Yacht Makers Point to Shipyards Further East and South

Photo Courtesy of Ferretti
The very notion of luxury boat building conjures up images of a few fluttering national flags, those erstwhile empire-building European countries with long coastlines and even longer maritime traditions. As far as the ‘nationality’ of most yachts is concerned, it was once safe to assume that they were manufactured in Italy, France, Holland, Spain, Germany or by a host of newer players in the US, Australia and the UK.

But according to recent reports, not only are shipyards in emerging markets like Turkey and the UAE jostling for position, a handful of other countries have serious sights on stamping superior yachts with their “Made In” mark too.

In the grand scheme of things, it would seem that the trend is indicative of three movements that have been sweeping many other luxury industry sectors for decades: offshoring to cheaper labour markets, moving production facilities closer to important key markets and emerging economies wanting to diversify their export mix.

Enter Poland where four manufacturers have been making waves among the country’s 100 or so yacht yards, which according to the Polish Chamber of Marine Industry and Water Sports (POLBOAT), build around 20,000 boats per year. Costing an average €9,000, they are mostly small to medium-sized motor and sailing yachts and range between 6-10 metres.

Mary Sibierski from the AFP described the scene in a recent feature: “The contrast is as stark as it is improbable: a dazzling, brand-new superyacht glides across the harbour of the communist-era Gdansk Shipyard, the birthplace of new Poland but the epitome of industrial decay," she wrote.

“Sleek, sophisticated, luxurious and competitively priced Polish yachts are reinventing the country’s all-but-defunct ship-building industry with a sporty capitalist edge….In boat shows across Europe, about a third of all vessels are now [said to be] Polish-made…but they are sold under global brands like France’s renowned Jeanneau-Beneteau and US giant Brunswick Marine…”

Not surprisingly, the government’s POLBOAT representative has high hopes: “I think it’s the best-kept secret of the boating industry in Europe — that is: Polish production and Polish quality,” he said. But more encouraging is the fact that the country’s leading firm, Sunreef Yachts, has quickly gained a cult following for its custom-built, luxury catamarans and superyachts from 60 to 200 feet. Founded just ten years ago, Sunreef has already built boats for discerning clients from Monaco to Qatar to Hong Kong, with the small but significant advantage cost-saving operations that amount to on average 15% less than that of rivals in Western Europe.

Elsewhere, a ‘move’ of the iconic Ferretti Yachts shipyard from Italy to Brazil, as reported by BYM News, was in fact not a move but an expansion plan to supplement manufacturing back in the group’s headquarters in San Giovanni in Marignano, located near Rimini.

The official inauguration of the new Ferrettigroup Brasil production facility located outside São Paulo took place a few weeks back, making headlines until now, but the facility was established at the end of 2010 and has been described by BYM as “among the largest of its kind in Latin America…dedicated to producing yachts that measure up to 83’ feet and [that] are exclusively tailored to the demands of the Brazilian clientele. Currently, the plant can build 11 Ferretti Yachts models, 2 Pershing models and 1 Bertram yacht.”

Although Lamberto Tacoli, Ferretti Group chief sales & marketing officer, explained the reationale as simply bringing the boats closer to clients in a large growing market, observers have speculated that cost considerations were also a part of the decision.

“We are finding there is huge potential for development in Brazil, which extends to all areas of South America, and are confident that this venture will also result in further growth for our brands over the next few years,” said Tacoli. “So it is essential that we strengthen our presence in key Pan-American areas by means of unremitting marketing and sales activities in conjunction with well-executed special events. This is why we have decided to concentrate on Ferrettigroup Brasil”

Not to be outdone by other small oil and gas-rich kingdoms in the Arabian Gulf which have a keen eye on the nautical sector like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the tiny South East Asian state of Brunei has also been in yachting news recently.

According to Plush Asia One, “Brunei can make a mark in the yacht-making industry…[thanks to] a Brunei company [that] has set its sights on entering the multi-billion dollar luxury ship making market by making world class yachts.”

John Mallory Bromage, CEO of the company in question, Atoll Yachts, told the Asian news outlet that the Sultanate had the finest boat-building materials in the world. Brunei is within a hundred kilometers of both Malaysia and Indonesia and has a coast on the South China Sea.

Founded in March of this year, Atoll Yachts "intends to design and produce the first Made-in-Brunei brand of yachts, utilising the country’s abundant forest resources… Using locally found hardwood, selangan batu and meranti, the company is currently constructing a 111-foot wooden yacht dubbed Atoll III…constructed with the help of a New Zealand shipwright, a Swedish systems engineer and a team of regional craftsmen.”

With Singapore’s bursting marinas nearby, Indonesia’s luxury market going full throttle and booming seaside resorts in both Vietnam and in China’s Hainan Island just around the corner from Brunei, firms like Atoll may be worth watching.

Robb Young

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