Azzam: the story behind the longest yacht in the world
A rare visitor to Western civilization, the 180-meter Azzam is still widely known in the yachting sector for topping the list of the world's longest yachts ever built. Built for the president of the UAE, she was delivered by Lurssen in 2013 and remains to this day a technical achievement for the field despite being shrouded in secrecy.
As is typical with any superyacht in build at Lurssen, no information was ever released whilst the 180-meter was being constructed at their facility. The first hints of them building the world's longest yacht started appearing in 2012 as portions of its hull and superstructure began leaving the shed for assembly. At that point, no details about the yacht were known nor where released.
In April 2013, Azzam was launched. Information around the project was still scarce but it was then known that Italian design studio, Nauta Yachts was responsible for the lines of the yacht. Not only would she become the longest yacht in the world at the time of her launch but also one of the world's fastest in the megayacht department.
Azzam could indeed reach a top speed of over 30 knots thanks to a combination of two gas turbines and two diesel engines giving the 180-meter yacht an output of 94,000hp. The project's build time was also impressive for such a scale, with construction taking only 3 years after one year of engineering.
"When I first saw the scale model before the general presentation to the Principal, I was 100% happy with the outcome and so was the Principal. Such recognition made me confident that we had achieved our goal." Mario Pedol, Nauta Yachts CEO stated in the launch press release back in 2013.
After the yacht was launched, it was announced that Azzam's engineering was developed under the personal guidance of Mubarak Saad al Ahbabi, chairman of the Private Department of the President of the UAE up until 2015. Leading the development of the original concept, he also assembled the team that would carry out the design and build.
His brief was to create a large luxury yacht with an innovative and timeless design, capable of traveling at high speed in warm and shallow waters as well as be able to provide luxurious accommodation to the yacht's guest. A goal that was achieved with one of the most complex and impactful yachts ever constructed.
Everything about Azzam's size mesmerizes anyone who finds himself contemplating the yacht. Stretching across a beam of 18 meters, Azzam's main salon spans a total length of 29-meters, which is more volume in itself that some would already consider to be a superyacht.
French designer Christophe Leoni was chosen to complete Azzam's interior in a sophisticated, turn of the century Empire style. "Though yachting is not my main area of business, I thoroughly enjoyed the cooperation with Nauta and Lürssen and am confident that the final yacht is everything and more the owner expects." he stated in the launch press release.
Other than her spacious salon and luxurious guest accommodation, it is not known in very much detail what exactly one can find inside the 180-meter yacht. Although from photography one can also spot a helipad on the yacht's bow as well as a lounging space aft of the main deck.
"All our efforts were concentrated to achieve a design defined by a strong character, but dressed by a timeless elegance, with the elements of a contemporary, modern architecture, able to represent a milestone in the superyacht fleet for decades" Nauta Yachts' CEO said upon the yacht's delivery in December 2013.
Featuring a different style and concept than yachts one would typically find in the Mediterranean or America, Azzam has a myriad of interior space with less of an accent on exterior space than one would think. Such configurations, particularly popular for yachts cruising in the Gulf, offer maximum comfort inside as well as total privacy.
Most of the yacht's aft deck space is in fact closed down by verandas, which is where one would typically find open deck space. The same can also be said about Azzam's sundeck, which is also covered by glass all around for guests to evolve in a climate controlled environment.
Flying the Abu Dhabi flag, Azzam is extremely rarely seen in mainstream yachting locations and is mainly being operated in the Middle East. Some of the world's largest yachts are also located in the area such as the 155-meter Al Said, which by gross tonnage outcompetes Azzam's 13,136 tons of interior volume.
Despite being to this day the world's longest yacht, experts have started to watch their specific wording as two superyachts are now larger than Azzam when measuring interior volume. Other than the 155-meter Al Said and her 15,850 tons, owned by the Sultan of Oman, the leader in the category is now the 156-meter Dilbar. Notably all three of these yachts were built by Lurssen in Germany.
Delivered in 2016 to Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, the 156-meter Dilbar was built in just 52 months after the signing of the contract and boasts over 1,100km of cabling onboard. The total interior space has been measured at 3,800 square meters. Dilbar, despite being more voluminous, is however also slower than Azzam, reaching a cruising speed of 22.5 knots.
Azzam's speed can, of course, be explained by her massive turbines and engines, dominating the space under the 180-meter's aft. As a result the world's longest yacht can reach speeds of over 30 knots. This was also, in part, achieved by embedding less interior volume into the yacht that was technically possible in order to keep a lighter, sleeker look and feel.
"We were pleased to note that the Client’s brief was not calling for large volumes in relation to the overall length." Pedol told SYT following Azzam's launch. "This would give us the possibility to express our vision of balance between airiness and light on a larger scale. Our lines could stay neat and essential, one of the hallmarks of Nauta Yachts, without overflow, redundancy and massive volumes."
"We immediately realized that this project would be one of the most demanding of our careers."
Known throughout the world's as the longest yacht ever despite her rather private operation, Azzam has become an ambassador for the yachting industry in general. Despite rumors that a superyacht over 200 meters may be in the engineering stages, it seems unlikely that Azzam will use her iconic status anytime soon.
Photos by Klaus Jordan/Lurssen