When looking at the order book at any given time, what can seem like a window on the market can soon fog over with the miasma of doubt. Orders - or lists of boats in build - can often be manipulated by yards supplying the data, and it is often only when we consider these order-book figures in combination with the number of boats actually delivered that we can begin to gauge the true state of the superyacht market.
For this year's The Superyacht Annual Report: New Build, we have considered all these aspects to try to draw a more accurate picture of where we stand - to wipe the fog from the window, if you will. With so many external factors still playing their part - from the continued after-effects of the 2008 crisis to political upheaval in Eastern Europe and the US, Brexit and the as-yet unfulfilled promise of an Asian boom - trying to track the market can be challenging. But our research suggests that the market is, on the face of it, stable at present with optimistic signs of continued recovery.
The number of deliveries of superyachts in 2016, for example, is neither depressing nor spectacular, lying broadly in line with the delivery figures for the years 2013-15. However, considering as we finalised the report that there were still 39 projects scheduled for delivery, including 10 that had been launched but not handed over, the overall picture seems encouraging. The addition of just a small percentage of those nearly completed projects would halt the flatline of progress in the last four years and take us once again into an upward trend, especially when the anomalous boom years of 2006-10 are taken out of the equation.
It is a trend which appears to be reflected in the order book as a whole, which shows several encouraging signs. Our data suggests, for example, that the order book is up by 23 per cent - a considerable jump over recent years - and in addition we have recorded more than 40 80 metre-plus projects currently in build, with between 15 and 20 of those breaching the 100 metre LOA barrier. This serves to cement the apparent trend of recent years for a desire by clients to build larger yachts, and it is reflected in the fact that a handful of well-known yards at the very top end of the price/quality/size pyramid seem to be boasting rude health in their in-build projects over the coming few years.
It is a trend which snakes its way down the size bracket, with our data showing that there are 60 projects of 45 metres or larger due for delivery in 2017 - a number which exceeds even the peaks of the boom years of 2006-10. However, even this can portray a slightly false picture, as our data also shows that the number of yards making deliveries in 2016 reached a low compared with the last five years and, moreover, 44 per cent of yards with projects in build reported they had postponed launches scheduled for 2016 to 2017 or later.
While there are any number of factors that could account for these new-build delays - from waiting for a client to finish a spec build, for example, or clients making change orders that affect the schedules, as well as clients putting projects on temporary hold - the overall picture that begins to emerge is one of a steady market with encouraging signs for the immediate future. And while it is clear that the fallout from 2008 is still reflected in a contracting market in terms of builders, the clients are continuing to invest in new, larger projects - indeed, the average length of superyachts currently in build has breached the 50 metre mark for the first time. It remains to be seen if this LOA growth will be mirrored in continued market growth, but the signs look positive for pragmatic yards who are prepared to focus on core competences and those who have looked to diversify their activities to spread risk.
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