Saturday, 2nd August 2014
The world’s super-rich are returning to the high seas, with the number of luxury yacht sales hitting their highest level since the financial crisis after a spike in demand from American and Russian tycoons.
Superyachts – pleasure boats more than 24 metres in length – have been slower than other sectors of the luxury goods market to bounce back from the financial meltdown in 2008.
However, demand from international billionaires has started to pick up over the past 18 months as sellers become more realistic on price, according to yacht makers and brokers.
The longest vessel to hit the sea so far in 2014 is Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri’s 140m Victory, the ninth-biggest in the all-time list of megayachts. The boat is spread over seven decks and is said to have six pools up to 8m in length as well as a floodable internal garage for its “tender” – a small boat that ferries passengers to and from shore.
“Buyers are more sensible now. There’s a general move towards less is more. People are going for best quality boats rather than just the biggest,” said Chris Cecil-Wright, a yacht broker for 20 years.
Even so, a typical superyacht can still command a price in excess of $150m and boast several gymnasiums and swimming pools, as well as a so-called hydraulic swim platform, or “beach club”, where children can pretend they are at the beach.
There were 221 sales of superyachts in the first half of 2014, a rise of almost a third from the same period a year ago, according to figures from Boat International Media. That represents a 66 per cent rise from the 74 yachts sold in the first half of 2009, the bottom of the market.
Separate figures show the new-build superyacht market is also picking up. According to Superyacht Intelligence, there are 360 yachts being built this year, a number which is expected to rise to 411 – the same level as in 2013. That is still well below the 2008 peak, when there was an order book of 587 yachts.
The improved outlook will come as a relief to yachtmakers, many of whom were almost crippled by the financial crisis.
A re-emergence of wealthy American buyers, who have traditionally been the biggest nationality of buyers, has helped boost the industry. However, European buyers have yet to return and the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine has seen some Russian buyers disappear.
While the number of sales has increased over the past year, many in the industry point out that prices are well below pre-crisis levels.
China has been touted as the next big growth market for yachts, but a lack of infrastructure, such as marinas, coupled with restrictions on inland migration, has stifled appetite.