Following the acquisition of YPI in 2019 by Mercantile & Maritime Investments, a new chapter begins for the brand with renewed impetus to grow, innovate and reaffirm its position within the yachting community through the development of collaborations and business-to-business partnerships with the industry. SuperyachtNews speaks exclusively with Peter Thompson, YPI’s new managing partner for yacht sales, about the difficulties faced by the brokerage community today and his outlook for the near future.
“There has certainly been an uptick in the brokerage market over the last couple of weeks. However, the deals that are being done now are the deals that started before the COVID-19 outbreak. This is all well and good if the client, the vessel and the surveyor are all in a similar area, but currently the problem that remains is travel restrictions,” starts Thompson. “We are surveying a 51-metre boat next week in Sanremo and to get the surveyors to the vessel has been a huge task. Fortunately, however, the buyer is in France so they were able to drive to the yacht. Even then, we were unsure of what kind of reception there would be at the border, but thankfully there were no issues.”
Conversely, YPI currently has 74m Quantum of Solace on its books, with an owner that Thompson described as a “genuine seller”, that is generating plenty of interest. However, due to travel restrictions, Thompson has been unable to arrange visits to the boat. One particular interested party from Canada would be able to visit the vessel, but would be made to Quarantine on his return, which is proving to be a real stumbling block.
One of the major difficulties with travel restrictions and various regional policies and protocols is that, while there are naturally similarities, there is no genuine uniformity between nations. Furthermore, there is no uniformity in how buyers and sellers are approaching COVID-19, in terms of risk appetite.
“We have a number of boats in the US and we are currently considering whether or not we move them to the Bahamas. However, will we be able to fly people there? [And] if not commercial, would private air travel work? Can we transport clients directly from the airport to the boat provided they don’t go anywhere else between the aircraft and the boat? These are all restrictions that are making the equation harder,” continues Thompson. “We have used Bermuda for the time being, while the Bahamas are closed to vessels from the US in order to obviate boat show bonds. The boats may go to Bermuda, so long as the crew don’t get off the boat and have minimal interaction with the local community. It’s challenging, but there is light at the end of the tunnel - it just requires more guile to get to the end of the tunnel today.”
In light of all the difficulties faced in today’s climate, Thompson expresses how pleased he has been with the resilience of the brokerage market throughout, drawing comparisons with the 2008 financial crisis, which saw an influx of panic selling when the market crashed. By stark contrast there has been no such bubble burst throughout this crisis. That being said, it may be that there will be a raft of vessels hitting the second-hand market when travel restrictions are lessened. As it is today, owners wishing to sell will, for the most part, be unable to host interested parties aboard.
“This has been a gradual, almost haphazard market decline, unlike the 2008 crisis which was immediate and cataclysmic,” explains Thompson. “It is not so much an issue of uncertainty around economic viability; it’s simply that people can’t move. If owners are planning on selling, how are they going to get people to the boat right now? However, there hasn’t been any panic price-cutting to date and our enquiry level is certainly up on how it was a number of weeks ago, which is incredibly positive for the superyacht market.”
The issues faced by the brokerage sector today are representative of those faced by the world as a whole. That being said, Thompson remains pleased by the market’s resilience, and optimistic about the market’s ability to bounce back.
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