The cost of installing a stabilization system on a boat varies depending on whether the boat is new or used, not to mention the boat's design characteristics.
New boat versus retrofit
First, adding fin stabilizers such as Vector fins™ often costs less when you are buying a new boat than when retrofitting a system on a pre-owned boat. The reason why is pretty straightforward: it is unproblematic. When stabilizers are installed at inception, the boatbuilder has the advantage of placing cables and installing components when it is most accessible in the building process and adapting the design and mold to facilitate a plug-and-go process later on.
The process of retrofitting is a different matter. Finding available space can, on some boats, cause a headache. Typically, you want to install stabilizers fins as close to the boats' center point as possible to eliminate unwanted side effects such as yaw and sway that some fin designs are known to be prone to.
If choosing Side-Power Vector fins™, you get more installation flexibility. The design of the Vector fins™ is less sensitive to placement on the hull, allowing a more off-centered installation compared to the old-style flat fins. Another fundamental matter is the size of the internal actuators controlling the fins, both in terms of actual footprint, but not the least, the overall height of the system, as most boat owners want to keep as much height in their cabins as possible.
Although, if available space is constricted and the hull's existing structure needs reinforcement to handle the forces transferred to the hull, it can take a lot of man-hours to install.
Read more: Vector fins™ versus flat fins stabilizers ›
What is included in a stabilizer system?
The Vector fins™ stabilizers consist of a pair of actuators, fins, and fin-valve units. These are either hydraulically driven by a power source of the main engine or an AC power pack running off a generator to a hydraulic tank and accumulator.
Depending on the boat's length, there are three actuator sizes and six fin sizes. The power demand depends on the size of the actuator and the boat roll time. The hydraulic power consumption is governing the size of the hydraulic power unit, power requirements, and cost. We can run four fin setups for all actuator sizes and even combine them.
What does the stabilizer system cost?
We sell through our distributors worldwide, which means we are unable to give an exact system price that the boat owner will be presented at the yard where it will be installed. However, for context, we can quote Imtra Corporation, our distributor in the US:
Equipment costs are roughly $65,000 for a 55-footer up to $130,000 for a 130-foot vessel, but a detailed proposal is needed before you are sure where your system will come out. For example, if you want to have the best possible stabilization when on a mooring, you may choose a larger fin size, increasing the product cost by 10 percent. Although it is not common, a smaller yacht may need to up-size its generator to provide ample AC power. That could cost up to $25,000.
Required performance impact on system cost
Some boat owners are only interested in stabilization while cruising, where the fins' performance is increasing with speed. This means that for fast boats, excellent performance can be achieved with relatively small Vector fins™. Others value the stabilization at anchor higher, which demands a larger fin area to provide the necessary force to counter the boat roll.
When it comes to installation, the charge is roughly the same on any system because of its complexity. Additionally, installation cost depends on the boat's layout, accessibility, and if the yacht already has some parts installed, that can be reused. For example, if you already have an extensive hydraulic thruster system installed, integration with the existing system might be a good option. While other setups might be better off by replacing the existing tank or installing a standalone tank.
The price varies from country to country. If you're retrofitting a system, my advice is to find a yard that has experience in installing stabilizers. A yard that has experience in retrofitting similar boats to yours would be even better.
How does the boat's design affect stabilizer system costs?
Vector fins™ need to be located in the middle of the boat fore and aft to get the job done. On a displacement boat, they should be located in the middle 25 percent (1/4) of the boat, typically in the living space, such as the master stateroom. For a higher-performance boat that planes, the fins should be in the middle 20 percent (1/5) of the vessel immersed when traveling at speed. This effectively shifts the fins aft, which means the actuators are more often than not in the forward end of the engine room.
The bottom line
We understand that stabilizers can be an expensive upgrade. If your boat does not live up to your expectations today, this article might have tipped the balance for you toward buying a new yacht with stabilizers. However, if your current boat suits your requirements nicely, and you do not see any other advantages in replacing her, it would definitely be worth it to invest the upgrade difference in a retrofit of an effective stabilizer system.
Stabilizers can make a beautiful day when otherwise it would have been a lousy day. How do you quantify the cost of that?
– John Maxey, Fairline Squadron 78
Not only will stabilizers increase the number of occasions you can use your yacht. It will also increase your vessel's long term value - making it more attractive on the market when the day comes, and you want to trade it in for a new one. Only in the meantime, you will enjoy the benefits of a stabilized yacht yourself. And if you're a mariner like me, we can probably agree on that that goes beyond price!
Our distributors can help you with the initial investigations of installation impact and system sizing. But the involvement of the yard is necessary to have the final cost quoted.