Boat master

ROM Boats

ROM Boats is riding the wave of all-round ingenuity with its elegant, customised motorboats built to exacting standards through social enterprise

Sometimes it takes an outsider to make a difference. When Jorge Martins founded ROM Boats in 2017 in Portugal, his only experience in powerboats was in owning one, but that allowed him to create a visionary brand and drive new standards in customisable luxury motorboats. More remarkably, the boats are made by craftspeople who had never previously worked in the industry. Jorge sought out those otherwise excluded from employment and provided them with opportunity and training so they could execute the work with passion and expertise, under the guidance of a leading naval architect.

The approach has paid off, with the ROM Boats launch vessel drawing queues of admirers at boat shows and being a finalist for international awards, including the European Powerboat of the Year Award 2020. “It’s the first boat on the market you can fully customise, with the owner playing a part in the design from the start,” explains Jorge. “For example, if a client has a superyacht with some key design features, they can replicate them on a smaller scale on board the ROM 28.”

This process allows an owner to work with a team of experienced designers and engineers to co-create a unique craft. Rather than buy individual parts from a catalogue like other manufacturers, ROM (which stands for Rebuild Ocean Motivation) Boats design and build their own, ensuring exceptional quality and complete individuality. That is why ROM 28 looks and feels like nothing else on the market. The company’s website enables users to configure their design down to the last detail. The boat can then be virtually rendered to see how it would appear at different times of the day; you can even take it for a test trip on your phone.

For Jorge, every element is designed to improve the customer experience. “Boats should be beautifully designed and brilliantly constructed – and that applies to the parts that you can’t see as well as those that you can – but the entire experience must be exceptional,” he says. Boats are sold direct to customers with the highest standards of aftercare, and Jorge ensures the customer can focus on the joy of boating through a streamlined control panel. “Our boats are handmade but completely digital, so you can’t see the technology but it’s all there,” he says. “So you will be told when you need to get fuel, rather than having to constantly look at a gauge. You only have to worry about the view, the weather and the pleasure you get from the boat.”

While the boats look beautiful, they are as robust as anything on the market, Jorge says. All this is achieved with a commitment to social enterprise and sustainability. “We only employ people who have issues that can stop them getting employment elsewhere, so we can give them back some dignity,” says Martins. “This means we employ people with passion who are as invested in the company as I am, making us more like a family than a business. We’re also becoming environmentally sustainable. The models we will introduce in 2023 will use basalt and non-toxic resin – it’s another way we can make a difference. One thing I quickly realised in the boat industry is that people do the same thing for 30 years because it is a habit, but we don’t want to be followers, we want to be leaders. We are here to raise the bar.”