you’re chartering, you must have a certain tolerance by accepting aspects of the yacht that don’t necessarily match your personal wishes. But flexibility is key to the pleasures of charter. You can jump from one yacht to another whenever you like and it’s much easier to visit different parts of the world because you simply go to the place where a yacht happens to be. So a yacht that is good for charter must have real flexibility, both as an efficient owner’s yacht and as a versatile platform for multiple guests.

IY: It sounds like you often tend to build with charter in mind?
HK: Absolutely. We verify from the beginning whether charter should be an option because that flexibility has to be permanently factored into the layout and the operational effectiveness. For instance, if we look into the owner’s area, the private living space and dressing areas should be of an appropriate size and comfort but you also need to draw a clear line between what stays private and what is available for charter guests – and this also informs the layout of the guest cabins. Are they for a single family or do they need to be made more equal, so that there is no sense of ranking among cabins when guests come on board? There are so many things to consider when charter is likely to be involved, but that’s when sitting down with a company like Imperial makes so much sense. With their ability to advise owners on the construction of highly individual yachts, as well as their extensive charter experience, our collaboration is always very productive on both sides.

IY: What’s you favourite cruising destination?
HK: Definitely the Baltic region – the Swedish and Norwegian archipelagos, as well as the Danish islands. That whole area of Scandinavia is fantastic for cruising, with glorious landscapes, clean water, plenty of options for marinas and lots of cruising possibilities. And the big advantage is that the weather is not that reliable, so it’s not overcrowded like so many regions of the world. It’s just a question of wearing the right clothes but, if you have a summer like 2018, it is the most fantastic area – much better than the Caribbean; much better than the south of France. Maybe there are not that many discos or Michelin star restaurants on the beaches, but being outside in a beautiful landscape, on deep water but close to the land is very attractive. For cruising, for sailing, it’s the best region in the world.

IY: What kinds of on board toy do you most value in a place like the Baltic?
HK: As you mostly anchor rather than lie at a berth in this area, the pursuits I like most are the noiseless ones – the stand-up paddling; the kiting; the surfing; being out with the dinghy and fishing. It’s not a place that works well for jetskis, dive boats or submarines. It’s more about down-to-earth things that enable you to enjoy the surface of the water and a little bit of wind.

IY: What yachting developments will we see in the next decade?
HK: Whether for private use or for charter, flexibility in the deck areas is a trend that will continue. We will see much more open deck space that can be exposed to the sun but with the potential for it to become an air-conditioned area too. And accompanying that will be the issue of bringing more daylight into the superstructure. I know we’ve seen big windows before but this is a trend that will go further than ever before. After all, the client doesn’t want to sit in an enclosed space. They’re in some fantastic environments out at sea so they want to enjoy it. They want to see the horizon and that’s something they can only do if they have huge windows. However, it needs to be done right. They need to comply with regulations, be strong enough to resist green water and be effectively insulated with regards to temperature. The outside of the yacht must also be properly designed, because if you’re looking out of a window at a railing or a bulwark, that doesn’t make any sense. They must be smart solutions that work from a living as well as a technical point of view – solutions that make the yachting experience even better.

Builder of superyachts for the 22nd century, Nobiskrug is among the shipyards that influence the industry. Read more here.

From the Baltic Sea to the North Sea through thousands of fjords, explore an untouched territory for your next charter journey.

From keel laying to delivery, a journey into the construction of a superyacht: Imperial and Nobiskrug show the milestones of 77m Project BLACK SHARK.

Read the latest issue here, including Holger Kahl's interview and more.

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