Like many of you probably are, I am both frustrated and bored with the impact of COVID-19. It is a natural disaster that Bill Gates predicted in a TED talk in 2015 (and if you haven’t watched it, it’s definitely worth it and quite spooky). However, we now have to deal with it and adapt to what’s on the horizon.
Over the past few decades, we have endured the Oil Crisis, 9/11, Black Monday, piracy, the Arab Spring, refugees in the Med, SARS, Brexit, civil wars, the ‘Greek tragedy’, market meltdowns, recessions, trade wars, and environmental and climate change. I ask myself, what have we learned? And essentially, my answer is, the art of survival.
Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps one of the most serious threats we have ever had to deal with, in our current generation, but it is important to recognise that the vast majority will get through it and come out the other side - wiser, stronger and perhaps humbler. We have seen markets tumble and are now witnessing companies cut costs, reduce staff numbers and rethink their future. But ultimately, this is perhaps a Darwinian moment where there is an evolutionary phase and we will witness the survival of the fittest, smartest and leanest.
The problem we all face is, how long the pandemic will last and what the ultimate impact on the market will look like. This is almost impossible to predict and all we can do is react to the expert advisories and follow the guidance notes and official statements. So, without the aid of a crystal ball, I wanted to attempt at creating a message that presents a positive outcome and healthy forecast.
From this unique episode, we will have learned how fragile and resilient the human race actually is. There is a chance that people will re-learn that family and friends are more important than anything else. It is possible that we have recognised that taking flights, travelling and hopping from continent to continent is something we have taken for granted and should consider more carefully in the future. We have, perhaps, recognised that talking to people on the phone or via video conference is a viable alternative and can save huge amounts of time, impact and money. It may be that we have also learned to enjoy our own company and the potential isolation that has been imposed upon us.
As an industry, we are also witnessing an unprecedented shut down of the event cycle in Q2 and the now, expected log jam of events in Q3 and Q4. We know that based on government guidelines, many companies are currently working remotely or planning a ‘work remotely’ regime, while shipyards are operating at a reduced capacity and managing the impact as best they can.
So what does this mean..?
Well, essentially, we’re entering unknown territory and this is an unpredictable situation that changes daily. So, I ask you all to use this time wisely, carefully and perhaps, positively, as we should all come out of this the other side and then reflect on the ultimate test to have challenged our industry, even more than 2008 or any other unforeseen disaster.
We have to use this time to “ask new questions”, in the way that Lateral Naval Architects have been advocating. We have to sit down and seriously consider the impact of not attending the spring shows and events; has it really made a difference? We have to explore new ways of communicating and championing our industry for the future. We have to use this time to work out how to do things smarter and we have to stop doing things the way we always have.
The impact of COVID-19 today is both dramatic and distracting for all concerned, but if there is one positive that I would like to share with you, it is that we should use this time, when we are working from home or in a quiet office, to rethink and reset the dial of superyachting.
Because in very simple terms, the notion that no one needs a superyacht should now be eradicated, and we should refocus our attention on the fact that we should design, build and deliver the ultimate private, floating island with autonomy, privacy, security, health and flexibility, as the renewed, or reinforced purpose.
As Bill Gates said in his TED Talk, the biggest threat to the human race is not a war or terror threat, but an invisible virus, so in his infinite wisdom perhaps now is the time to design and build his perfect yacht. Watch this space. Post COVID-19 there could be a migration to the oceans, as the world recognises that out there, we operate in a unique environment, perhaps even a clean and safe haven.
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