Privinvest is quickly establishing itself as one of the world’s leading international shipbuilders, serving both naval and civilian clients around the world with innovative solutions in advanced ship design, engineering, production, and related technologies. Its co-founder and CEO Iskandar Safa is a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for naval construction and, in particular, the construction of some of the world’s most impressive superyachts.
About Iskandar Safa
Born in 1955 in Beirut, Lebanon, Safa’s attraction to the shipbuilding industry dates back to his childhood by the sea. He attended a French school and earned a civil engineering degree from the American University of Beirut in 1978, inspired by a number of family members who were civil engineers.
During his youth, Safa also became Lebanon’s national champion Olympic discus thrower, and at one point, he was the top ranked athlete across all Arab countries in the sport. Although he was wounded as a consequence of the civil war in Lebanon, his resolve and determination only grew stronger, and he set out to build a life marked by personal and professional success, while also committing to support causes that address global issues.
After exercising his profession as an engineer for several years, Safa completed an MBA at the prestigious INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Following this, he went into business with his younger brother Akram Safa, a graduate of Ohio State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
The brothers got their start by investing in a failing European hotel company and turning it around to make it profitable. Today, their company Privinvest is a global leader in the international shipbuilding industry with subsidiaries around the world.
Privinvest Sees Expanding Market in Superyachts
In 2017, Nobiskrug, a Privinvest subsidiary located in Germany, garnered global attention when it unveiled the amazing Sailing Yacht A, one of the world’s largest private superyachts currently on the seas.
Designed by French designer Philippe Starck and custom-built for Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, the Sailing Yacht A measures 143 meters (about 470 feet) in length and features eight decks and an underwater observation area in the keel. While many of its features are kept confidential, the vessel was prized for its ecologically sound hybrid Sail-Assisted Motor technology, and an entirely new category was created for it at the World Superyacht Awards 2018. The ship also received accolades for its environmentally friendly technological innovation, size, and superior manufacturing quality.
“Two of the 10 largest megayachts existing today have been delivered by us,” confirms Safa in reference to the luxurious yachts built at Privinvest shipyards.
Nobiskrug now has a fleet of 10 superyachts, which includes the famed Sailing Yacht A. Other notable superyachts to have been unveiled at Nobiskrug include the Sycara V, built in 2010 and refitted in 2017; the Mogambo, a 74-meter luxury superyacht built in 2012 and refitted in 2016; and the Odessa II, designed by Focus Yacht Design and owned by international tycoon Len Blavatnik.
Another Privinvest product that is ranked among the world’s top 10 superyachts is Yas, a motor yacht owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was designed by Pierrejean Design Studio in France and unveiled in 2011 by Abu Dhabi MAR Shipyards, a Privinvest subsidiary.
In a recent interview published in SuperYacht Times, Safa makes it clear that the yacht-building component is no small matter at Privinvest, even if the superyacht market represents a smaller portion of the group’s turnover than the military sector. He points to a “very solid order book” at Nobiskrug and is quick to note that Privinvest puts as much effort and energy into its yacht-building activities as it does into its military component, projecting that the market for luxury superyachts will continue to expand.
Safa believes that the company’s two focuses perfectly complement each other. “You always get new technical ideas from the military that you can apply to yachts and vice versa,” he noted, affirming that Privinvest expects to see continued growth in both of its primary areas of operations.
The Privinvest Group is an international shipbuilding group founded by Iskandar and Akram Safa over 20 years ago. The seed for Privinvest was planted in 1991, when Iskandar Safa purchased the Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie (CMN), a well-known shipyard in Cherbourg, France, that was also undergoing a severe downturn. In a matter of two years, he had leveraged CMN into a thriving venture with a staff of over 500, specializing in the design and manufacture of trawlers, naval and coast guard vessels, police patrol boats, fast-attack crafts, and small battleships such as corvettes.
In 2007, Safa partnered with Al Aïn International, a UAE-based firm, to create the Abu Dhabi MAR (ADM) naval construction group, launching the yachting and military shipbuilding industry in the Middle East.
In 2011, Safa bought out Al Aïn and gained possession of ADM. That same year, ADM purchased Nobiskrug, a German shipyard dating back to 1905, and the HDW Gaarden yard in Kiel, now known as German Naval Yards Kiel. Both of these shipyards are now subsidiaries of Privinvest.
After purchasing Nobiskrug, Safa decided to focus on Privinvest’s yacht-building ventures in Germany to ensure top-quality craftsmanship on Privinvest’s superyachts, diminishing yacht-building activities at CMN. He noted that due to market perception and the coveted stamp of approval that he seeks for his megayacht projects, “it makes much more sense to build in Germany than in France, even though the quality is similar.”
Privinvest has earned global recognition for its design, engineering, and construction expertise on some of the world’s most impressive and technologically innovative superyachts and top-tier naval vessels. Privinvest also provides repair, refitting, and other related shipbuilding services.
With headquarters in Lebanon, the Privinvest Group maintains branch offices in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Mediterranean region, and the Middle East and employs over 2,500 people around the world.
Privinvest’s international shipyards have fulfilled major contracts and have designed, engineered, and built over 2,000 vessels, including some of the world’s most iconic ships in both the naval and luxury yacht industries. Privinvest vessels are in use by more than 40 navies around the world.
The Privinvest Group maintains a full order book and is currently working on an array of new projects, including new construction projects for navies, public authorities, EEZ-integrated surveillance and protection systems, and refits for naval vessels and luxury yachts – including spectacular superyachts – along with other related shipbuilding services.
Alongside its shipbuilding interests, the Privinvest Group also has holdings in an assortment of other business sectors, such as real estate, media, and logistics.
Privinvest, as an extension of Safa’s personal philosophy, is also committed to addressing pressing environmental issues at the international level. Privinvest’s research and development team focuses primarily on researching marine renewable energies and technologies, including such models as turbine and hydrokinetic energy.