The rise in popularity of support yachts came about from owners' desire to explore more remote corners of the world. Originally developed as offshore supply vessels, support yachts typically comprise a large stern deck storage space, garage or helipad. Boasting high volume and large cranes, support yachts tend to have larger tenders and toys storage capacity compared to regular motor yachts. Some are even able to carry submarines, cars or helicopters.
Support yachts are also known as shadow vessels; a high-volume boat that provides extra storage capacity to a mothership. It’s the perfect way to extend the yachting experience off the beaten track as it provides superyachts with larger fuel tank storage, therefore a longer cruising range. Some shadow vessels are exclusively used to carry crew members to handle the extra watersport equipment, while others are dedicated to scientific research purposes.
Built out of steel or aluminium, support yachts have semi-displacement or full-displacement hull configurations with some even built under ice-class regulation to cruise in icy waters. Monohull or catamaran hull shapes are most common for new builds, though some support yachts are conversion projects based on an old commercial support vessel.
A few shipyards are specialized in building semi-custom and full-custom support yachts. Damen Yachting is the most renowned, building yachts between 45m and 54m. Also in the Netherlands, Lynx Yachts focuses on building smaller sizes support yachts. The German shipyard Abeking & Rasmussen has a catamaran support vessel range named SWATH, while in Turkey, Ares Shipyard and Dunya Yachts have ongoing support yacht projects. More recently, the Spanish yard Astilleros Armon has been working on several full-custom support yachts up to 68m.