Showing resilience in the face of economic turmoil and always at the forefront of new yachting technology, Gulf Craft is now among the most prestigious boat builders in the world. Its new Majesty 135 is a timeless classic that oozes style, space, power, color and luxury, as Mike Derrett discovers.
Until recently, superyachts built outside Europe and the USA were treated with suspicion, even disdain in some quarters. How could new builders in countries such as Taiwan, China and in the Middle East possibly build a quality yacht? Well, that view is well on the way to being dismissed due to the efforts of several builders in the Middle East and Asia, not least Gulf Craft, with its Majesty Yachts brand competing strongly in terms of quality, design and attention to detail.
The world changed a lot after the Global Financial Crisis, with sales of luxury products being especially badly hit. Many industry observers stated that the superyacht sector was immune to the downturn, as the wealthy would always buy. They were wrong. Superyacht builders are often notoriously secretive about orders and it took falling delivery numbers post-2012 to show that the market was changing. The wealthy don’t get rich by frittering money away and they were as quick as anyone else in the global downturn to start looking for better value for money. With Majesty Yachts able to offer prices significantly lower than western builders, while offering quality production and semi-custom building capability, the stage was set for Majesty Yachts to prosper. Now, not a week goes by without prospective customers from all over the world coming to their United Arab Emirates (UAE) shipyard to see the yachts and the build capability. The fact that Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become household names around the world, with Dubai recently chosen as the venue for Expo 2020, has helped boost awareness of the region. With its roots firmly in the UAE, Majesty Yachts is proud to be part of a new era.
Anyone visiting the Dubai International Boat Show in March 2014 would have been hard pressed to miss the Majesty 135 superyacht, the largest yacht on show built and manufactured in the UAE. With over 30 years in the business, Gulf Craft’s chairman Mohammed Alshaali is rightly proud of this achievement. From humble beginnings in 1998, building small open boats for the local market, Gulf Craft has grown to be a major international player in the boating industry, achieving in late 2013 the distinction of being the world’s 10th-largest builder of superyachts in terms of total length of yachts on order.
The driving force behind Gulf Craft has been, and still is, its founding partner Mohammed Alshaali, who heads up the business as chairman and major shareholder. Mohammed is still actively involved, particularly in the design and development of new yachts and boats, which are his particular interest. Mohammed explained, “It’s difficult to be successful building yachts and boats if you don’t have a passion for boats and the sea.”
His passion is clearly as strong today as it was when he took his first tentative steps as a boat builder 32 years ago. In explaining the company’s business philosophy, he said, “We consider ourselves austere, as everything we do is aimed at benefitting our customers and providing value for money, and we feel proud to have become a successful example of a national industry in the UAE that has received global recognition.”
Responsible for the operations of the company is Erwin Bamps, Chief Executive Officer, who this year celebrates 12 years with the business. Belgian-born Erwin has worked alongside Mohammed to transform the company from a small family-owned business into a modern corporation, employing over 1,700 staff.
The Majesty 135 is the latest in a line of fly-bridge yachts that started with the Adora 53 in 1992, a design that was instantly successful, selling 60 units and proving to be a major turning point for Gulf Craft, propelling it into a new era of boat building. The result is the Majesty Yachts range.
The Majesty 135
Majesty Yachts uses a combination of craftsmanship and technology to produce stunning designs with quality finishes on the exteriors and interiors of its yachts. The Majesty 135 is an impressive example of how this works. As building a superyacht is now always a semi-custom project, advanced technology can reduce manufacturing times and consequently offer the customer exceptional value for money, while at the same time adding the human ‘craftsmanship’ touch. The Majesty 135 is the latest example of this build philosophy and throughout the yacht there exudes a style, quality and a presence that is timeless, the true sign of a classic product. Additionally, there are touches of practicality throughout, making operating and living on board a pleasure for the owner, guests and crew.
Boarding the Majesty 135 from the aft deck, the size and capacity of the retractable diving and dinghy-boarding platform is immediately apparent – guests’ needs for fun on the water are well catered for. Aft of the engine room is the garage area for storing watersports equipment.
The cockpit has a large seating area with a 32-inch flatscreen TV, wet-bar with icemaker and watertight access door to a companionway leading to the two aft crew cabins, and from there to the engine room. The cockpit, besides being large and comfortable, is practical too, with safety features such as side access gates and concealed Maxwell hydraulic capstans and fair leads. There is also a remote steering and engine control docking station at the starboard side of the cockpit, as well as a further two situated each side of the pilothouse forward.
