At the risk of aggravating our Italian readers, especially those associated with Italian shipyards, it cannot be denied that the northern European yards have become the gold standard for superyacht quality. Now, before anyone takes up arms against me, the proof of this statement is in the language that many Italian yards use, I have been on a number of yard visits where senior managers have proudly proclaimed ‘we are an Italian yard that builds to northern European quality’. And yet, Italian superyachts remain the most popular superyachts in the world, which to me suggests that the Italian shipyards must be doing something right.
As has been widely reported, in the years that followed the global financial crisis, almost all sectors of the market were affected negatively. Indeed, from delivering 97 30m-plus superyachts in 2009, which accounted for 42.2 per cent of the market in terms of units, to 56 in 2017, accounting for 37.6 per cent of total deliveries. The Italian market during this period was hit particularly hard because of its focus on the more popular, but equally more volatile, 30-40m and 40-50m sectors. While there is far greater buying potential within these sectors, it is also far more likely that buyers will be more heavily affected by financial downturn.
Nevertheless, in 2018, there was a total of 72 Italian superyachts delivered, accounting for 46.5 per cent of the total deliveries and representing a regional market growth of 28.6 per cent. Indeed, 2018 proved to be the Italian superyacht markets most productive year since 2010 and, given that there is predicted to by 95 Italian superyachts delivered in 2019, the market appears to be recovering and growing at a sustainable rate. It must be noted, however, that it is unlikely that all 95 projects will be delivered. If 80 of the 95 deliveries materialise, then the market will still have had a good year in terms of growth.
Impressive as these numbers may be, the vast majority of these deliveries can be accounted for by the top five Italian shipyards (in terms of delivery figures). Assuming that the deliveries in 2019 materialises, between 2015-2019 a staggering 61.6 per cent of Italian superyachts will have been delivered by only five shipyards, whereas the remaining 38.4 per cent will have been delivered by a further 35 shipyards.
While northern European shipyards remain the gold standard, Italian shipyards remain the world’s most popular and, if the industry chatter proves to be accurate, a select few Italian shipyards are massively upping the stakes when it comes to the quality. Perhaps it is time Italian yards stopped trying to be perceived as being northern European in terms of quality and started changing the perception of Italian quality itself.
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