Monaco summit examines the “exploding” explorer yacht market

The third annual Explorer Yacht Summit was held on Thursday at the Yacht Club of Monaco, a world-first international conference dedicated to expanding the explorer yacht market.

On Thursday 10th November, yacht owners, charterers, brokers, designers, builders and suppliers were welcomed at the full-day event to network with experts at the forefront of the field.

Explorer yachts are a growing niche, making up 6% of the global superyacht fleet. The last two decades have seen an explosion in the market, with more new builds in production than previous decades. Since the start of the 2020s, 69 new build projects have been commissioned, bringing the total to 740 globally. Some of the largest vessels reach up to nearly 140 metres in length and can be home to permanent crews of as many as 60 people.

Unlike usual luxury yachts, these vessels are often ice-capable and enjoy long-range facilities and equipment. They can give access to some of the most remote and “off-the-beaten-track” destinations, even in the roughest of conditions — something that has great appeal.

They add a new dimension to the yachting experience, says Zelda Swindell, Senior Charter Manager with brokerage house Northrop & Johnson, who attended the summit: “You can really have it all with these vessels: you can have the luxury, but you’ve also got the adventure, the location. These vessels really are unique and cutting-edge.”

Glacier Bay, Alaska, photo source: Northrop & Johnson

Why explorer yachts?

The Explorer Yacht Summit began in 2019 with Patrick Coote, Managing Director of Northrop & Johnson Monaco, after identifying a gap in the market.

“We could see a rapidly growing interest in yachting off the beaten track,” he explains. “People were starting to get fed up with the typical milk run between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.”

Monaco has always been a hub for explorers since the days of Prince Albert I, who was also known as the Explorer Prince. The summit brings this global community together each year in the Principality, reinforcing Monaco’s position on the global stage as the world capital of advanced yachting. Indeed, the event has gone from strength to strength in recent years, says Coote, and has quickly established itself as a firm fixture in the superyacht calendar.

Having spent his career in various aspects of the yachting industry from shipyards to brokerage houses, Patrick Coote has seen superyacht trends come and go, but he says explorer yachts are here to stay.

“An explorer yacht offers an array of possibilities. A robust and stable platform is perfect not only for long passages at sea but also for a wide variety of exciting activities, be they under the water, on land, or in the air,” he says. “Whatever appeals to you, be it expeditions, adventure sports, submarines, heli-ops, research or science, everything is possible.”

Future good

In addition to their primary purpose as luxury leisure vehicles, explorer yachts, have incredible potential to contribute to marine science. Approximately 70% of the world is still unmapped, says Victor Voscovo, keynote speaker at the summit and owner of an explorer yacht himself. That includes parts of the Mediterranean, and contributing to this pool of knowledge is something yacht owners and charterers can easily do.

“There is a general appreciation among expedition yacht owners that we need to conserve the marine environment and play an active role in its protection,” explains Coote. “This community of owners is more active than most in the fields of Marine research, science and education.”


Photo above: Antarctica, source Northrop & Johnson