The superyacht industry, like any other industry in the world, has the good the bad and the ugly. The good, the bad and the ugly, however, does not just relate to the vessels themselves. Sure, there are some questionable looking superyachts out there and, yes, I suppose it’s what’s on the inside that counts (but some of them are questionable on the inside as well). Beauty, in these cases, may very well only exist in the eye of the beholder. But, nevertheless, the superyachts are visible and people are free to make their own qualitative judgements about them.
What irks me, however, is that when it comes to the public perception of the superyacht market, the good is often ignored (unless it is explored in terms of aesthetics and cost), the bad is simply not worth printing, but the ugly can often become a full-blown character assassination of the vessel’s owner and their myriad interests and while their names get dragged through the mud, the superyacht industry gets dragged right along with them. I am not claiming that certain individuals should be kept out of the media on account of their image negatively impacting the superyacht industry, I am a firm believer in the importance of the press to hold individuals to account, ultra-high-net-worth or otherwise. But, wouldn’t it be great if the media got hold of some positive superyacht stories?
In many ways, the superyacht industry has made a perfectly understandable rod for its own back. Those superyacht owners with nothing to hide and nothing to be held publicly accountable for still cherish their privacy – and quite rightly too. It does pose an interesting challenge for the industry though, how do we tell the positive stories, and explicate the good, when the vast majority of the main protagonists are unwilling to talk?
Towards the beginning of this year, I spoke with a security company that had a number of superyacht clients. The gentleman there explained to me that, as we spoke, a client of his was in Cape Town, South Africa, providing water to local communities. At the time, Cape Town was weeks away from Day Zero – when the city would run out of water, the taps would be turned off and emergency water rationing would commence – so the provision of water from the superyacht in question was having a truly positive impact on the community.
During the conversation with the security company, I asked if their client would be willing to discuss what they had done in Cape Town and why they had done it with me. Although I made it clear that I was more than happy to offer anonymity for both the owner and the vessel – even though the vessel could be found on Marine Traffic – the owner refused on the grounds of privacy.
I take no issue with the owner refusing to do the interview, it is their right to be as private as they so desire. Privacy, however, goes straight out the window when something negative is happening. It’s open season on negativity and, try as we may, the notion of developing a positive public message for the superyacht industry reminds me far too much of poor old Sisyphus trying to push his boulder up the hill, only for it to roll back down to the bottom every time he nears the summit. Until the market becomes more financially transparent and the net is tightened to the extent that nefarious individuals, as exposed in the Panama Papers, are dissuaded from entering the superyacht market, it will always be one step forward and two steps backwards.
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