Imperial Yachts is a leading authority on superyacht charter, brokerage, new construction and management, and is now tackling the immediate and ongoing effects of the COVID-19 crisis with high hopes for a return to normality as soon as possible. SuperyachtNews speaks exclusively to the team for an update.

“The impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the unforeseen lockdown took immediate effect in many factors and continues to test our operations,” begins Mark Harrison, head of operations at Imperial Yachts. “It was clear from the lockdown that our general strategy had to change, and new procedures and policies needed to be applied in a very short period of time, so we have been planning daily to stay ahead and with all schedules.”

Even under lockdown, the Imperial operational team continued to work in isolation and took every opportunity to catch-up and progress, and are now back at full capacity in the Monaco offices. The first issue that Imperial had to face was dealing with delays in all planning, further to a slowing of most winter maintenance projects, shipyard periods, survey works and preparation for the season, followed by the closing of international borders causing an issue of free movement of crew to and from the vessels – a situation that still remains unclear for some nationalities.  

“Our team are constantly monitoring the easing of the restrictions and remain positive that most of our fleet will operate this season,” continues Harrison, who says that this would only be possible with planning in place to minimise risk for guests, procedures in place for crew changes allowing quarantine prior to client arrival and extra hygiene, and with personal protective equipment and regular COVID-19 testing.

"This uncertain period tested our capacities, but we are proudly standing up after the peak of this crisis with certainty in our processes...” - Mark Harrison, head of operations at Imperial Yachts

“This uncertain period tested our capacities, but we are proudly standing up after the peak of this crisis with certainty in our processes, attention to our crew and hard efforts. We learnt a lot, and confirm our procedures applied on board our managed fleet were built in anticipation of a crisis like this. We, as a team, successfully passed the stress-test,” Harrison adds.

In terms of brokerage activity, Eric Lepeingle, head of sales and charter, believes that a market rebound could differ from country to country depending on how the situation evolves; “In Europe, the market did not go down during this crisis. We felt that it obliged all traditional brokers to re-invent their marketing, and so to be more reactive to a potential positive 'boom' post-lock down. When we look at the USA, and even before COVID-19 hit them, 2020 is an election year so it’s always special in terms of business due to the uncertainty of who is going to be the next President. Now, it’s obviously enhanced by this sanitary situation.”

“The stock market is probably not the best driver to compare - people are making money on the market even if it goes up and down, but we are following the movements of commodities (oil and gas) as the impact of a certain region in the world could be huge, and impact the superyacht market itself in the nearest months,” Lepeingle adds.

When asked if he feels that there will be some semblance of a charter season later this summer, Lepeingle says he cannot answer because the situation changes every day. “It depends on the opening date of the borders for each country. Now, Croatia gave the first shot by opening their borders for yachts and tourists. This announcement will certainly make the country ‘the’ summer destination in the Mediterranean.

"Traditional spots like French Riviera, Corsica or Sardinia may suffer more this year, but again, nobody can predict at this time. ‘Wait and see’ is the current motto, so we have to be ready as though it would be a normal and busy season...” - Eric Lepeingle, head of sales & charter - Imperial Yachts

“Traditional spots like French Riviera, Corsica or Sardinia may suffer more this year, but again, nobody can predict at this time. ‘Wait and see’ is the current motto, so we have to be ready as though it would be a normal and busy season, because we have to listen to the expectations of our clients and their health compulsory requests more than ever before.”

At the moment, Lepeingle believes it’s too early to see any engaging market recoveries due to COVID-19. “We will have to wait for the first signs - hopefully next Autumn,” he concludes. “From an operational point of view, visiting, closing, and showing the vessels is difficult, but in the meantime, we continue receiving many enquiries, and clients are waiting to come and visit the vessels. Live visits are a good start to offer a first overview, but nothing can replace the onboard viewing and exploring every single area.”

Image courtesy of www.imperial-yachts.com 

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