The US yacht building market has broadly suffered at the hands of the strong US dollar, with formerly loyal US buyers capitalising on this currency disparity and turning to European shipyards – a victim of its own success indeed. But, what is the outlook for this formerly authoritative market sector?
“It certainly feels like the market is reviving,” says Daryl Wakefield, as we sit aboard a brand-new Westport 130 at the 2017 Yachts Miami Beach show – one of four vessels on display and for sale through Westport at the event.
“If you’d asked me to comment on the state of the market this time last year, I’d have said that it is really looking very bleak. But as we got closer to the summer months, we started to gain some real momentum and now we’ve now had some great sales.” The yard currently has seven yachts under construction – two of which are for sale.
Despite the US market losing 6.1 per cent of its global fleet share since 2000, Westport has comfortably sustained pole position as the most prolific US builder of all time, ranking seventh globally in The Superyacht Annual Report 2017 for its cumulative LOA delivered between 2012 and 2016.
Compared to the 24.5 per cent decline in global delivery figures since 2012, the US’s 24.6 per cent decline is, in real terms, representative of the global market.
“I think buyers are returning to the US in our size range,” Wakefield continues, “but what’s hurting the US market is that we simply don’t have capacity – there are only a couple of yards left, and only one builds above 50m.”
But, what’s been the secret to Westport sustaining activity through this lull? “We’ve just had to keep our heads down,” he continues. “Luckily we’ve had the wherewithal to control our destiny from the standpoint of finishing boats – if we don’t sell the boat, we’ll finish it and take it to market. That helps us avoid spikes in labour and material acquisition problems. It just levels that health and makes it more predictable.”
The yard states that a consistent 10 – 15 per cent of its projects are finished without an owner, which is an impressive statistic considering the state of the market.
“Our business model allows for us to control our schedule so that we’re less affected by these spikes. We plan what we want to build for the year and go down that path, but that doesn’t mean we won’t adjust it along the way. We might add a 112 and take away a 125, or vice versa – wherever the smoke is, that’s where we’ll go.”
Will president Trump’s new policies spur US buyers back into action on home soil? With Westport’s attraction to a wider range of buyers from its low-cost platform, it’s certainly possible that the yard might again return to its past peak of production.
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