Istanbul: Amidst the seven hills is an electric scene of superyacht builders

Istanbul is a hive of activity on the shipbuilding front – and it’s getting more voracious. As we uncovered in The State of Yachting 2022, out of the 320 shipyards that delivered one or more superyachts over the past 10 years, more than 25 percent of these were Turkish. Istanbul stock images Shipbuilding activities are widespread across the nation: Bodrum, for one, located on the Mediterranean coast is very much hammer and tongs with traditional gulet building. Antalya, also on the southern coast is where the likes of Bering and Naval Yachts call home. The lion’s share of superyachts, though, are born in the great metropolis of Istanbul itself.

Read: Gulets & superyachts: The diversity of chartering in Turkey

While Turkey has staked a major claim in shipbuilding over the years, the average output per yard has traditionally been significantly lower than the rest of the world. It seems as though the times are changing and Turkish builders are in full swing. It was refreshing to hear from several leading builders that expansion plans are being rolled out, and business is booming. Bilgin 263 yacht hull NB78 arriving at West Istanbul Marina for outfittingPhoto: Bilgin YachtsBilgin Yachts has gone from strength to strength since it showcased the first hull from its Bilgin 263 series Sevanna, then called Tatiana, at the Monaco Yacht Show 2021. Hulls two and three of the 80m series are under construction,  both of which have also been designed in a collaboration between Unique Yacht Design and H2 Yacht Design – however, the similarities end there. Tatiana yacht cruisingPhoto: Bilgin YachtsTatiana yacht beach clubPhoto: Bilgin YachtsOn a recent visit, we were offered a sneak peek of the second hull, Leona, which Bilgin is currently outfitting for Monaco 2022, and her interior design is night and day when compared with her sistership. Leona is striking from first glance, thanks to a rich burgundy paint applied to her hull. Inside is an opulent dream – but under strict embargo, so we’ll have to wait till Monaco for the big reveal. Yacht construction at Bilgin YachtsPhoto: Justin RatcliffeBilgin 263 / I under constructionPhoto: Justin RatcliffeThe Istanbul-based shipyard has a further three superyachts in-build, including a revised version of the 263 series, which will be around 2,000 GT and 86-metres in length. Unique Yacht Design handled the exterior lines of this next-generation 263 and is said to have incorporated more sophistication and more glass into the design. In anticipation of even larger projects in the imminent future, Bilgin is expanding its hull construction facility in Yalova to cater to vessels up to 130-metres. 

On the other side of the city in Tuzla, the family-run Mengi Yay Yachts is also rolling out major expansion plans for the already expansive facility. Mengi Yay is currently building eight yachts between 39-53-metres in length – the largest being a 53-metre motor yacht and the closest to delivery is the 47.3-metre La Vie, currently being outfitted – and has secured signatures for two new projects. But with these expansions, Mengi Yay will ramp up production, while still maintaining its commitment to turning projects around in just 24 months. 

Mengi Yay most certainly flies the flag of dynamism as amidst this growth is a staunch commitment to innovation. Ramazan Mengi, Project Engineer at Mengi Yay Yachts, has big plans for the yard and has made the first steps in developing the first autonomous yacht to come out of Turkey.

Read: Onboard: Mengi Yay’s 47m motor yacht La Vie La Vie yacht staircase La Vie yacht deck  The technology is expected to be “shop-floor ready” in seven years and can be fitted to all current and future Mengi Yay yachts. But while the yard has one eye firmly fixed on the future of yacht building and development, it hasn’t lost touch with tradition and has dedicated teams that can construct vessels in aluminium, steel, and even wood – I was lucky enough to step onboard an in-build 43-metre steel and aluminium motor yacht, and the quality is astounding.
Turquoise Yachts company photoPhoto: Turquoise YachtsTurquoise Yachts, arguably the most famed Turkish shipyard in the superyacht sector, is teeming with orders and it’s no wonder why. The shipyard has more than fifty years of expertise under its belt and has delivered some jaw-dropping projects. A couple of stand-out vessels from its fleet are the iconic 72.6-metre superyacht Quantum of Solace, and the era-defining 77-metre superyacht Go, being one of the yachts that bucked the trend of traditional design with her playful style and daring paint job. GO yacht exteriorPhoto: Guillaume PlissonTestament to its class, Turquoise Yachts has not one but two shipyards: one in Kocaeli which can host projects anywhere up to 160-metres in length, and the other at Pendik. At the former, Turquoise Yachts is busy underway with its forthcoming flagship superyacht, the 87-metre motor yacht Vento, the 79-metre Toro, the 76.25-metre Arrow, and the 51-metre sailing yacht Rainbow II. Vento yacht renderingMeanwhile, at Pendik the 75-metre Infinite Jest and the 53-metre Jewels are under construction. The yard might be at full capacity; however, it’s still welcoming orders and has slated 2026 as the earliest possible delivery date.

