What It’s Really Like To Be A Boat Designer


A render of one of his super yacht designs.

Anthony Livanos is a young Australian engineer who has designed super yachts, commercial vessels and (right now) high speed ferries. He’s that guy at a barbeque you want to ask lots of questions. So we bailed him up and did just that.

Here’s what he had to say about the various design roles he’s played in the marine industry.

Trident Marine. Tell me about your work designing yachts and ferries?

Anthony Livanos: Well, my role as a Naval Architect has a lot of variety depending on what type of vessel I am designing. Superyacht designs are more about beautiful form and aesthetics, whereas commercial vessels, like ferries, are more focused on function, economics and practicality.

All projects begin with client discussions and identifying the main purpose of the vessel. Then during the preliminary design phase comes the initial layouts, performance, stability and structural calculations.

Vessel design typically involves decisions between compromises, such as hull form versus stability, weight versus speed, comfort versus cost, and each of these will need to be optimised to a certain degree, but it’s very difficult to win them all.

The detail design phase involves another lap or two around the design spiral until you have ironed out all the structure, systems, machinery and interiors to the client specification and statutory regulations.

Throughout the life of the project I really love opportunities to showcase attention to detail, creative skills and innovative thinking. I also love coming up with unique solutions that are elegant and personal. It may be as simple as providing deck storage for mooring ropes, or the layout of cabins for privacy.

TM:  Any strange or weird design elements you have had to deal with?

AL: I’d say nothing too out of the ordinary really. One that comes to mind was a tender garage on a superyacht to store all the owner’s ‘toys’, including two fishing boats, jet skis and a personal submarine. It turned out quite like a scene for a James Bond movie, but unfortunately, I never got to ride in the sub!

TM:  What were some of the challenges?

AL: One challenge was to get all the toys to fit in the very limited space and still be able to launch and retrieve them safely. Another fun challenge was the submarine bay, which was designed with a custom hydraulic garage door in the stern of the vessel that would open up and flood the sub bay, then the sub could shoot out. The structure and hydraulics took a while to nut out and were quite frustrating at times, but the end result worked well and was neatly concealed.

TM: What was your favourite part of the job?

AL: One of my favourite parts is actually more architecture based in designing the interior layouts of the vessels. This space is what the client, crew and passengers mainly experience, so it’s very important to give layouts and décor proper attention. Being a skipper myself I focus on drawing upon my experience on vessels to create logical arrangements of equipment and furniture for comfort and practicality. There’s nothing that will grind at a crew member more than daily use of an illogical placed switch, or that anchor that just doesn’t behave as it should, so I try to consider and design out all of these little problems.

TM: What was the coolest project you ever worked on?

AL: The coolest projects I’ve worked on would be designing vessels for Nauti-craft. Nauti-craft is a research and development company based in Dunsborough that is developing totally unique vessels that separate the deck from the hulls using hydraulic suspension. It was very exciting and challenging to be part of a team pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo with a new marine technology.

TM: How did you get into that line of work?

AL: It took me a while to find my way to Naval Architecture actually. I started off studying Mechanical Engineering and became quite unenthused about potential career paths, so I decided to take a break. During my time off from uni I was working as a dive instructor and thoroughly enjoyed crewing on the boat. This exposure to the marine industry made me look into ways of combining the study I’d already completed and a future that involved boats. That’s how I stumbled over Naval Architecture.

TM: What are you up to now?

AL: Currently I find myself working as an ex-pat for a shipyard in the Philippines designing high-speed aluminium ferries. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to live in another country and experience a new culture.

TM: Do you have any hobbies outside of boats?

AL: I’m a bit of an ocean addict and spend my spare time chasing surf, fishing or freediving. If I do manage to drag myself out of the ocean I like to jump behind a camera dabbling in a bit of landscape photography.

Want more sea faring stories?

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Anthony standing in front of his ‘first born’, he says it was a “water birth that came in at 200 tonnes.”