When in Monte Carlo, one would be remiss not to seek the counsel of some of the best yachting minds in the world. And so when I was there again recently, I arranged to speak with Nick Edmiston, whose eponymous brokerage house is one of the best-recognised names in the world of yachting. His offices overlook Port Hercule in the heart of Monaco, and it’s from this vantage point that he considers the current state of his business and the markets it serves.
“We’ve got a couple of fairly big new construction deals in the pipeline both here and through our US office,” Edmiston says. “You know, these big deals take a long time to put together: The preliminary planning stage is three or four months, and once you’ve got a contract it’s another six months before the shipyard starts its work and it’s probably up to a year before they start cutting steel. It’s a long process. But these big new construction projects are good, so we quite like them.”
With a sense that the terrible times are finally ebbing, Edmiston was bullish on very good deals that can be found in the second-hand brokerage market. But, he said, it will require a seasoned eye to recognise the deals that may be available. “We’ve got five or six big yachts under offer at the moment, and prices on the older boats are still quite depressed,” Edmiston says. “There are a lot of people who are new to the market—who are used to owning new things and have made a lot of money and want something right out of the wrapper—and they won’t look at anything more than four or five years old, so they’re missing out on some very good deals. For those who understand quality in older yachts, there are deals to be had."
Edmiston is a full service global yachting business, with offices situated in places like New York, Brazil and even Azerbaijan. And they’re very good at finding where the new clients are emerging from. “We’ve had an office in Mexico for over 15 years and of course Brazil gives us a lot of business,” Edmiston says. “There is a lot of money being made across the whole of Latin America. On the other side of the world, we’ve just been to Singapore and there is a lot of potential business in that region. We’re in the education business: We teach those who are new to it how to enjoy yachting. In my opinion, Singapore and the surrounding region will adopt a yachting culture before China. We’ve also just been at the Dubai Boat Show in the Arabian Gulf where we had the largest yacht (88m Nirvana), which received a lot of attention. Oil prices remain high, which translates into high interest in yachting from that region of the world.”
Recent changes to VAT regulations across the whole of Europe have meant that yacht purchases and charter are now taxed like most other goods and services. It’s not been popular, but Edmiston takes a fair view of the matter. “VAT is something people whinge and whine about, but you know, if you go and buy a bicycle, you pay VAT; so if you go and buy a yacht, you should pay the VAT,” he says. “It’s now being charged on charter and it’s a bit of a pain to pay that extra which wasn’t required previously. Taxes on yachting are an inevitability. Just as with tennis, which is now played by professionals (King George VI played in the men’s doubles in Wimbledon), yachting has evolved from an amateur sport to a taxed and regulated enterprise. Our business is here to make it as easy as possible for people to experience yachting and learn to enjoy it.”
Edmiston says the company is ahead on charter this year so far, and is going to do more to promote day- and short term-charters in the south of France. “Guests on that gorgeous terrace overlooking the sea at Hotel Cap-Eden-Roc, for instance, watch yachts cruise by all day; they might think it would be nice to get onto the water,” Edmiston says. “So we’re looking at making it easier for people get a start in yachting with dip in for a day or overnight experience; it’s all part of educating people about yachting. It may not make us a fortune overnight, but what it will do is bring more people into our network.”