Holland, Mich.-based S2 Yachts will build the Dutch Zeelander 44 for domestic and international markets
Boatbuilders continue to find alternative revenue streams, diversifying their businesses in the post-recession era. The latest example is an agreement between S2 Yachts and Zeelander Yachts of the Netherlands.
“S2 Yachts has entered into a contractual relationship with Zeelander Yachts to be their manufacturing partner in building their boat for not only the domestic market, but also the global market,” says David Slikkers, CEO of Holland, Mich.-based S2, which builds Tiara and Pursuit powerboats. “I think the trust level is extraordinarily high, and you can’t do something like this without it being high. We’re pleased with the values of the company.”
A multiyear contract calls for S2 to build the Zeelander 44, a $1 million pod-driven luxury dayboat. “We have three boats that have been sold on the domestic market here,” Chris Holtzheuser, president of Zeelander USA in Fort Lauderdale, said in early June. “We have 10 boats sold altogether, seven in Europe. And starting with hull No. 11, the yachts are being built in the United States by S2.”
Hull No. 11 is expected to be completed in August, says Holtzheuser. Zeelander also reached an agreement with MarineMax to be the exclusive dealer for the Zeelander 44 in the United States, he says.
Slikkers says it is the first time S2 Yachts, which his father, Leon Slikkers, founded in 1974, has built boats for another company. “We wouldn’t engage in something like this unless we were 100 percent convinced this was a relationship we wanted to start and nurture and grow,” he says. “We’re confident this is going to lead to job expansion, and right now job expansion in this market is a plus.”
Slikkers was unable to say how many jobs the arrangement could lead to. “I don’t have a specific number, but … we’ll start slow, because that’s the plan, and as their business and sales increase we’ll ramp [up] accordingly to match that,” he says.
S2 had considered outside boatbuilding work during the last decade or so, but did not find a suitable arrangement, Slikkers says. “While we had talked about it five years and 10 years ago for different reasons at that time, we weren’t out seeking this type of venture,” Slikkers says.
Zeelander approached S2 last December and an agreement was finalized in late April, Slikkers says. “It seemed like it was a good fit from what they were trying to do from a quality standpoint,” he says. “It is a great company with a great leadership team. We believe that Tiara is capable of delivering on their expectations. They are very pleased and we are very pleased.”
The relationship is a form of business diversification for S2, but it’s still in the builder’s “sweet spot,” says Slikkers. “It is what our core competency is all about,” he says. “And does it create an additional revenue stream? Certainly, that is what the plan is.”
S2 has space to build the Zeelander boats at its facility in Michigan, Slikkers says. “Certainly there is some additional capacity availability than what we had five years ago, so a greater capacity utilization is a welcome blessing,” he says. “We don’t know what the recovery is going to be in the industry overall. That will dictate whether any other infrastructure needs to be addressed.”
A hungry, talented work force awaits. “We have lost some [employees], so the ones we retained are primed and ready to do work of this caliber,” he says. “In all likelihood, we’ll have to call some back as we ramp up and get ready to be in full production at whatever rate Zeelander decides to run.”
The Zeelander work will require staff training, Slikkers says. “The training involved in making sure we meet their standards, that’s not a five-minute job,” he says. “We would not look at something like this unless it was a multiyear relationship.”
Move drives down price
Marketed as a mini-superyacht, the Zeelander 44 was launched in Europe. It was priced at $2 million, Holtzheuser says. The high European labor and currency rates gave the boat a “huge dollar value,” Holtzheuser says. But the move to the United States and the partnership with S2 have allowed Zeelander “to improve on the manufacturing techniques and the efficiencies … to bring the price down,” he says. “Instead of building one boat at a time, we are going to be building multiple boats in a line.”
S2 is “Americanizing” the boat to a certain extent, bringing aboard North American electrical systems and appliances so the boats are completely serviceable in the United States, Holtzheuser says. Zeelander, which in early June already had two full-time employees working at the S2 facility, will utilize S2 engineering for the electrical and mechanical systems, and U.S. components will be installed for quick service within the S2 network, he says.
“One of the big problems that Euro [manufacturers in the United States] run into is they’re often requesting parts for machinery or warranty work to be shipped from Europe, and we don’t want that,” he says.
S2 crews will build the yacht with fiberglass and balsa core using resin infusion, Holtzheuser says. “We’ll have specified the specific laminate that matches our requirements but know that the team at S2 will be able to execute with a high degree of confidence,” he says. “We do have certain areas where we use Kevlar reinforcement.”
Holtzheuser and two other partners own Zeelander and the Silent Line Group, which is based in the Netherlands with offices in Italy, France and Turkey, Holtzheuser says. Silent Line and its technical director, Sjaak van Cappellen, specialize in reducing noise and vibration on mega- yachts, including Feadship and Palmer Johnson, Holtzheuser says. “We’ve utilized their technology in the manufacturing of this boat as well,” he says.
Design and power
Frank Mulder, who is based in the Netherlands, was the naval architect on the Zeelander 44. The Dutch studio Cor D. Rover designed the yacht’s superstructure, styling and ergonomics. She has a beam of 13 feet, 1 inch and draws 3 feet.
Special engine mounts and hull-side insulation reduce engine and wave noise levels, Holtzheuser says. Noise levels measure an impressive 64 decibels at the helm at 28 knots — and that’s with an open bridge deck, he adds.
Twin Volvo Penta IPS600 diesels (435 hp each) push the Zeelander 44 to a top end of 38 knots. Cruising at 28 knots, the boat gets 1 nautical mile per gallon, Holtzheuser says. Tankage is 500 gallons of diesel in an integrated fiberglass fuel tank and 264 gallons of water.
S2 Yachts not only builds boats efficiently, it runs its business that way, too, Holtzheuser says. “What we were able to accomplish with S2 in a very short time would have taken us with other companies much longer,” he says. “The people at S2 are really knowledgeable about their trade and were able to put us in a situation where we could fast-track the project and get the project produced relatively quickly.”
Zeelander did approach some larger companies, but encountered too much red tape, Holtzheuser says. “Since S2 is a family-run business they were able to make decisions on the spot for us,” he says.
Zeelander has budgeted 25 boats for the North American market in the first year. “I believe in the second year we’ll be easily able to double that,” he says.
Then Zeelander aims to move forward with other models. “The 44 is a dayboat that can be used as an overnighter very comfortably and you can spend time on it very comfortably,” he says. “We’re going to be doing a 37, which will strictly be a tender-style boat. We are going to be doing a 55, which will be a three-stateroom, two-head yacht that will give people longer range on that style of boat.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.