Anil Ambani bought one for his wife, Tina, six years ago. Vijay Mallya has one, so do Adi Godrej, Gautam Singhania and real estate baron Sunny Wadhawan. India has yet to see a booming yacht business - and the number of luxury yacht owners is barely 50 - but a beginning has been made.
Yet, even Indian Empress can't compare with the opulence of the costliest of global yachts. Take Dilbar, owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, which cost 207 million euros - apart from stunning interiors, it includes a helipad and a swimming pool. The Dubai, owned by the monarch of that Gulf state, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is 157-metre long with seven decks and space to even lodge a small submarine. But the biggest of them all in the one owned by the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Azzam 177 metre long and costing 677 million euros, which took four years to make and is said to have 50 suites. Both Dilbar and Azzam were manufactured by renowned luxury yacht maker Lurssen Yachts.
In India, the dealer for most of these yacht-making companies is Marine Solutions, run by the husband-wife duo, Gautama and Anju Dutta, the former himself a winner of numerous yachting competitions. Manufacturing a yacht, they explain, takes much more time than other vehicles which come off an assembly line. "Though the hull and most of the outer design remains the same for a particular model of a particular size, the interior may be completely different depending on the taste of the buyer," says Anju Dutta, Managing Director, Marine Solutions. "The process starts at the drawing board and then the customer is taken to the shipyard. We try to understand what sort of yacht you are looking for - what size, how many cabins, where you want to sail and of course what your budget is. The architect and designer sit with you. And then there is computer modeling to show you exactly what it will look like." The time taken can vary from six months to three or four years, depending upon the amount of customization sought.
There are, however, limits to customization. Classification societies in different countries lay down specifications for marine vehicles which have to be adhered to. The European Union, for instance, has a recreational craft directive (RCD) for boats between 2.5 and 24 metres. These relate not only to the engine but also the interiors - locations of bedrooms and bathrooms cannot be arbitrarily changed as this might affect weight distribution of the vehicle. "We have to meet RCD norms," says Gautama Dutta, Director, Marine Solutions. Still, cabins can be merged to make them bigger or a salon or bar added, if the customers asks. Indian customers, company sources added, were primarily interested in the appearance of the yacht rather than technicalities.
The day these ultra-luxury yachts come to India - where a yachting culture is only just taking shape - is eagerly awaited.
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