Read: Turquoise Yachts’ all-new 76m Project Arrow sold and in-build RMK Marine facilities The largest operation in Tuzla quite likely belongs to RMK Marine, as the shipyard is awash with activities on the pleasure, commercial and special purpose front. Very simply, the operation is massive and the pool of talent that RMK Marine has on hand is phenomenal. Özgür Numan, Yacht Department Director at RMK Marine Shipyard, expressed a strong interest to fully utilise its resources and make headway in the larger segment of the yacht market. “We want to build what our competitors cannot,” Numan said.

As it stands, RMK Marine has three motor yachts in-build; the 36.82-metre Vripack designed Seven Seas and the 65-metre Ice Class explorer ER65 have both been sold. While the 49.99-metre Hot Lab designed Aries is being built on speculation and is on the marketBut the yard’s looking to secure projects even larger; it even has two projects above 90-metres currently in the bidding process.  ER65 yacht exterior design Read: RMK Marine awarded construction of 65m ER65 superyacht polar explorer

Özgür Numan hammered home RMK Marine’s commitment to quality; rather than being profit-driven, RMK Marine aims to deliver a product that an owner loves and enjoys (allowing profits to roll themselves in).  “It’s rare to see an RMK Marine-built yacht on the market,” Numan said. RMK Marine’s fleet is diverse, but it's RH Three which is most akin to the yard's current portfolio. The motor yacht is testament to Numan's claim as she's passed hands only a number of times during her nearly 40-years on the water.  Aries yacht concept from RMK Marine and Hot LabAries yacht concept from RMK Marine and Hot LabRead: RMK and Hot Lab unveil 50m concept superyacht Aries now in-build

Dunya Yachts is another powerhouse superyacht builder based in Tuzla, and has been in operation for nearly 40-years now. Dunya Yachts shipyardThe shipyard claimed stardom in 2013 with the delivery of the 72-metre superyacht Axioma, which features an exterior design by Sterling / Scott, and an interior penned by Alberto Pinto. What perhaps has gone slightly unnoticed at Dunya is just how prolific the yard is when it comes to refits and repairs. Since 2007, Dunya has successfully completed work on 25 superyachts, including a 70-metre Lürssen, a 65-metre Benetti, and a 62-metre CRN. Axioma yacht cruisingDunya is currently underway with three impressive projects. First is the 54.08-metre explorer yacht, Ulucitcan, which was partly built by Newcastle Marine in the US, and then transported to Dunya Yachts to be completed. The second superyacht occupying the sheds at Dunya is the 48-metre support vessel, Project DY010, which boasts an abundance of space and paraphernalia to carry a small fleet of tenders and toys. DY010 support yacht exterior design The final in-build project at Dunya Yachts is the 46.7-metre explorer yacht, Project KB6.  The latter two projects feature an exterior penned by Gregory C. Marshall, while Ulucitcan sports an exterior by Vripack. All three projects are scheduled to be completed next year.Masterpiece yacht exterior design Masterpiece yacht exterior design Sedat Ergün, Founder and President of Dunya Yachts, is looking to swap these projects out with ones twice the size, as the shipyard has four new-build projects down on paper. The smallest of the fleet is the 80-metre superyacht Warrior, designed by Espen Øino International, closely followed by an 82-metre catamaran support vessel. Blade yacht exterior design Overshadowing these projects in size are a 90-metre superyacht designed by Sinot, called Masterpiece, and the 100-metre superyacht project, Blade, which was designed by Ken Freivokh. Warrior exterior design Warrior exterior design Of course, it’s impossible to get a full flavour of the activities going on across the whole nation (or even Istanbul alone), but the general excitement and buzz around the shipyards was certainly infectious.