Alexseal Yacht Coatings celebrates its 20th anniversary by reflecting on its origins as a part of long-established coating solutions manufacturer Mankiewicz, its mission today and intentions tomorrow

It’s about time.” Under this slogan, Alexseal started at Mankiewicz in March 2004 as a global paint manufacturer to help shape the market for high-end yacht coatings.

A few of Mankiewicz’s had already been used in boatbuilding over the 125 years of the company’s history. However, the beginning of the 2000s saw a comprehensive vision to create a complete portfolio named ’ALEXSEAL Yacht Coatings’, offering a range from the first primer coat to the final topcoat. Thomas Schultz, Global Sales Director at Alexseal, was on board from the beginning. Here, he looks back at the course already taken and explains what lies ahead in the coming years.

Engineering in a Can

“Developing and applying yacht paints is considered one of the fine arts in the coatings industry,”  says Thomas. ”There are an incredible number of industries where the highest demands are placed on the finish, but the surfaces to be painted are rarely as large and demanding as on a superyacht. In car and aircraft painting, a comparably good finish is essential, although the design of a car or aircraft is much more forgiving in terms of the visual appearance of the finished surface.”

”This is because many vehicles rarely have large, completely flat surfaces. For example, the fuselage of an aeroplane is enormous and is painted by several painters simultaneously. But it is still round, and the passengers only expect an extremely high gloss, not a mirror-like surface. Especially on large yachts, we have comparably huge but almost flat surfaces on the hull. This is an extreme challenge, even for professional painters. If the performance of the topcoat is not at 100 per cent, you cannot achieve a mirror-like surface appearance. Suppose the underlying primer or fairing compound layers are not 100 per cent perfect. In that case, you can also see this immediately through the topcoat.”

Alexseal Sailing Yacht Columbia

Superyachts require mirror-like finishes, as evidenced in the perfect reflection of SY Columbia’s bow wave on her topsides – image courtesy Michael Kurtz Photography

In making this point, Thomas summarises one of many challenges for yacht coating systems and paint crews. Anyone who has ever painted a high-gloss yacht can confirm this and knows that matching and coordinating products for each layer is important to achieve a perfect surface finish. To develop and produce yacht coatings at the highest level, you must know how to do your homework right from the beginning.

Suppose you look at all five layers of a yacht coating. In that case, you come up with a vast bundle of functional and optical properties that must be fulfilled: DOI (Disctinctness of Image) and UV resistance are just the tip of the requirements iceberg, extending deep into adhesion, sandability and polishability. “Painting conditions vary significantly worldwide and also play a crucial role,” explains Thomas. ”Almost everything is possible, from construction site environments to clean rooms and from cold, dry environments to warm, humid ones. The coating portfolio must be able to map all of this with suitable systems.”

Challenges – sought, found, solved

“At the beginning, it was a very complex and exciting challenge to enter this market and put together a suitable portfolio,” recalls the yacht expert. “But what made life much easier for us was the wealth of experience that we, as the Alexseal team at the company Mankiewicz, could draw on. There have been some synergies in terms of development, and we have gained experience with high-gloss and robust surfaces over time since our foundation in 1895 as a paint manufacturer.”

Mankiewicz’s markets and product lines show clear parallels. The global coating manufacturer is firmly anchored in the aviation industry, which has taken the exterior painting of aircraft to a new level with innovative coating systems. The rail sector is also concerned with large exterior surfaces with visually and functionally highly sophisticated finishes.

“Of course, this was and still is worth its weight in gold for developing our yacht portfolio,” says Thomas. Right from the start, we had an experienced team and colleagues who could quickly adapt to the yacht industry on the laboratory side in application technology and production. 

Markets ahead

With such a background, it was easier for the young Alexseal team to get a foot in the door with shipyards and yacht painters. “Nevertheless, despite the many advantages, it was difficult to win the first major projects at the beginning,” explains the Alexseal pioneer. “Confidence in our set-up is one thing, but experience with the right paint job in the dock is another. We first had to earn our spurs.”

In 2004, ALEXSEAL was brought to market first in Australia and the United States. After yacht painters and shipyards had noticed the first results, the second year saw inquiries from Europe, especially the Netherlands, while demand from America grew steadily. In 2006 and 2007, many yachts were already applying Alexseal’s Polyurethane Premium Topcoat 501, including the largest dark blue private yacht in the world at that time.

The story and the level of awareness naturally continued to develop over the following years. More and more projects came along, and they got bigger and bigger. So big and prominent that most of them can no longer be named. In 2023, almost 40 per cent of the world’s 100 largest yachts were coated with Alexseal systems. For more than a decade, Alexseal has been a solid and still strong growing number two in the yacht coatings market.

Sailing on the Seven Seas

Projects are painted worldwide nowadays. While the European focus is primarily on superyacht construction and refit, there are sportfish yachts in the USA and a strong DIY community with smaller boats. In Asia, too, increasingly high-quality and larger new builds have emerged in recent years. The larger the paint jobs, the more critical it is for yacht painters to receive close and personal support from the paint manufacturer. Trust in partnership and specialist knowledge is integral to a perfect finish.

Van der Valk BeachClub 660 flybridge reflecting the waters in her Alexseal surface coating system

Van der Valk BeachClub 660 flybridge reflecting the waters in her Alexseal surface coating system – image courtesy Van Der Valk Shipyard, Netherlands

“To do justice to this, a global network of experts is essential for a paint manufacturer,” says Thomas. “With our global distributor network, we are always quickly on site for our customers. This ensures fast and reliable technical support.” Also, the Mankiewicz locations in Charleston, SC (USA), Hamburg (Germany), Gyancourt (France), Leicester (UK), Singapore, and Shanghai (China) are vital support hotspots.”

“Alexseal is interested not only in close cooperation but also in personal relationships. One of our highest standards is that we work with the same experts in the local markets for many years. The closer the relationship and the trust on both sides, the more effective and targeted the advice and joint project support. And you can see that in the final surface result.”

New Horizons

If you ask Thomas where the journey in yacht coatings for yachts is heading, you get a clear answer: “When we started 20 years ago, a classic PU topcoat like our Premium Topcoat 501 was the established system. Then, we introduced a new approach to the market with our BaseCoat / ClearCoat approach. That is a system with which Mankiewicz has already revolutionised the aviation industry.

“The system offers outstanding values for a wide range of painting parameters but should be applied by experienced painting crews to achieve the best possible result. The final additional layer, the clearcoat, gives the finish particularly high durability, UV resistance, and visual depth. This is the direction we consider significant for the coming years.

“However, the yacht market is not just a sea of superyachts. The sport and leisure segment and medium-sized luxury yachts also make up a large part of the market. Today, we are very proud to have the right answer for different requests and painting conditions with our Premium Topcoat 501, Acrylic Topcoat X, and High Solid BaseCoat/ClearCoat system. And we look forward to every new challenge that makes our portfolio even broader, more durable, and richer in effect and colour. A big thank you to everyone who has challenged, accompanied, and trusted us over the last 20 years.”

Here’s to the next 20 years, and always a shiny, perfect finish on the keel!