The crew is well provided for with those two sizable double aft crew cabins, both with en suite facilities, and a large galley and mess area. With an emphasis on electrical engineering reliability, this area also accommodates the electrical distribution panels, with easy access for the crew by avoiding the engine room, where they would be subject to vibration and heat. A veritable suite of appliances adjacent to the crew area includes Miele washing machines and tumble driers.
Entering the main saloon from the cockpit, the Anigre veneer, which extends throughout the yacht, gives a light finish and a feel of understated elegance that will surely stand the test of time. The quality of the joinery is simply flawless throughout this yacht. Deep windows give panoramic views and provide light in abundance. If the sun becomes too much, electric blinds can be operated in an instant. Further forward is the dining area, which can seat up to 10 guests. One is immediately impressed by the engraved crystal mural of the world on the forward main lounge bulkhead behind the dining table, a tasteful and highly original feature. Like almost all other components on the yacht, this is either manufactured in-house or by local specialist suppliers who have developed their designs and products in line with Gulf Craft and Majesty Yachts requirements. To the uninitiated, this shows just how far Gulf Craft and the UAE have progressed in recent years in the superyacht world.
A first for Majesty Yachts and an impressive feature is the extending balcony on the starboard side of the saloon. This extension offers outboard access via sliding doors from the saloon to the platform, providing a fantastic space to view the ocean and watch the sun go down. The balcony is hydraulically operated and can take up to three people.
Accessible from the port side of the main saloon is the huge galley with a large oven and cooking range with fridges and freezers - again high-quality Miele appliances are used throughout. Appropriately for a yacht that may well spend a lot of its life cruising long distances, there is an enormous amount of cold storage capacity, not just in the galley area, but also down below. Accessible by a companionway from the galley is a walk-in deep freeze of 5.4 cubic metres capacity, and a cold room of 4.55 cubic metres capacity. Once again, the crew is well catered for with two en suite crew cabins situated in the same area. Apart from the direct access to the external area via a pantograph door, a neat touch within the galley is a hidden door that allows access for the crew to the rest of the yacht without going through the guest dining area.
Moving forward on the Majesty 135 is the owner’s suite. Airy and light with the now familiar contemporary feel, this area is the ultimate in luxury. The en suite is tastefully finished, with marble in abundance for the washbasins and deck with shades of cappuccino onyx, rainforest brown and Afyon sugar. All of the marble and Corian on the Majesty Yachts 135 is cut to shape in the shipyard by computer-controlled water jet cutting machines, another example of the vertical integration policy of the business to ensure an exceptional level of accuracy and finishing. Ample storage space is provided with full-length wardrobes and cupboards all detailed to the highest standard.
Access to the four guest cabins on the deck below is from a stairwell just aft of the owner’s suite. This leads down to a lobby area with access to the four guest cabins, two being equipped with double berths and two with single berths. The two aft guest cabins are separated from the engine room by the en suite facilities, which ensure the noise level from the engine room aft is minimized. Examples of Majesty Yachts’ attention to detail are everywhere, such as the illuminated handrails, Novasuede covering on the walls in the stairwell and the walls in the lobby finished in Stolz leather with a beautiful stingray pattern finish. The guest areas are not restricted in the use of marble either, with yellow onyx and Crema Marfil being used extensively on the deck, en suite showers, sinks and vanity units.
The piano lounge on the next level of the Majesty 135 incorporates a baby grand piano, which was played extensively during the yacht’s public showing at the Dubai International Boat Show. The lounge incorporates a semi-circular OLED 46-inch TV and has an attractive bar with a mini-galley. Here a blue marble Azul Bahia has been used, with a pleasing effect for the bar counter and worktops.
Moving upwards, once again it’s easy to lose track of which deck one is on, as this yacht is deceptively spacious for its size. Once on the sundeck it’s easy to see that this will be the centre of attention when the weather is suitable. At the forward end is a walk-around Jacuzzi with retractable sunroof, and aft a large wet-bar with barbecue, icebox, chest freezer and fridge. At the aft end of the sundeck is a 1500-kilogram-capacity crane with space for RHIB and two personal watercraft
The wheelhouse is accessible both internally and via side doors to the upper side decks. A comprehensive navigation system is fitted out with three Raymarine 19-inch multi-display monitors at the central helm. The captain has a well-appointed cabin with en suite, accessible from the wheelhouse.
