“How the Asian market is embracing the last bastion of true luxury in its own style.”
At long last, Superyachts have arrived in Asia. One of the oldest dangling carrots of aspirational wealth in the Western world has finally found its way to the Orient, and brought the charms and challenges of the international yachting lifestyle with it.
I have been to three yacht shows throughout Asia in the last month, and I have observed one thing for certain. The Asian appetite for the luxury lifestyle that yachting provides is voracious, and only getting more so as the market increases and choices multiply.
For most of us, a superyacht is the thing of dreams: a yacht big enough to live on, be treated like a king on, land your helicopter on, etc. An obscure fantasy that most people haven’t even seen enough of in real life to accurately fill in the blanks of what it really looks like, or feels like to be on one.
I have been fortunate to have spent weeks at a time on such motor-yachts, and had a taste of the lifestyle they afford their masters. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up” A superyacht, for the un-initiated, is any yacht that measures over 24 meters. This would mean that you need a bigger house if you plan to keep it in your garage in the off-season.
If there were an off season…which there isn’t.
The thing with Superyachts is that they are big enough for the open water, and in order to be properly operated and maintained, they require a full-time captain and crew. So if you are someplace where the season is ending, you just weigh the anchor and go to the next hot-spot.
Actually, you tend to your affairs for a few days or weeks, and your crew cruises to the new hot-spot so the yacht is waiting for you when you fly in on your private jet. But that’s a different article.
“THE THING WITH SUPERYACHTS IS THAT THEY ARE BIG ENOUGH FOR THE OPEN WATER, AND IN ORDER TO BE PROPERLY OPERATED AND MAINTAINED, THEY REQUIRE A FULL-TIME CAPTAIN AND CREW.”
Superyachts are fairly new in the Asian market. Despite some of the best yachting grounds on the planet, pleasure boating was virtually unheard of in Asia until about 10 years ago, having spent most of the previous century as the hallmark luxury in the Americas and the Mediterranean. A new generation of wealthy Asians has been spending big money on real estate, jets and cars as well as luxury items for the home and high fashion and couture at an unprecedented rate. The ability for the Asian market to see the objects of their desires via the internet, at a time where wealth is being created at such a rapid rate, leads to a strong market in luxury goods that kept more than a few companies alive and thriving while the Western economy declined.
While it was only a matter of time before the massive wealth being produced in China led to more yachting, it is the sudden influx of yachts in an area with too few marinas – especially deep water marinas – that has produced a shortage of safe moorings for these beautiful behemoths.
“TOMORROW’S ASIAN MARINAS WILL PROVE TO BE TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED, ECOLOGICALLY BENEFICIAL YACHT HAVENS, THAT CONTRIBUTE MORE TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE LOCAL CULTURE THAN THEY TAKE AWAY.”
This shortage creates several challenges that the industry faces in the emerging markets in Asia because the new marinas that are going to be built in Asia will have to do much more than just be floating parking lots for the toys of the rich and famous. Tomorrow’s Asian marinas will prove to be technologically advanced, ecologically beneficial yacht havens, that contribute more to the environment and the local culture than they take away. It is amazing to think of the amount of revenue a properly designed, built and managed marina can bring in when in the hands of seasoned professionals.
Most people think of marinas as dirty, bilge-water ridden, blemishes on coastlines that do nothing for the surrounding area but pollute the water for the benefit of “fat cats,” yet nothing could be further from the truth. When you think about the amount of jobs that charters, fueling, provisioning, crew placements, cleaning, refitting and repair creates for a local economy, one eco-friendly marina can easily contribute $30M USD to a local economy annually, just by providing services for two dozen superyachts per year. And New Yacht Haven design and construction consistently proves that a marina can be built and run in an eco-friendly way that will enhance the area and protect nearby areas from any harm, making them more beneficial to the environment than if they hadn’t been built.
“THE NEXT BIG CHALLENGE THE INDUSTRY FACES IS CREATING A COHESIVE SYSTEM OF LAWS AND REGULATIONS THAT MAKES CRUISING THROUGH ASIA MORE PLEASURE THAN EFFORT.”
Yacht havens are where superyachts can be berthed and provisioned. This is no small thing, when you consider that a 30 plus meter yacht will often employ a crew of more than 20 and has to be stocked and ready to serve 3 meals a day to the crew, plus any guests that the owner and his family choose to invite along, and there are always guests; it’s half the fun of owning a yacht, being able to show it off.
Another challenge is the design preference of Asian yacht owners, compared to their Western counterparts. Where I might like a 5 stateroom yacht that can sleep twelve plus crew, and live on it for 2 or 4 months a year and travel 2,000 miles or more on it, a Chinese businessman might keep it in the harbor, never leave the dock, and scrap the staterooms in favor of a karaoke room and Mah Jong parlor. Plus a conference/dining room with seating for 24! This makes the designers and architects a little crazy, and it might also come back to haunt the buyer when he tries to sell this $15M custom yacht in the open market, and receives a fraction of what he paid for it.
The next big challenge the industry faces is creating a cohesive system of laws and regulations that makes cruising through Asia more pleasure than effort. That is not currently the case. Most countries have onerous rules that clamp down on things like visiting crew visas, charter laws for foreign flagged vessels, and customs. In most countries, you cannot let your yacht be chartered out for money, unless that yacht is registered (flagged) in that country. This creates some potentially significant difficulties for foreign owners, who like to offset the costs of yacht ownership with an occasional charter. Asian charter numbers are strong, a 30 meter superyacht might charter for $100,000 or more for one week.
At long last, superyachts have arrived in Asia. The tide is coming in and raising all ships with it. All indicators are that those ships, and the wealthy that own them, will keep rising for the foreseeable future. The real question is this: Will the Superyacht community pull together to lobby governments, provide solutions for international maritime problems, and help create a cohesive Asian superyacht market to protect and nurture the most spectacular cruising grounds on Earth? I think they will, and I look forward to being on the front lines during this most exciting time in the world of superyachts.
Guest Blogger: Michael Aumock