Lateral Naval Architects: a 21st Century approach to the superyacht business

Written by Gemma Fottles

Following the launch of Lateral Naval Architects earlier this year, the British naval architecture and engineering company has proved to be one of this summer’s most talked about business developments in the world of yachting. It's not difficult to see why. Formed in a strategic partnership between the well-established naval architecture practice, BMT Nigel Gee and Dutch shipyard, Oceanco, the longtime associates joined forces to work more collaboratively and more efficiently on some of the world’s most unique superyacht projects. Lateral Naval Architects Managing Director James RoyPhoto: Lateral Naval ArchitectsTo find out more about the current focus of Lateral's work and shed light on some of the key questions surrounding the partnership, SuperYacht Times sat down with Managing Director, James Roy, and the Lateral team at their offices in Southampton to hear more.  

SYT: Lateral Naval Architects was officially announced at the HISWA tour this summer. Three months on, how is business and what has the reaction been from the industry?    

The reaction has been very positive! Of course, our business is a continuation of the yachting division of BMT Nigel Gee so we’ve always had a lot going on. Right now we’re busy preparing for the launch of a 109-metre, plus concurrently engineering three other yachts of over 100 metres. Alongside this, we are developing a number of innovations based on our theme of asking new questions, some of those we are revealing in Monaco next week. The Lateral offices in the UK next to BMT Nigel Gee facilitiesWe have received lots of questions from the market about Lateral, particularly around our connection to Oceanco. We’re very transparent and authentic about that: it is what we say it is. Oceanco has a share in the business, and that means that we are strategically aligned to meet the needs of their projects. They have no interest in running a naval architecture business. If you view business as one big competition where you can only have one winner, well, our strategic partnership is perhaps hard to understand. If you take a more 21st century perspective on business and understand the collaborative approach, then it’s very straightforward - the end client is the winner of our collective collaboration. 

SYT: What have been the most challenging points to explain?  

Ultimately the feedback is: ‘Looks great, makes sense… but how does it actually work?’ So beyond the initial explanation, a lot of the questions are surrounding intellectual property and confidentiality. Oceanco has a position on the board of this company, and that is it. It works the same, pretty much, as it did when we were BMT Nigel Gee. There are no pipelines going anywhere with information flowing out of the company, and no one outside of the company can come and look at our work. Project BalancePhoto: Sinot Yacht Architecture & DesignOur undertakings under non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements binds everyone in this business. So our NDA undertakings are exactly the same as they were before.  The knowledge we gain from all our work is our intellectual capital. We leverage that knowledge from working with a very broad spectrum of clients and projects, and in that broad spectrum, we’re exposed to different ideas. We’re constantly asking new questions and developing new things. Not necessarily inventing but developing. Knowledge and intellectual capital flows both ways between ourselves and our clients. However, our clients' intellectual property is protected via our commercial undertakings. That is no different than it was when we were BMT Nigel Gee.  

SYT: Next week Lateral will be exhibiting at the Monaco Yacht Show. What have you got in store for your Monaco debut? 

The focus of much of our recent research and development work is on energy generation, management and prolusion system architecture. We are investigating all electric (large) yachts, electric hybrids and exploring near, medium and far-term battery and alternative fuel technology to enable those. Alongside that, we have developed a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) system. The system assigns a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) score and positions this against a diffusion of the innovation curve. In this way, innovative ideas can be benchmarked by technical maturity and risk.  Lateral Naval Architects Marketing Photo: Lateral Naval ArchitectsAll our work starts with a clear technical narrative, we think it is too often the case that engineering ideas are researched because they are technically interesting, and then post-rationalised into why they offer an advantage within a design.  We like to start with a narrative, a question; it’s the question that drives us.  

This will be evident in the work we present at Monaco. Firstly, we have undertaken further technical development of the 115m Lobanov designed Tuhura that we launched at the Dubai show in late February. That work focuses on an electric hybrid architecture. Secondly, we have a model to reveal a new 102m Sinot design that incorporates a number of innovations to leverage a better utilisation of technical space and enable more luxury areas on board. The ideas and innovations embedded in that project will be seen in the market very soon with our 109m launch.  The Lateral team, BMT Nigel GeeWe also have Lavilla, a design developed by a recent Lateral intern, Jeremy Kitzinger. He is studying both a design and engineering degree, and although Lateral does not do exterior or interior design, we wanted to challenge him with a real-world project to develop whilst he was with us. We set him a brief and gave him a technical platform as a basis, the design developed on that platform is his own. Lavilla is about living space, and how families live together. Watch out for him in the future, he is a talented guy!

It’s our first Monaco Yacht Show as Lateral, and we’ve got a lot to show and talk about.

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Monaco Yacht Show
26 Sep - 29 Sep, 2018


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