Interview with Tom-erik Buis Technical Sales Engineer

At Heesen, we’re dream builders. And it takes many different skills and talents to deliver what we promise. In our newest Q&A series, we’re speaking to Tom-erik Buis, our Technical Sales Engineer – a man who knows what it takes to get our projects over the finish line. He was a naval architect for nearly a decade, before stepping into a special role working with both clients and internal teams.


What does a Technical Sales Engineer do at Heesen?
“It varies a lot. Sales support and client meetings, but also feasibility studies for new projects. I supervise GA development and oversee innovation development. Every day is different, and what I do depends on what stage we’re at in the sales process itself. If we’re just starting up, I’m less involved, but when the project moves on, I can get very busy. It’s pieces of everything.”

What qualifications are required to do the job that you do?
“The job I do was created in response to shared needs, from both an internal and external perspective. It didn’t exist before. I worked in the naval architecture team designing many of the yachts launched over the past 9 years. You need a technical background for my role. That’s essential, because you need to understand what will work when you’re developing a project with a client. I grew up sailing boats and dinghies and always knew I wanted to be a boat builder. I studied naval architecture in Delft, then worked in a design office for five years first. After that, I started working at Heesen, developing myself and my knowledge. As a naval architect, you know a lot about every aspect of the boat. We make sure that everything the commercial team sells is buildable, so the client gets what he bought. I’m the link between the sales guys and the production guys. So I say “no”a lot.”

Being the link between sales and production, how do you sell a “no” to a client?
“At times I’ve been dubbed “Mr No”. Not because I’m unwilling to say yes,  but often due to technical constraints that render certain decisions unfeasible.   In such instances, we strive to provide clients with alternative solutions.  Therefore, I frequently use a “no, but…” approach that is often well-received and appreciated by clients.”

What about the size of yachts that Heesen builds?
“We build steel and aluminium yachts, fast and cruising. Always between 50 and 80 metres. That’s driven by the location we are in Holland. We’re in the middle of the country and we need to be able to get the yachts to the sea. Building yachts is only a hobby if you can’t use them! We face bridges we need to pass under, locks and shallow depth areas.  So we build within a certain criteria, which has actually contributed to the beautiful sleek silhouettes of our yachts.”

How much do yachts weigh?
“The biggest project, Cosmos, now called Genesis, is our 80 metre aluminium. She’s the world’s largest fast all-aluminium motor yacht. She’s actually a lightweight 80 metre boat, but still weighs around 1,200 tonnes fully loaded. That’s as much as 1,000 family saloon cars. Between the construction, interiors, mechanical elements, ventilation, air conditioning and engines, it’s an incredible amount of weight you put onto the water. That’s a challenge for the yard itself. You have to make sure it floats.”

How long does it take to build a yacht?
“If you start from a blank piece of paper, GA development takes some time. But leaving that out of the equation, it can take up to 40 months to build a project. It depends on how fast you can make decisions with the owners team. Although we do have a number of smart solutions that can save time. And time saves money. With our series yachts, we start building before we have a buyer. This saves clients a lot of time, sometimes years, maybe more. Clients can step in at a late stage, let’s say in the last year, but then they can still tailor the interiors. They can really make it their own boat, but the basis is there. Then they can start operating within the same season. So that’s a real benefit for people who don’t want to wait. It makes Heesen’s offering unique.”

Is it true that yachts cost 1 million euros per metre?
“As you can imagine, it completely depends on the characteristics of the yacht, level of luxury outfitting and features on board. For example, the difference between a displacement and fast displacement yacht is already significant when it comes to the value of the propulsion package. Series yachts also have different price tags to smart custom and full custom yachts. Volume, especially – the space inside – determines a lot when it comes to pricing.”

Are clients involved in the building process?
“It’s completely dependent on the person. But what we experienced during COVID was a slight shift in more involvement. Initially, no boats were being sold across the market. But then I think people started realising that you couldn’t fly anywhere and hotels were not open. They realised a yacht is essentially your own bubble to enjoy holidays with family. It’s a secure place to be – a floating hotel effectively for your own use. And also that tomorrow everything could change. That’s maybe one factor.”

What’s the most amazing project you’ve worked on?
“For me, it’s the most satisfying when a yacht really turns out the way an owner envisages it, which is always my main goal. When all the puzzle pieces fit, it’s a real success. Project Skyfall, a 60m all-aluminium yacht, was one of those times. She has an enormous top speed of over 37 knots driven by four engines and 22,000 horsepower. Equipped with a sport fishing cockpit with live bait tanks and four water jets. We created a special multi-transforming swim platform, not only for swimming, but for landing huge fish too heavy to lift out of the water yourself. We also made it a complete luxury outfit party boat, with enormous disco facilities and a luxury cinema room. It was a new one for us and I think we found a very nice solution to all of these special requests, I have to say. Constantly keeping weight and this extraordinary speed in mind!”

Do you go on the yachts? Out to the open sea?
“In the yard we can enter them as much as we like. Obviously, we do need to do our work, but we try to go on board during lunchtime, or on Friday afternoon. It’s important not to just look at the papers, which are nicely drawn and seem perfect, because maybe in practice something doesn’t work, or doesn’t look as nice. It’s also good to have feedback from the experts who are building it. That’s what I really, really like about working in the shipyard. We do everything in house with the complete team. After finishing the yacht, we transport them to sea and have a couple of days of sea trials. I try to go as much as I can. It’s a lot of fun, but also useful to help you understand what you’re selling to the client. You can experience the noise and comfort level. If you haven’t experienced it, you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s very important.”

Do clients ever operate the yachts themselves?
“In general, no. But we do have at least one individual at the moment. We have just delivered his yacht, Cinderella Noel IV. From day one the client approached us and said “I am the captain and the first deck hand and chef. But I’m also the owner”. At first, we thought it wasn’t possible. But the principle said, please come and visit my current yacht and I’ll explain it to you. The owner really operates the yacht himself, with his wife. Even the maintenance and safety-drills. The new yacht will be used in the northern part of Europe in cooler climates, enjoying every minute of it together with their family, which is remarkable.”






Mark Cavendish   Chief Commercial Officer

| Robert Drontmann   Sales Director

Heesen Yachts North America

Thom Conboy   Agent North-America, Mexico, Bahama's & Caribbean