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How to choose a wheelhouse solution for your superyacht

Fleet Technology
Written by
Laura Nicholls

Building a new yacht is an exciting process. But even after the obvious decisions about recruiting a designer, shipyard and management company have been made, there are still a lot of choices for an owner and their team. 

With a lengthy building specification that includes everything from the sailing area and cruising range to the number of seats in the dining area, the wheelhouse is an aspect of the design that requires the easiest and quickest solution possible. Although new-build superyacht projects tend to have a clear focus on build quality and design, this same attention doesn’t always extend to the wheelhouse. Yachts at Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesFor owners who prefer not to see their wheelhouse becoming a repository for equipment, choosing an integrated solution is a smart choice. This way, the working space of the wheelhouse is an attractive and timeless collection of high-end technology.

Paying attention to the wheelhouse design is one of the most intriguing parts of the overall design experience and finding a suitable supplier for this complex part of the vessel is vital. With this in mind, SuperYacht Times approached maritime electronics manufacturers and integrators Radio Zeeland to find out what key questions owners should be asking themselves when looking for their own wheelhouse solution. Monaco Yacht SHow 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesDoes the supplier have a good track record?

Notably, even if a company doesn’t have an extensive list of references on its website, an owner shouldn’t necessarily rule them out. A company who takes its professional position seriously will adhere to the strict code of confidentiality which is embedded in the superyacht industry. A personal conversation is the best way to find out about recent references. Here, an owner can find out what type of shipyard the company has previously worked with as a good indication of the level of service it can deliver.Yachts at Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesAny partnerships with navigation equipment manufacturers?

Having a supplier with direct access to the manufacturers who create approved equipment such as gyro compasses and autopilots will help streamline the wheelhouse integration process. A positive move would be to find a wheelhouse supplier that can offer the integration of these type-approved items with the full consent of the manufacturer. Not only does this avoid any potential warranty issues, but also helps with retaining type approval.yacht M5 helmDoes the supplier have flexible in-house services? 

A supplier who claims to have its services and disciplines in house – besides sales advice and project management – is likely to have its own teams for engineering, mechanical and software design, assembly and testing. This supplier should also have field engineers to offer installation supervision, commissioning and crew training.

Is the technology reliable? 

The choice of materials used to build the wheelhouse architecture should be top of the range, sturdy and long-lasting, particularly the aluminium panels, foils, glass, switches and levers. Being able to offer a robust solution is essential, as is being able to answer questions such as “how will the system function if any of the computer/PLC elements fail?” A good integrated wheelhouse system will be built with a redundant architecture meaning that, should any component fail between the command and the execution, a second spare ring of equipment will immediately take over. 

The hardware itself must also be sturdy and reliable which is usually proven by a series of approvals for standard ‘off-the-shelf’ products. For custom solutions, it is virtually impossible to have every piece of equipment tested to all relevant standards and it is usually a lengthy and costly process. However, Radio Zeeland has found a way to test each piece of equipment per IEC-60945 and integrate the solution into a custom panel. The quality standard covers a range of EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility), environmental (temperature, humidity and vibration) and safety tests. Cannes Yachting Festival 2019 - Day 2Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesAre there continuous after-care services available? 

Even the most beautiful bridge solution in the world could have a malfunction. This means that the supplier’s element of service should be included in the project from the very beginning. By means of remote system access (via a secured and vessel-initiated connection) diagnosis and corrective measures can be taken. In the case that a physical visit is required, look for the assurance that the company has specialised engineers who can attend to the superyacht no matter where she is. The supplier should be willing and able to visit the world’s remotest areas should a fault happen. It is important to ask for a track record, as this provides definitive proof of the company’s operational experience.

The services provided by Radio Zeeland is professional, proactive and always leads to consistently positive customer experiences. To find out more about Radio Zeeland’s solutions, contact the company directly via the details below.

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