Here is the Majesty 135 broken down for the technically inclined:
• The Majesty 135 when loaded displaces 263 tonnes on an overall length of 41.5 metres and beam of 8.1 metres
• Power is provided by twin MTU 16V 2000 M94 engines rated at 2,600hp
• Cruising speed for efficient range is 16 knots giving a range of 1,100 nautical miles. Maximum speed is 22 knots
• 35,000-litre fuel capacity gives enough range to cruise from Dubai to the Maldives
• Fresh water capacity is 7,582 litres and two water makers with a capacity of 260 litres per hour each
• Generators are twin Kohler, 80 kilowatt each
• Air conditioning is provided by a central chilled
water system with four chillers totalling a 600,000 BTU capacity
• A TRAC 540 fin stabilizing system is fitted
• Maneuvering at low speed is assisted by a hydraulic bow thruster of 100 hp capacity
Technology and craftsmanship are essential components in the Majesty 135. Majesty Yachts noted that the global marine market started to change after 2007, with an increasing number of customers requiring their own interior designs. With the global market more competitive and the customer becoming king, yacht builders around the world could no longer ignore this trend if they wished to survive. At the same time, considerable advances in technology appeared, allowing efficient and fast semi-custom work to be offered. Gulf Craft has been one of the leaders in this technology field. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) systems and machines have been progressively installed over the past five years.
These systems allow the company to rapidly develop new layouts for customers at the design stage and complete accurate costings. Once approved by the customer, the designs are transformed into digital format so that the CAM machines can accurately and efficiently cut the joinery, marble, stainless steel and other components for installation on the yacht by a team of skilled craftsmen.
CAM machines used by Gulf Craft for its Majesty superyacht fleet include sophisticated state-of-the-art water jet cutting equipment for stainless steel and marble, router cutting machines for joinery and veneering machines to produce the finest veneer finishes on interior joinery.
Final finish is perfected using the latest spray booths and equipment for joinery before final assembly. The Gulf Craft strategy is to manufacture most of the components for its yachts and boats in-house, maintaining maximum control on delivery times as well as quality.
The Gulf Craft workforce now numbers over 1,700, of which more than 50 staff are involved in the CAD and CAM development and operation. Despite the investment in technology, craft skills are still vital for the final assembly stages and Gulf Craft runs an extensive training and development scheme for its workforce.
With a successful 32-year history of boat building, and many thousands of boats and yachts in service in markets around the world, Gulf Craft can feel justly proud of its latest Majesty 135 superyacht. Hard work and dedication have now firmly established the yard as a key player in global boating.
Not a company to rest on its laurels, Gulf Craft is increasingly focused on new boating markets in Asia. It has seen good results selling Majesty Yachts in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Despite the increased focus on exports, Mohamed Alshaali is still aware that the Middle East home market is the core of the company’s business, and his personal passion for boating in his home Gulf waters is as strong as ever.
We can expect yet more new and interesting developments in the future, including a Majesty 155 from Gulf Craft, a forward-thinking company that has thrived on the hard work and vision of its founder and the team he leads.
Model Majesty 135
Builder Gulf Craft
Year of build 2014
Country of build United Arab Emirates
Naval architect Gulf Craft Design Studio
Interior designer Gulf Craft Design Studio
Length overall 41.60 metres
Waterline length 35.30 metres
Beam 8.10 metres
Draft 2.10 metres
Displacement 264 tonnes approx.
Engine 2 x MTU, 16V2000CR, 2,600 hp, 2,450 rpm
Speed max 23 knots
Speed cruise 17 knots
Fuel capacity 35,030 litres
Range 800 nm @ 23 knots, 1100 nm @ 17 knots
Freshwater capacity 7,580 litres
Blackwater capacity 1,710 litres
Greywater capacity 1,950 litres
Generators 2 x Kohler, 80 kW
Navigation electronics Raymarine
Owner and guest berths 4 guest staterooms, 1 owner’s stateroom
Crew 4 crew cabins, 1 captain’s cabin
Tenders Dinghy, 2 x Jetski
Classification Bureau Veritas, X Hull, Mach Yacht Motor C, unrestricted navigation