Driving the USSA Summit in Fort Lauderdale this year are three key themes - 'adapt', 'analyse' and 'achieve' - with the former informing the opening exchanges of a panel hosted by Michael Reardon of Reardon Consultancy.
It is more apparent than ever that the prominence of U.S. shipbuilding lies in the ability of its proponents to be reactive and flexible to the change in current market conditions.
"The U.S. are the best innovators in the world in so many markets. We need to adapt to changes in production to strive in yacht building. The use of new materials, for example, should be considered an opportunity for American builders, not a setback. We need to get out of our comfort zone in America", said Marine Industries Association of South Florida's executive director, and flgabearer for the US industry, Phil Purcell.
Todd Roberts, VP of Marine Group Boat Works illustrated that, whilst the American refit market is the strongest it's ever been, there has been a downturn in the 'type' of work.
"Soft goods and cosmetics have been drifting away - our work is now more focussed on the nuts and bolts. There has been a change in the type of repair. We have gone from replacing and finishing five decks to just doing the one deck", said Roberts.
Jeff Shaffer, who is director of charter marketing at Neptune Group pointed out that, eight years ago, yachts could comfortably execute 10+ weeks on the charter market, but realistically, four to six weeks in today's market conditions is quite a good performance.
Subsequently, clients want their yachts on the water for as long as possible to maximise charter revenue. Yachts that may have formally undergone a four- to six-month refit are now trying to get the work done in two.
Cromwell Littlejohn of Northrop & Johnson, also on the panel, highlighted that the charter market's development is being stunted by its own marketing, which doesn't look far enough beyond its existing client base.
It's encouraging to hear the market discussing its current weaknesses, but as the day's discourse highlighted, America is the perennial 'land of opportunity', and in yachting at least, this remains the case.
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