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Transporting superyachts in a changing world

Simon Judson, CEO of Peters and May, discusses the challenging logistics of pandemic era transport…

The wheels of trade, transport and logistics have kept turning through the pandemic. There are few industries that have faced as many adverse circumstances as shipping. SuperyachtNews speaks with Simon Judson, CEO of Peters and May, about how the layered effects of the pandemic have changed the game.  

Peters and May are a global marine transport and logistics provider and have felt the impacts of the pandemic acutely. Differed shipments, port closures and entry restrictions, and the changing landscape of shipping priorities have contributed to a rapidly evolving transport dynamic. To give perspective, the average rate for shipping a standard 40ft container has quadrupled over the last year. Also contributing to this steep hike in freight charges is a marked rise in the price of fuel. Taking VLSFO (Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil) as an example, the cost of this has increased from approximately $350-370 USD per metric tonne to around $550 USD per metric tonne.

“We fear that this situation will prevail for the remainder of the year,” says Judson, “so rather than shy away from it, we’re factoring these issues into our quotes and taking this opportunity to make our customers and business partners aware of potential price increases and transport delays.”

As Europe emerges from lockdown and the waves of infection abate, we are still not back to what we may consider a typical season, as Judson explains, “the Covid-19 Pandemic has changed the normal pattern of transport and put a delay on the season. For example; we are still shipping Superyachts down to the Mediterranean right now. This demand would have normally slowed down at least a month and a half ago". As with the attitudes of many of us towards the truncated and warped holiday season, there is an understandable level of hesitancy that is only just starting to be overcome for many yacht owners.

“It has taken significantly longer for yacht owners to have the confidence that when they move their superyachts, they are actually going to get to use them!”  

There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence about what yacht owners have been thinking and how this has changed throughout the pandemic and Judson and his team have been in a unique position to observe these attitudes. “Last year we saw a marked increase in demand from superyacht owners wanting to move to Australia. We haven’t seen this as significantly in 2021 but this year we also haven’t seen this demand convert into uptake. The problem being that the freight rates to that part of the world have skyrocketed; you will pay double, if not more than what you were paying twenty-four months ago.”

Peters and May have been exposed to many of the issues confronting the shipping industry worldwide, however, Judson also sees Peters and May as having the flexibility to take advantage of this same market, and the changing dynamic. “We have the advantage that we can approach anyone and everyone to find solutions for clients, but we are competing with empty containers that need to get out to the Far East as well as wind turbines and other government-subsidized industries coming from the Far East. We're competing with just about everyone out there who wants to move freight, and superyacht owners are not the only people that want to relocate. Many of the industries that have emerged from a period of relative inactivity have started to move freight, and many are looking to and from the East.”

As yacht transport heats up, Judson sees foresight becoming imperative. “A major change for us is that we are starting to have to buy deck space much further in advance. The word prompt does not exist in the industry anymore. Two years ago, you could go to the market a week out and there would be multiple options out there, now they are booked out many months in advance.” Judson is also very optimistic about the remainder of 2021. “I think Q4 is going to be astronomical. The demand that we're seeing is double what we normally see for that time of year. We are preparing as much as we possibly can. My only worry is being able to cater for the demand!”

As the industry looks ahead, Judson sees opportunity in the backlog and the possibility for the Caribbean season 2021/22 to be a high water mark for the industry, when compared to the last 18 months.  “There is a large number of Superyachts that need to be transported, the Caribbean has really started to open up, with the end of this pandemic within sight and with a large proportion of the developed nations being fully vaccinated, I think people are ready to get out to the Caribbean and enjoy the season.”

 

 

 

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