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Turning dreams into reality

Voyaging in Greenland or deep in Antarctica is an experience few ever get to encounter. Often it is grey and windy, but when the weather fronts clear through and the sun appears, the land’s carapace of ice gleams in the sun and the water turns a deep greenish turquoise. Here in the most remote areas of the world, is a grandstand seat on the power of nature, with some of the most impressive wildlife on the planet: polar bears, whales and walruses in the north, and, in the deep south, ice cliffs, teeming penguin colonies, leopard seals and humpback whales.

It is unsurprising that yacht owners increasingly want to visit these special and untouched areas. But these regions are little visited for good reason – they are the most demanding of all marine environments, and the risks need to be carefully managed. Three years ago, the 51m motor yachtIceAngel struck an uncharted rock off Greenland and almost sank. The incident sent reverberations through the superyacht industry, underscoring the particular risks of exploring high latitudes of the Arctic and Antarctic. From dealing with the rupture of fuel tanks in an environmentally sensitive area to the repatriation of the yacht for repairs, handling the consequences can be logistically complex and massively expensive. The costs of claims that may have been in the millions in most other areas of the world can quickly spiral into the tens of millions in more remote locations. The case of Ice Angel was a stark illustration of how much careful preparation and risk assessment is required, and the very different approach needed by owners, crews and insurers.

Mitigating the risks

Mike Wimbridge, managing director of Pantaenius UK, has considerable experience with insuring superyachts in remote areas. He identifies these most isolated, rugged areas as Alaska, the Bering Sea and Russia; the North West Passage and Arctic Canada; Arctic Svalbard and Greenland; Antarctica and South Georgia – and also some of the more far-flung areas of the Pacific.

“We can look after boats and cover owners for almost all remote places,” he says, “but these trips are things that need to be planned. A lot of notice gives an insurer comfort and identifies that the client is giving the venture proper consideration. I would be asking the client about their plans for next year or the year after. This gives insurers the opportunity to build longer relationships with the client rather than just being asked to cover the more extreme cruising areas as a one-off."

“For us, the simple questions are: can we look after these boats in the most remote areas, can we get people out there to respond to an incident quickly and, perhaps more importantly, can we get medical assistance to any passengers or crew in peril?"

“There is a lot to think about: is the boat ice classed? Are all of the permits in order? Are guides needed to to go ashore? And what the position would be if there was environmental damage caused to some of these pristine places." “We can offer support to help owners go in with the right people and have 24-hour insurance back up. If everything isn’t in order you can be hugely exposed. If a yacht of any size had to be repatriated for any reason from the North West Passage for example, or need tug services off Greenland, a claim that might have been €5m could easily become €15m, or more."

“I would say that the more remote yachts are, the more the costs go up and a fairly minor incident a long way from home can magnify. The margin for error gets smaller and smaller. Owners need to understand the implications.”

Arksen - custom made for exploration

One company which has been set up to build and support voyaging to remote areas is Arksen. Set up by British entrepreneur Jasper Smith, whose background is in the games and tech industry, Arksen has a range of explorer power designs. The Arksen concept is more wide-ranging than the vessels themselves. It includes a scheme to encourage philanthropic owners to support environmental and ocean projects.

The Arksen 65, 77, Arksen 85 and custom projects of 100ft-plus are all aluminium explorer vessels designed for long-range voyaging. From the drawing board, they have been designed to be built from sustainable materials and be recyclable after their 50- year life-span. The first in the range will be the Arksen 85, due to be launched in spring next year, one of two 85s currently in build at Wight Shipyard in Cowes. Arksen explorer yachts will be built from aluminium containing 75% recycled content. Hull efficiency is critical so they can cruise efficiently over long distances. In the case of the Arksen 85, range is up to 7,000 miles at 9 knots using 16,000 litres of fuel (the efficient cruising speed is 9-12 knots). Arksen also use renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and utilise hybrid power.

A fundamental part of Arksen’s ethos is to minimise the downtime of yachts and allow multi-use. Owners will be part of an Explorers’ Club and encouraged via a Sea Time Pledge to dedicate a portion of their annual sea time to research. Each Arksen yacht will have reconfigurable interiors so that it can be converted reasonably quickly from an owner’s set-up, to a configuration with more berths and lab or office space suitable for groups of scientists.

“The central core of Arksen is capability,” says Charles Dence, commercial director of Arksen. “These boats will allow you to go to a wider range of destinations. They are a vessel platform that can access more remote places that are unstudied. Then it is all about minimising impact, being self-contained and leaving no trace.” Dence admits that Arksen sits adjacent but not exactly in the area of traditional superyachts. “I don’t think we sit in that area, and [with our boats] is more about the use than the product.

For example, our boats are unpainted so they are easier to maintain, although the interior is different, and very comfortable. We have systems redundancy and our boats are built to a high standard. From a conceptual point of view they are made for exploration.” Founder Jasper Smith explains: “Twenty years ago I started a charity called World Ocean Trust to try to back interesting projects and fund raise around it. This is the realisation of that." “Most people who are going to buy a high end yacht could afford to go on expeditions or support a project. We want to run events and raise funds, and we will have the support of the vessels we build." “Owning an Arksen vessel is not a status symbol,” he says, “it is a statement of intent.”

Support for remote voyages

Arksen is showing the way forward, not only in designing and building yachts fit for specialised and challenging environments, but helping owners with voyage planning and support. But there are also companies which provide support for remote voyaging for any yacht. One is EYOS, a company Pantaenius rates highly for its ability to navigate owners and crew through polar code requirements, obtaining permits needed for legal voyages and supplying ice pilots. It can also organise logistics for diving expeditions and ice diving, ROVs and submersibles and arrange wilderness guides or helicopter support.

It will even arrange for a carbon offset of any expedition voyage. So as more owners consider voyages to remote areas, there is an expanding network of qualified and expert support. But whatever the yacht, it all starts with early planning, so that these pristine areas can be enjoyed safely for the rare experience of being out in the wilds, all alone. 

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