Technological pioneering and what drives it?

Looking back 25 years to the mid-1990s, there was little concept and certainly no enforcement of environmental protection around refitting superyachts; fundamentally, people could and would discharge almost anything into the sea and atmosphere, from chemicals and dust to liquid and solid waste. This is something we can’t imagine today.

Paint coatings were a significant part of this; when commercial ships were painted and antifouled in uncovered dry docks, huge plumes of overspray could be seen drifting up into the atmosphere. The same went for private yachts – how many neighbouring yachts would complain about being covered in overspray? Again, something you cannot imagine today. Even in the early 2000s you would see a lot of yachts being painted in-water with sprayers working off pontoons with no covering, causing all manner of environmental problems.

Clearly things have changed dramatically and today we are all very aware of, and respectful towards, our environmental responsibilities, but what were the catalysts that prompted the changes and how were the technologies behind today’s yacht containment systems developed? As is virtually always the case, it was the carrot and not the stick that sparked the creativity to find solutions to problems that would lead to an improvement in business performance whilst being less damaging to our planet.

In the early noughties the number of yachts and their size started to grow rapidly, putting pressure on the limited capacities of the shipyards both for slipway space and lifting capacity. The Palma based paint companies, including Pinmar and Rolling Stock, were also feeling this pressure. Both were struggling to paint the larger hulls off floating pontoons or bosun’s chairs, with the added problems of contamination affecting the paint finish and overspray reaching neighbouring yachts. This, with the addition of interruptions in production due to bad weather, presents a business need to find a solution. The environmental benefits were a necessary by-product but not the primary drivers.

Mark Conyers, CEO of Rolling Stock at the time, looked to draw in expertise from the UK construction industry, persuading Peter Martin to set up Andamios (a precursor to Techno Craft) in
Palma to introduce construction scaffolding systems and methodologies to superyacht containment. His initial breakthrough came by combining the scaffolding system with shrink-wrap plastic, which had been developed in the packaging sector, to provide a turn-key containment solution. This resulted in a controlled environment in which to work, reducing contamination and environmental issues while also mitigating the climatic interruptions for yachts being hauled out and painted on the hard. Nonetheless, it did not address the shipyard capacity issue of limited lift and hard standing space.

Following this, the real innovation came when Peter was challenged to find a solution that would enable in-water painting of large superyachts. Techno Craft utilised their construction industry
experience and engineering expertise to adapt the cantilever system, used to distribute tension in suspension bridges, to build a scaffolding system directly off the yacht itself extending all the way
down to the waterline. This required a major investment in the new lighter and more flexible scaffolding equipment, however it was revolutionary as this solution was modular and perfectly
adaptable to the larger superyacht. Avoiding the problems caused by the instability of a floating foundation, the system effectively became an extension of the yacht structure itself and formed a
cocoon-like enclosure.

Having pioneered this unique yacht containment system, Techno Craft continued to innovate to deal with the ever-increasing drive for paint quality, which required better ambient temperatures and
atmospheric controls. Techno Craft, Pinmar and Rolling Stock worked in collaboration with local company Air Clean to design and introduce filtration and extraction systems to control the quality of
the air within the tent and remove contamination and pollutants. These purpose-built extractors use multiple-stage filters incorporating a final stage mini-pleat High Efficiency Particle Arrester system to eliminate the release of overspray into the environment, meaning the negative impact is absolutely minimal and all contaminants are then disposed of in line with ISO 14001.

The benefits from utilising this innovative adaptation of construction engineering technology for yacht containment systems became a strong USP for GYG, enabling it to support the rapid growth in
the refit requirements of the superyacht industry since the 1990s. Although Techno Craft is expanding its business to new European territories, the adoption of the cantilever technology has
been slow and today its usage is limited to mainly Spanish shipyards; indeed in the USA, more than 10 years after the Techno Craft breakthrough, the local yacht containment companies continue to
build scaffold off the floating pontoons, suffering from the inherent problems of instability, sagging and size restrictions.

The old adage holds true; if you want innovation, present a problem to an entrepreneur, don’t wait for a legislator.