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The full story of the yacht bought by Equatorial Guinea

BEAM Staff
January 27, 2018

One of the key stories of the past year has been the acquisition of two superyachts by the state of Equatorial Guinea. The largest of the two was the 90-meter Ice, which in itself has a fascinating story. Commissioned by an Italian billionaire and delivered to a Russian oligarch, Ice was built with environmental friendliness in mind.

Ice's story starts under a different name - Air, which is what Augusto Perfetti dubbed her when he ordered her from Lurssen in Germany. A famous Italian candy manufacturer, Perfetti is mostly known as the owner of Mentos but also Chupa Chups. Forbes currently values him and his brother at a combined $7.2 billion.

As Perfetti had the yacht under construction at the shipyard, he was approached by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov to acquire the yacht. According to media, the oligarch made him an offer he couldn't refuse and the yacht was sold prior to her delivery. Following the yacht's completion, she was christened as Ice. Meanwhile, Perfetti ordered himself another Air yacht at Feadship.

Out of the many alluring aspects that Ice features is her friendliness to the environment. In fact, the 90 meter yacht was the first to have Azipod drive units installed instead of shafted diesels that one would typically find onboard a motor yacht. A top priority in the construction of Ice was to lower emissions as well as all possible noise and vibration.

The result was a quiet yacht that could seamlessly cruise through the oceans. The choice of azipods allowed for a more flexible layout on the inside whilst electric generators made it possible to fit the engine room on a single deck and save space. Filters were installed on Ice to made sure that the exhaust gases passed through the eight steel pipes at the yacht's highest points were first filtered and unnoticeable.

Designed by Tim Heywood both outside and inside, Project Rainbow, as it was known during her build, features a contemporary style on the interior with an unmistakable style on the exterior. Stretching across Ice's full beam, the owner's stateroom forward of the main deck is located near to two VIP cabins on the same deck.

The aft of the main deck is dedicated to being a bathing area, with guests being able to both quickly access the sea through a spacious swimming platform as well as enjoy the water in a swimming pool aft of the deck. The rapid access from the pool into the sea is ensured through two staircases on either side of the yacht.

Whereas Heywood focused on the yacht's layout, it was Terence Disdale who created the interior style of the yacht. Coupled with a vast collection of modern art, Ice's interior is created in Zen minimalism. Creative furniture and fittings are further complemented by large windows that beam natural light deep into the 90 meter yacht.

Built for efficient performance, Ice can be controlled with a single joystick that connects the full bow thrusters and azipods, according to statements issued when the yacht was launched. During sea trials, the 90 meter yacht reached a top speed of 18.6 knots with nearly 100% clean exhausts. Burning 16 to 17 tonnes of fuel in 24 hours, she cruises at an average speed of 16 to 17 knots.

Amongst Ice's main amenities are a helipad aft of the third deck, a lounging area on the sundeck, a private space on the bow area of the yacht as well as tall windows throughout the yacht creating lots of volume in its salons and suites. With an interior volume of 2,870 tons, she stretches across a total beam of nearly 15 meters.

The most recent chapter in Ice's history came in 2015 as Kerimov sold the 90-meter yacht to son of the President of Equatorial Guinea according to a report by Le Monde. The French newspaper goes on to say that following the acquisition, Ice's new owner replaced Ice's helicopter with a new Eurocopter EC135. Earlier in 2014, the same group purchased the 78m Feadship, Ebony Shine.

As it was leaving the Netherlands after a refit, Ebony Shine was however seized in March 2017 by Dutch authorities as part of a case against the yacht's beneficial owner. According to Maritime Executive, the defendants then argued that the yacht could not be seized as it was technically a governmental vessel operated through Dara Limited, an offshore holding company controlled by Equatorial Guinea.

Ebony Shine

The 25th largest yacht in the world at the time of her delivery, Ice has since slipped to the 66th position in the world rankings as larger megayachts began being build. Her drive for clear exhausts, minimized vibration and noise have, however, inspired a drive across even smaller yachts for more efficiency and lower noise pollution.

Photo by Julien Hubert

Valued at $6.3 billion by Forbes, Suleyman Kerimov currently sits as the 21st richest man in Russia with his net worth having risen five fold in less than two years. Having made his wealth investing in distressed companies, Kerimov started his investing activity in 1992. Shortly prior to the 2008 crisis, he sold nearly all of his assets in Russia including a stake in Gazprom, a large real estate development project.

Photo Wikipaedia Commons

With loans from VTB bank, he bought a stake in Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold mining outfit as well as in Rostelecom, a telecom company. He acquired Rybolovlev's stake in Uralkali, later reselling it to billionaires Prokhorov and Mazepin. Currently the primary owner of Polyus Gold, Kerimov represents the republic of Dagestan at the Russian Federation's council.

In 2017, Kerimov reportedly made a bid to acquire the 85-meter Solandge according to Russian media. According to their story, the offer was, however, turned down and the yacht ultimately sold to a different buyer from the Middle East. Designed by Espen Oeino, Solandge was also built by Lurssen, similarly to Ice.

Valued at $7.2 billion by Forbes, the Perfetti brothers are the owners of Perfetti Van Melle, a candy and gum manufacturing giant behind brands such as Mentos, Airheads and Chupa-Chups. Started by their father Ambrogio Perfetti together with his brother Egidio, the company was inspired by American soldiers who had brought gum from overseas. No longer involved in operations, the two brothers are considered to be the 7th richest family in Italy.

Following his sale of the 90-meter Lurssen, the Italian billionaire decided to build a yacht at Feadship in the Netherlands. This resulted in the 81-meter Air, which was delivered in 2011 and is currently available for charter from €700,000 per week.