At times overlooked in lieu of its northerly cousin Fort Lauderdale, Miami’s superyacht facilities have steadily been increasing in the past few years, with many seeing the Miami area as strengthening itself as a major hub for the large yacht segment. Mehmet Bayraktar, chairman and CEO of Island Gardens Deep Harbour (located on Watson Island), speaks to SuperyachtNews at the height of Miami’s superyacht season.

“The season has been very good,” he begins. “The Miami season for the majority of people starts in September and runs until May.” Bayraktar’s vision is that Island Gardens Deep Harbour becomes the heart of the Miami superyacht scene, particularly as it has been designed with these size vessels in mind. “Island Gardens has been developed specifically for superyachts. To our knowledge, we are the only superyacht marina that is built in the country for this sole purpose.” The marina opened in 2016, and features 50 superyacht-specific slips up to 167m, over 1524m of capacity and drafts of 5.5-6.4m deep.

Bayraktar sees Miami as a hybrid of two of the most popular superyacht destinations (“Monaco with a twist of St Tropez”) in part due to a symbiotic relationship between the growing superyacht market and the developments ashore. “Ten years ago, there were hardly any luxury hotels in Miami. Now, look at what has happened and it’s the same in the marina business,” he says. With a plethora of Michelin-starred restaurants, five-star hotels and yachting facilities, many charter clients and owners are seeing it as an obvious choice for a holiday. “There are more and more opportunities for people, because Miami is becoming a big metropolitan city. The nightlife, the dining opportunities and so forth. I refer to Miami as New York with beaches,” Bayraktar laughs.

Echoing this view is Jessika Angarita, US Marketing Manager for Camper & Nicholsons USA, who is based in Miami. “Miami is no longer just the ‘Wall Street South’, filled with hundreds of hedge funds, family offices, tech entrepreneurs and financial institutions benefitting from a favourable tax climate,” she explains. Superyacht clients are now seeing Miami as a destination in itself, due to the burgeoning luxury nightlife and the proximity to the Caribbean and South American cruising grounds. “It has become the second home for thousands of ultra-high net-worth individuals from Latin America looking for a unique yachting experience and luxury lifestyle. For them, Miami is the gateway to global markets,” continues Angarita. This strong presence of UHNWIs in the area has ensured a solid number of brokerage houses present in the Miami region in recent years.

Bayraktar also adds that, historically, it was common for yachts to remain in Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach, while guests made the journey to Miami by land, but this is changing. “In the past, when yachts wanted to come to Florida, the first place they would go is Fort Lauderdale, and they just stayed there. It’s definitely still a huge hub for those who want to get repairs and use the refit facilities, but Miami is increasing. There are more and more people,” explains Bayraktar.

The conscious effort of Miami Yacht Show organisers has changed the vessels that attend the event, with a focus on more yachts in the 30m+ sector, “We didn’t have anything less than 120ft (36m) at the Miami show in 2016,” Bayraktar recalls. The Miami Yacht Show now enters into its 30th year, and Island Gardens Deep Harbour will host (for the third year) the superyachts exhibiting at the show, which will take place from 15-19 February 2018.

“This city has a lot of potential,” concludes Angarita. “Just take a look at all the fabulous events that are hosted here, which are part of the global agenda for the affluent, including Art Basel, the Miami Open, and the Miami Yacht Show. Plus, let’s not forget the Super Bowl will be held here in 2020.” With these events, and much more, on the horizon, it can be expected that Miami will soon rise out of the shadow of Fort Lauderdale and be regarded as a premiere superyacht hub in its own right.

Image: Island Gardens Deep Harbour during the Miami International Boat Show in 2016. 



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