Superyacht 2030: Is our infrastructure ready for the future?
Two titans of the sector discuss their concerns for meeting the growing maintenance demands of the fleet…
‘Titans of industry’ is an oft-used term, but it is rather fitting when describing the position of Amico & Co. and the MB92 Group in the context of the superyacht refit landscape, with Daniele di Giampaolo and Rob Papworth representing the companies respectively on stage with Martin Redmayne to discuss projected refit demand up to 2030.
If the industry were to replenish the fleet with around 150 units a year up to 2030, there would be another 1,200 superyachts on the water requiring maintenance, repair work and refits. This is an entirely fair assumption, considering the historical statistics, and would equate to somewhere in the region of an additional 20 per cent added to the fleet.
It is hard to surmise whether such growth represents a serious threat to the sector’s ability to service the fleet. ‘Refit’ after all is an ambiguous term, and an imperfect science, so it is challenging to apply hard and fast numbers to the market’s size. Furthermore, nuances within the overall fleet’s growth (in terms of size and type of vessel) will determine the sort of infrastructure and expertise required of the refit sector. However, what is certain is that growth of the profile outlined above would far exceed the capacity of quality refitters to meet demand.
We have seen a spike in the number of refit market entrants in recent years, both in the form of new operations, but also a greater willingness for builders to clearly define their refit capabilities in the form of dedicated divisions, with marketing and branding attached to those operations. It is clear that the fleet will always need to be maintained and that makes the market very attractive, and very competitive.
This journalist actually believes that the forecast supply/demand dynamic in its entirety may not prove a problem. More pointedly however, issues are likely to arise, and as Redmayne pointed out, in localised demand. Pressure points are set to emerge from a fleet heavily concentrated in the Western Mediterranean (which figures show has actually incrementally increased as a share of ‘winter’ season global superyacht cruising over the last five years).
There is significant infrastructure emerging in territories across the world, with the industry waking up to the fact cruising is only attractive if a robust service proposition can be demonstrated. This has triggered the development of service operations in every continent of the world.
But herein lie two interesting quandaries that the panel highlighted…
Firstly, is the increasing pressure on the top tier refit yards in the Mediterranean going to catalyse an expansion of the fleet’s cruising patterns, as they go further afield to align itineraries with maintenance schedules? After all, there is quality to be found in the Anzac region, America’s east coast, with operations emerging in the eastern Med, Middle East and elsewhere.
Secondly, and of far greater concern to the industry as a whole is whether the refit sector can maintain the replenishment of the skilled and varied work that underpins superyacht refit. Ken Hickling highlighted from the audience that meeting the hypothetical growth projections of the fleet mentioned above would require new workers to be trained in their tens of thousands.
As di Giampaolo acknowledged, this is the sector’s most pertinent and immediate concern, and one that the wider industry is battling. If we take anything from this year’s edition of The Superyacht Forum, it is the urgent need to tackle the industry recruitment crisis, to ensure safe passage of a new generation of skilled shoreside workers.
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