While the attention often rests on the activity levels of the blue riband companies, that yachting industry is in fact, like the wider economy, largely populated by small to medium enterprises. In our industry this is characterised by the majority of companies who have modest employee rosters but who enjoy success because of the niche a fulfil or the artisanal nature of their offering.
This even extends to the top of the food chain, where despite the significant value of transactions, many new-build yards operate a finely tuned employment model, that has become extremely important in their continued function during this worldwide crisis.
One such artisanal shipyard is Dutch builder, Moonen Yachts, which was the subject of an acquisition last year, bringing welcome stability to a recognised brand that had traversed its way through a period of turbulence under its previous owner.
Its low-draft, Caribbean-cruising Martinique range is highly rated for its commercial viability, and the two 36m units, YN199 and YN200, currently under construction remain on schedule despite the adverse manufacturing conditions, as Marketing Manager Marianne Hendriks-Schlömer confirmed:
“We have strict guidelines on how to work on board, keep distance but cooperate; clear procedures for material handling and shifted breaks to avoid too many people in the canteen at the same time. We are all aware of the rules and the different ways of working, but it works. [There is no] delay in delivery so far.”
While Hendriks-Schlömer acknowledges that client enquiry levels have slowed slightly, current activity ensures stability, with optimism for what opportunities the market may present when we all emerge from the worst of the current situation.
“We believe and fully trust that we will find buyers”, she explains. “The world may have changed, but the beautiful design of a Moonen hasn't! Covid-19 is not withholding us from our future focus. Yes, it does affect us, for sure, but it doesn't put us in a state of misery.”
To fortify its proposition in preparation for this ‘new world order’, the yard is currently reviewing its build schedule, and which of its line could prove most attractive to a buyer re-entering the market in the months to come. On the table are the possibility of another 36m Martinique, a 42m Marquis, or a brand-new concept created in collaboration with Harrison-Eidsgaard.
But what is key is that the business is arming itself to be as adaptable as possible to a new frontier of new-build business development. “The situation forces us to be more creative, and think differently”, says Hendriks-Schlömer. “There are no boat shows, we cannot go out with customers, we cannot receive visitors, we cannot arrange meetings or social events... We have to walk along new paths and find new ways to reach out.
“As soon as we return to the normal situation, or "the new-normal" as the Dutch prime minister likes to call it, we will be selling yachts again and we will continue building boats for people who love to spend their time on the water. I can imagine that, because of this terrible pandemic, people will have a totally different view on freedom, health, and relationships. It could be that owners or charterers value quality time on board even more.”
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