The technology transfer

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Consumers are deeper on the sidelines in this economic downturn than in any other we’ve lived through. They continue the process of deleveraging, getting their balance sheets in order as they try to find their sea legs again.

Innovative products will remain a catalyst for jump-starting demand as companies try to coax early adopters off the fences. Volvo Penta recently shipped its 4,000th IPS unit in North America and its roughly 16,000th worldwide. Pod-drive propulsion and joystick control systems are changing a segment of our industry. Advancements are taking place across a broad swath of recreational boating — electronics, propulsion, hull design, materials, construction and more.

That’s all good. Controlling costs, however, remains a concern with new boats and engines.

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Two weeks ago, I addressed the question of technology trickle-down from superyachts to their smaller cousins and wound up concluding that “service” was a common denominator, regardless of boat size, the builder, the cost of the boat and so forth.

An update: We had a chance to speak with builder John Dane III at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and he addressed the issue of lateral technology transfer between ships in the commercial and oil field business and yachts. The most recent example may wind up being vessels running on LNG — liquefied natural gas.

Dane, the president and CEO of Trinity Yachts and shipbuilder Trinity Offshore, says his commercial business was recently awarded a contract to build two and perhaps three $55 million 302-foot offshore supply vessels powered by LNG, the first such U.S.-flagged commercial vessels. No stranger to yacht building, Dane says Trinity also has the expertise to build superyachts driven by LNG engines and diesel-electric drives.

Want to be big and green? This is one way to reduce your carbon wake, but it will come at a higher cost and with other challenges: The hull will have to be at least 180 feet and have a displacement shape to handle the long LNG cylinders. Look for a full report by senior writer Jim Flannery in an upcoming issue of Trade Only.

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