The superyacht industry fights a perpetual battle to alter public perceptions of frivolous spending and obscene levels of consumption. The mainstream media’s role in shaping public opinion is significant, and even ‘pro-superyacht’ media channels can, inadvertently slight the industry’s reputation.

Take a recent a report from CNBC’s wealth editor, Robert Frank on revered Dutch builder, Feadship. On a visit to Feadship’s Aalsmeer yard, where a 46.22m Dubois-designed motoryacht is under construction, Frank said that Project Kiwi, “is going to cost more than 40 million dollars but most of that is man hours.” Whilst there is more than a grain of truth to this statement, the cost of the vessel is far in excess of Frank’s inaccurate assessment of the time invested in constructing the vessel. “We’re talking about 700 man hours just to build the boat”, Frank says, which is a vast understatement. To put it in perspective, when recently speaking to, Blohm+Voss CEO, Dr Herbert Aly said that he had been involved with projects that required more than 25,000 man hours just to reach the construction phase.

Project Kiwi.

Intentionally or not, Frank’s piece serves to undersell the amount of skilled craftsmanship that comprises a superyacht’s price tag. And to close his piece he concludes, “Most of these yacht owners, for these megayachts, stay no more than two weeks a year. So you’re using a 40-100 million dollar asset for no more than two weeks a year; it is the ultimate [means of] wealth disposal.”

“There were 200 billionaires created last year”, Emma Jane Kirby said in a recent BBC report on the Monaco Yacht Show, “and many of them have signed up for one of these floating places”, she claims. Undoubtedly the brokerage community, and shipyards across the world, would welcome the news that everyone that amassed a certain amount of money was spending it on a yacht. But the state of the resale market suggests that is not the case. “Take a look round Monaco’s harbour”, adds Kirby, “and it’s hard to believe the yacht industry was ever in the doldrums.” Try telling that to the legions of yards that have ceased building since the global crisis resonated through the industry.

This misrepresentation of the industry is more indicative of its failure to engage properly with the media, than the media’s failure to understand the industry. Feadship’s marketing and brand director, Farouk Nefzi, spoke to in the summer, where he warned that the industry’s exponential growth would only be assured if it was prepared to engage with the media on a more equal footing. Journalists, Nefzi said, must expose poor practices in order to ensure greater trust among owners. “We need to make ourselves more vulnerable as an industry and, if we’re able to implement these little steps, it will be really good for us.

“There is no industry on earth where every single person is doing a good job; but that’s what we hear all the time in our industry. We should not be putting our heads in the sand, but tackling problems head on. We need to put ourselves out there without the stigmatisation of being the ‘ultimate’ this or that.” 

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