Not another end of year list
Looking back on 2021, this journalist outlines some of the most important articles from SuperyachtNews, and why they matter…
It is the season for the end of year lists and highlights. Those who subscribe to Spotify have had our yearly listening taste summarised and handed back, irrespective of personal embarrassment. Google, somewhat creepily, gives out an annual movement map reminding us of the location features on our phones. I can take some comfort, however, in thinking that perhaps many of us in the industry have similar travel summaries after the successful return of The Monaco Yacht Show, The Superyacht Forum Live and METSTRADE.
Certain cultural and business touchstones have punctuated a hectic year. It was a fascinating time for the superyacht sector, and the year's stories on SuperyachtNews highlight some vital issues and pressing questions that we have been attempting to grapple with. These are some of the stories that spoke the loudest to me this year and will guide the way we approach 2022.
The Perini Navi bankruptcy was announced and widely reported in January/February 2021. An icon of sail yacht manufacturing that was also no stranger to financial issues, and the unfolding sale saga played out across 2021. With multiple rumoured and confirmed bids, it gauged the will to preserve this mainstay of the shipbuilding sector. While visiting Viareggio for YARE and The Superyacht Forum Live - Captains Edition, it was a shame to see the facility shut down while the superyacht sector in the region appeared to be prospering. With the continuing focus on a resurgence of large sailing yachts and their low emission credentials, it would be disappointing not to see this titan reevaluated and rebuilt to help service the demand for large sailing yachts.
If gauged solely on the number of page views, some of the most engaging stories involve yacht fires. 2021 saw a spate of yacht fires, and with the ubiquity of smartphones, they are becoming documented in an increasingly public way. The interest in these stories is easy to comprehend; a fire is fascinating. I believe that we have the responsibility to report on these accidents and to keep the speculation to a minimum until the official reports are released. The safety of the crew and guests should be paramount, but the causality should be left to the experts. It can, however, speak to the need for a more transparent safety culture and reporting within the superyacht sector. I have talked with friends in the industry with experience in the commercial sector, who are shocked that these incident reports are not more widely shared as is common in other sectors. If we report on the accident, we are obliged to report on the subsequent information and conclusions, when available, to help lift this safety culture.
The evolution of the narrative around the next generation of owners has been intriguing. In some ways, the definition of a 'generation' is an inability to understand the next. Speculation about what a millennial may want has often been made by non-millennials, based on non-facts and assumptions. The Millennial Takeover is an often quoted phenomenon, that is rarely supported by data or research, as highlighted in News Editor Max Stott's article, we need to grapple with this. One can get old by perception very quickly when one, under no duress, decides to put a stick in the ground and proclaim that something young people are doing makes no sense or that things were better before a specific epoch. We should take care not to become outsiders in our own industry. Intelligently approaching the narrative surrounding the next generation of owners may disarm what is in danger of becoming a circular firing squad of bad takes.
It has also been encouraging to report on the multiple instances of countries changing their regulations to facilitate superyacht operations. After years of stagnation, there has been a wave of high profile announcements from countries such as Japan and Panama. One of the critical barriers that have been sighted time and again is the communication to and education of the relevant authorities regarding the superyacht industry. The approaches have been varied, and the outcomes likewise. But the common thread that has tied the year together has been a broader recognition of the benefits of superyacht visitation and infrastructure development and learning from the experiences of other countries who have lobbied for the legislative change. The more data, research and reporting the more seamless these processes can become. The Superyacht Agency has undertaken multiple studies on the economic impact of superyachts for various governmental and private authorities, get in touch for a full assessment of what they can offer.
Additionally, the way the industry evaluates design is seeing a transition. Some outstanding superyacht designs are hitting the market, but it is imperative to be realistic with which ones we communicate. Speaking with Jim Sluijter, the lead exterior designer at Lürssen, about Lurssen's concept 'Alice' provides a refreshingly straightforward take. We need designers to push the boundaries, but we equally need to be responsibly selective and decisive in communicating these concepts, speaking to the designers and naval architects directly, and ensuring that the market is aspirational in design and grounded in its expectations. Outlandish clickbait designs are easy targets, but putting them on equal footing with other achievable and researched designs is self-defeating. A scale warped by fantastical designs only serves to muddy the waters for a new entrant to the superyacht sector.
It has been a fascinating year to be shoreside, and I am mindful of how challenging it has been for those crew onboard. A stark picture of mental health is played out across the industry through various studies and surveys. Personally, having worked on deliveries and relief contracts this year and seeing the crew, and the effects of the pandemic disrupted seasons first-hand, the impacts are evident. When we speak about increased use and migration of yachts, as well as yachts pushing further afield, and radical design changes, we need to ensure we do not lose sight of the operators that facilitate the experiences that underpin the industry. Starting with how the yachts themselves are designed, we should reevaluate the weight we place on the human capital that makes the industry succeed. Conversations like this, about the adverse effects of poor interior design with Margarita Amam from IMS GmbH, should take centre stage as we discuss the full order books across the major shipyards.
I am looking ahead to 2022 with excitement and optimism. There are a lot of brilliant people across our industry that can combine with a healthy order book to push for greater levels of innovation, representation and diversity that will drive the next generation of yacht ownership, operation and supply. We will continue to support the necessary conversations and will be visiting as much of the industry as we can over the next 12 months as part of The Superyacht Forum Live Tour. Join the discussion with an Executive Membership which includes unlimited access to high-impact journalism on SuperyachtNews, a subscription to The Superyacht Report, including access to our complete library of back issues, and the SuperyachtIntel database, as well as registration to The Superyacht Forum Live in Amsterdam and on-demand access to our full suite of media.
Photo credit: Monaco Yacht Show 2021
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