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The shadow vessel concept that keeps superyachts free from Covid-19


For those lucky enough to own a superyacht, the prospect of escaping to open waters and living in the lap of luxury has continued to be a reality throughout the pandemic.

Mogul David Geffen famously shared a social media post indicating that he was self-isolating in the Grenadines on board his luxury yacht “Rising Sun” last March, while Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s megayacht Eclipse was reportedly spotted in the Caribbean around the same time.

But hopping on a multimillion-dollar vessel and setting off on an extended trip during such a chaotic time in the world doesn’t come without its complications.

Once you navigate the issue of frequently changing travel restrictions and border closures, there’s also the small matter of ensuring your yacht remains Covid-19 free, particularly if you’re picking up new staff and/or guests en route.

‘Protective layer’

However, Australian marine design company Incat Crowther and catamaran yacht support vessel designers ShadowCAT have come up with an inventive way around this hurdle. (Support, or shadow, vessels are smaller ships used for transporting crew, kit and supplies.)

The team, who previously devised Hodor, the world’s largest shadow vessel, recently unveiled a new concept that’s “a buffer between the main yacht and outside world.”

Described as a “protective layer,” ShadowCAT Haven acts as a floating Covid-19 testing facility and quarantine area that allows owners, or charterers in some cases, “to maintain Covid-secure social bubbles on board.”

Measuring 224-foot (68.2 meters), the multi-hull vessel can accommodate 52 people and is equipped with a hospital and a laboratory, as well as thermal cameras designed to pinpoint any signs of infection.

Haven, which has a catamaran configuration, is to be fitted with air conditioning and circulation systems merged with “nanotechnological surfaces” that destroy bacteria and viruses.

Once guests or staff arrive on board, they’re brought to the vessel’s “shore zone” and tested for infection. Those who test positive are kept in quarantine.

Passengers who’ve been given the all-clear are moved to the “yacht side,” which is kitted out with jet skis, a submarine and a diving center, while they’re waiting to enter the “mothership.”

“All new crew and guests must pass through Haven for testing before boarding,” reads a statement from Incat Crowther.

“As a result, the mothership will have no direct contact with the shore. All stores and transfers will be handled entirely by Haven.”

Safe haven

The very modern concept comes at a time when the demand for big yachts appears to be increasing.

Despite the global pandemic, a total of 341 were sold in 2020, according to superyacht market intelligence source BOAT Pro.

Although this indicates a slight decline in the market when compared with the 404 sold in 2019, sales began to rise at the end of the year.

Mark Cavendish, CCO of Heesen says the Dutch superyacht builder sold five yachts in the last quarter of 2020 following a very quiet few months where “absolutely nothing happened.”

“I think what happened was the world got fed up with being locked down and told they couldn’t go anywhere,” he told the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

“So I suppose people who’ve got the money thought ‘now is as good a time as any to buy a boat because it’s my own controlled safe environment.’

“You go from your house to your private jet to your boat — the perfect Covid arrangement.”

For those who opt for a Haven, they’ll be at least one more step in that arrangement, albeit a very expensive one.

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