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A long horizon and future-proofing

Has the focus on capacity and cost overlooked basic practicalities?

Focus recently has understandably shifted towards the new-build and brokerage markets’ excellent performance. From a new-build perspective, booming demand has led various market commentators to theorise about the potential impact of capacity issues, raw material costs and the impact various factors will have on build quality and pricing. While such discussion is undeniably valid, have we been quick to overlook some more basic considerations, namely standards and taste?

“I don’t believe that buyers today are what I would describe as asset players. What I mean by this is that, by and large, buyers are not entering build projects in order to turn a profit upon delivery or during the latter stages of the build process, although there are, of course, always exceptions,” explains Olivier Blanchet, head of jet and yacht finance at BNP Paribas. “As such, while it is obviously a factor, cost is not and should not be the chief concern of buyers, even with the long delivery dates that we are seeing as a result of high demand, in some instances stretching to 2026 and 2027.”

Cost is always a concern, but, generally speaking, superyacht owners buy what they can afford. If costs increase exponentially a potential custom buyer might consider a semi-custom project of the same size. If a 60m becomes too expensive, a well-designed 55m may do the job – and so on and so forth. Of perhaps greater concern for today’s clients, with delivery dates for new contracts stretching into 2026 and 2027 at the market’s most renowned shipyards, is how they can guarantee the vessel is as relevant in five years’ time as it seems today? Regulations, standards, design tastes and technologies are in a constant period of evolution and the superyacht market hasn’t had to contend with order books of this size for over a decade.  

“The question that buyers should be asking themselves is, how can I be sure that the yacht that I order now will be at the top of the market’s standards upon delivery. Will the design and specifications that clients contract today meet the standards of tomorrow? This is what I am advising my clients,” continues Blanchet.

Maritime standards and regulations are constantly evolving and there is a concern that projects that have been contracted for delivery in 2026 and 2027 exist beyond our regulatory horizon. This concern is obviously part and parcel of the challenge of building large custom projects given how long build times typically are, but this has not necessarily been a long-term challenge associated with semi-custom or production yards. Yet, despite the fact production yards are, of course, looking into the future and designing new models and ranges to account for regulatory change, but the problem remains that the models that are being sold today cannot possibly account for the variety of changes that may or may not occur within the next five years and beyond.

While its perhaps of less significant concern, there is also the question of taste. Arguably, the production shipyards that have been most successful in recent years are those that have regularly brought out new models, ensuring that their products keep up with evolving tastes and technologies. With the number of projects that have been ordered over the last 18 months, new models and ranges will not see the light of day for a number of years. How content will buyers be with their projects in five years’ time when a host of more contemporary models have come out in the intervening years from the yards that they are building with? It may well prove to be a nonissue, but it is often remarked upon that people overestimate what can achieved in a year and underestimate what can be achieved in five.

Olivier Blanchet will be appearing as a speaker on Day One of The Superyacht Forum Live. Blanchet will be joined by speakers from the worlds of yachting, property, and private wealth to debate the long term prosperity of the world's UHNWI population focussing on their appetite, behaviour and expectations for the consumption of high-value luxury assets. What can the superyacht industry learn from these sectors and how can these lessons be applied to help the market grow and prosper in the lead up to 2030?

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