Dutch company, Sea Level Yacht Design & Engineering, is a company focused on creating custom built yachts that accommodate the owner’s personal desires with innovative, technical solutions.
After studying naval architecture together, founding partners Jeroen van der Knaap and Bastiën Ligthart coincidentally became colleagues at the renowned shipyard, Feadship, several years after their studies concluded. The decision to start the company came quickly after learning of each other’s entrepreneurial ambitions, and in 1998, Sea Level was born.
Now employing a team of 12 people and with 15 years of experience, Sea Level co-founder, Jeroen van der Knaap, comments on the drastic career change, stating, “When we told our boss about our plans he was actually very encouraging. In fact, he said he would welcome us back if our company didn’t work out! We still have very good relations with him, as with all the other major shipyards in the Netherlands, and now we occasionally end up working with our old boss again.”
Thanks to their background in engineering, Van der Knaap and Ligthart were able to use their technical knowledge and skills in making existing designs production ready, and soon started to produce their own designs of luxury yachts. Starting substantially smaller than some of their consequential projects, the duo worked hard to soon build up enough experience to become a major competitor in superyacht design.
Today, Sea Level has delivered the design, naval architecture & engineering for more than 50 yachts ranging between 15 and 100 metres. Although undertaking a wide and varied range of projects, the philosophy behind the work is still the same and the company always use their efforts collectively as a team. As van der Knaap comments, “Everyone in the office knows what is going on with each project. This is part of our work ethos; we always continue to expand our knowledge. We do this through external collaborations but also internally. For example, during a project we will get everyone together to comment on a draft design, and this always leads to improvements.”
Refits and conversions of historical vessels are some of the most challenging, yet rewarding, projects a shipyard can take on, and for Sea Level, this is no different. Ligthart comments on one such project, a refit project of a 50 year old workship the client required transforming into a state-of-the-art superyacht. The 54 metre vessel was originally designed for the task of placing buoys in the Baltic sea, and was therefore made to withstand extreme cold weather conditions with a particularly strong hull and a 9-16mm shell plating.
The assignment handed to the Sea Level team was to keep the strong hull as a tough base, and to design a new superstructure which fits the characteristics of the hull, creating a ‘rough and tough’ exterior look, whilst the interiors displayed comfort and luxury to rival that of five star hotels.
The hull was repainted to revamp the look of 50 years of work in the Baltics, whilst also keeping the rich history of the rough steel plating. Ligthart comments, “We made a new lay-out for the ship with 4 double guest cabins on the lower deck, a spacious owners cabin on the main deck and a VIP cabin on the VIP deck. We took inspiration for the interior styling from the luxurious Conservatorium hotel in Amsterdam.”
He continues, “The new superstructure is a lot bigger than the original one, so MCA stability criteria was the most critical to meet. The depth of the original hull was quite low, so to meet the MCA rules for the distance of the portholes above the waterline was another important input for the whole structural design of the deckhouse. It was an ongoing iterative process from sketching, weight calculation, structural design, space reservation and stability calculations!”
Sea Level’s concentrated focus on personal experiences and top quality, innovative design and engineering are evident within this unique project - as is their passion for providing involved, superior service to their customers. Currently, the project in question is now for sale, providing a fantastic opportunity to purchase a unique vessel to someone who loves an industrial look combined with a luxurious, contemporary interior and ideal spaces for entertainment.
Current projects at Sea Level include a collection of superyachts for Acico Yachts, ranging from 33 to 52 metres in length. Van der Knaap comments on the project, stating, “from crew feedback we found out that the salon, usually located on the main deck, is hardly ever used. So we are going to turn that space into an open veranda adjacent to the sun deck and increase the outdoor experience for guests.”
With a dedicated focus on passion, innovation and a strong team work ethos, Sea Level look forward to welcoming even more projects to their company.
SuperYacht Times - The State of Yachting 2020
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