Megayachts, Gigayachts & Terayachts
They are becoming very, very large, and are a small world unto themselves.
Despite the enormous size of these yachts, most carry no more than 12 passengers when underway, although they may have well over 50 crew. Surprisingly, only a few of them accommodate up to 36 passengers, a SOLAS limit. Regulations do vary between countries and there is some confusion, even among the industry, about what a megayacht is and what a gigayacht is, or how long or large a terayacht might be one day.
Many of us will agree that a megayacht is larger than a superyacht, which is generally defined as a motor or sailing yacht that is over 24 metres / 80 feet along the load line, normally requires a professional crew, and will not be much longer than 50 metres / 160 feet overall, and has a displacement below the 500 GT limit. Many aspects of yachting change, and shore support becomes mandatory above this displacement. Yachts may not carry cargo.
I am personally comfortable with a megayacht extending from 500 GT up to around 100 metres / 330 feet or perhaps to 3,000 GT’s, as above that is when unrestricted captains’ licences are required. Anything larger I would consider to be a gigayacht although I do not like the term. I prefer just calling them very large motor or sailing yachts and indicating their actual size.
As of September 2019, AZZAM is the longest yacht to have been commissioned at 180 metres / 590 feet and has a displacement of over 13,000 GT’s. FULK AL SALAMAH at 164 metres / 538 feet and 24m / 79′ beam has the largest displacement of any yacht at a staggering 20,361 GT’s.
Frankly speaking, a yacht around 60 metres / 200 feet can give you most of what you need and will normally have generous spaces for guests and crew. A lift is really important on larger yachts for older folk or less agile guests, and a touch and go helipad is a very useful feature. Most large yachts are built to order but several shipyards now offer semi-custom packages which can save building time. You will normally have three or four decks above the waterline and one or two decks below. The possibilities for layout, external and internal design and personalisation are almost limitless. If you add features and amenities such as a swimming pool, spa, gym, cinema, disco, toy garage, internal dock or a large beach club area, it is easy to see how these yachts can grow to be so large.
Of course, you may want even more tenders and toys and decide to have a support or shadow vessel that can carry them allowing you to keep your decks and internal areas clearer. They can also be useful to provide additional crew or pilots resting areas.
The owners of these yachts quite rightly need to be concerned about the safety and security of their families and are often building safe or panic rooms into their yachts, and perhaps some discreet anti-piracy measures or non-lethal weapons, very advanced vigilance and cyber protection technology and the odd little submarine or escape shuttle. Very 007!