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Q&A: Sean Moran talks tech, trends and the future of Moran Yacht & Ship

Business
Written by
Gemma Fottles

Managing Director of one of the world's most successful brokerage firms, Sean Moran epitomises the next generation of yachting – but after years of staying under the radar, he may not be a face you are particularly familiar with. 

However, since joining the family business in 2012, Moran has quickly proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with: down to earth, laser-focused and about as informed as you can get. In the past eight years, he has been an integral part of some of the industry's most notable custom yacht projects from inception to delivery, from the 61-metre Just J’s to the 142-metre Nord.Sean MoranPhoto: Moran YachtThe oldest son of Moran Yacht & Ship Founder and CEO, Robert Moran, Sean was arguably born to be in this business. He has done his time on boats, travelling with his father throughout his early years, working as a deckhand on his uncle's boats as a teenager in Florida, and then spent years working his way up the ranks of yacht crew. 

At just 35 years old, he is proving that not only is age just a number but that a balanced leadership team of industry veterans alongside the next generation of young professionals is the only way to go for a future-proof business plan.

Here, Moran opens up in a rare interview to offer an insight into what owners really want from a new build custom yacht project, the reasons behind a lack of innovation in yachting and why he is so excited about the latest developments in hybrid systems.

Excellence yacht launchPhoto: Moran YachtMoran Yacht & Ship has long been at the forefront of some of the industry's most notable projects. What's in the pipeline right now?

We have some really exciting projects coming up on the horizon: EnzoWitchcraftJagAsia, Fastrack, and most recently there was a lot of attention paid to Nord. I can't say which, but we have boats that are going to run in silent mode. That means operating the entire vessel just from battery banks, which was a distant thought when I started in this business years ago. But in terms of innovation, we're inevitably limited by the technology that is available to us right now. Nord yacht by Lürssen Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesWhat are some of the key limitations when it comes to new superyacht tech?

Yachting is a niche business. When it comes to R&D, yachting is always going to be looking at what other industries are doing and working to implement those technologies. I'm not saying that the yachting industry doesn’t have unique solutions – we do. Superyachts have some of the most complicated systems implemented in a consumer product. 

They are very advanced, often one-off custom solutions and push the boundaries of what's possible. But ultimately, there is a huge amount of risk. This industry is inherently conservative and risk-averse. Our job is to thread that needle in between what is possible and what is practical.

We are always finding innovative ways to achieve what our clients want, but this industry is not the one to develop new battery technology, for example. That's going to be the Siemens of the world: large companies with interests in the commercial and industrial sector that have the scale to invest in specific technologies. Robert Moran and Sean MoranPhoto: Klaus Jordan

What are some of the key new trends you've noted directly from client requests?

The clients are getting younger, with younger families. They don't mind the traditional yachting destinations – they enjoy them – but they also want the ability to go off the beaten path. This means being able to homeschool their kids, bring in supplies, provision for long periods and be self-sufficient. We see a lot of requests for expanded exterior dining, from hibachi grills to exterior galleys, and I'm seeing a shift from yachting as a status symbol to yachting for an intimate shared experience with family and friends. 

We're also seeing the majority of our clients expressing a real interest in exploring the implementation of green tech. There are a lot of factors feeding into this: money is one of them, but a general feeling of moral responsibility is another. Additionally, considering what is going on in the world at the moment, we are seeing more owners focus on safety and invest in more advanced medical facilities onboard.Ace and Garcon yachts cruisingPhoto: Klaus JordanSo looking ahead, is the future green for yachting?

As these things become more commonplace and standardised in the yachting world, the cost will continue to come down, and I have no doubts that green technology will be ubiquitous in the industry. We're currently in this strange in-between time where it's still not incredibly cost-effective for yachts to have these solutions. But as more clients do it, the costs will come down, and it will become the norm. It's like any development cycle. Project Opus launch at LürssenPhoto: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesCan we expect to see any new green tech in any of Moran's upcoming projects?

Pretty much every project that we've signed in the past three years is implementing a hybrid drive. The hybrid drive is just two electric motors mounted on the shaft with bidirectional capacity - they can pull excess power off the shafts, or they can pour power into the shafts. So, if that was connected to the main switchboard and the generators on a long crossing, if you're just running your engines, you can pull enough power off of those shafts, put it into the main switchboard, and power the whole boat with only the crew on board. 

Alternatively, you can be at anchor and decide that you want to reposition yourself somewhere. You don't have to fire the mains on, you can put the power into the shafts from the generators. Using that excess capacity, you can actually propel the boat with only the generators using that electric motor on the shaft. It's one of my favourite things right now because it's so simple yet so effective, and it's not overly expensive.Madsummer yacht sternPhoto: Jeff BrownHow does the hybrid drive compare to a diesel-electric solution?

In the past, we've had a lot of requests from clients for diesel-electric. I heard it constantly. But the reality is, from the fiscal and general responsibility studies we have conducted, it doesn't make a ton of sense in yachts. Yachts are not moving 24/7 like commercial ships so the cost saving is not significant enough to justify diesel-electric in the recreational space. In the example of the long crossing with the hybrid drive, that's nearly two weeks where you are not running the generators at all. You are saving fuel every hour for 24 hours a day. That's serious savings, and it's immediate because the capital expenditure of putting that on the boat versus a full diesel-electric system is substantially less.Step One yacht anchoredPhoto: Big Dog Media ProductionsWho will lead the way in the future of innovation in yachting?

Ultimately, the way I look at it, companies are judged by their results. We do a lot of team-orientated projects, and we spend a lot of time looking at new technologies and how we can integrate them into our future projects. When I evaluate the projects that we've delivered and that we currently have under construction, I'm really excited about the future and the direction of Moran Yacht & Ship.

This article was first featured in The SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to receive your copy straight to your door and never miss another issue. 

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