Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, the team at Bluewater Yachting know what it takes to run and manage a successful charter and brokerage business. SuperYacht Times’ Francesca Webster chats to Peter Bennett, the founder of the international company, to find out the secret behind their success, and to discover his keys to enjoyable superyacht ownership – some of which you might not expect.In 1991, in his mid-twenties and fresh from eight years as a lieutenant navigator in the British Royal Navy, Peter Bennett brought something of a new approach to the industry, founding Bluewater in Antibes as a crew agency. It was his aim from the outset to introduce naval level training to the luxury yachting industry, to raise the level of qualifications among yacht crews and up the standard of training. Through the Royal Yachting Association, Peter had Bluewater established as a teaching centre, and the RYA agreed to incorporate Merchant Navy training into their MCA qualifications. In Bennett’s own words, Bluewater “became pioneers of the MCA commercial ticket that we see in the yachting industry today.”It wasn’t long before Bluewater’s success in Antibes led to their expansion into Palma, now more than 20 years ago. Today they are truly international, with offices in Antibes, Monaco, Palma, Hong Kong, Fort Lauderdale, Moscow and Switzerland. Gradually, as the business expanded, so did their remit, and it was Peter’s vision to create an all-encompassing company, to service all of their clients needs. “My motto and whole goal was ‘one company, one complete service’, and we are the only company in the superyacht industry that does everything seamlessly. We cover crew, crew training, vessel management, charter and sales. We are absolutely unique in that – there are other firms who have used that tagline, but it truthfully only applies to Bluewater.” Though they do not touch logistical supplies, Bluewater are experts in those five areas, working to professionalise the entire industry through the MCA ticketing programme, and as Bennett adds, “we are good at it!”Photo: Luca Dini DesignDiscussing the development in the industry since the foundation of Bluewater, Peter notes that, compared to 30 years ago, a lot has changed. Yachting when he started out was more cavalier and less professional, but today with larger yachts and higher risk profiles, owners can not afford to be blasé with their crew or management. This modernisation has also come with better standards of crew care, something that Peter holds high on the list of important factors for enjoyable yacht ownership – something we come back to later.
When discussing yacht brokerage, Bennett shares how he is personally involved with each and every client that approaches the company looking to purchase a new yacht. This hands-on approach is a major factor in their success as yacht brokers, because it allows him to find a compatible broker for each client. He knows first hand that every potential buyer wants to speak their own language, one of the reasons his team are all multi-lingual, but that they also need to be paired with a broker who matches their requirements, “I evaluate our clients and allocate them to a broker inside Bluewater that I think is a perfect fit to their needs, whether it's language or experience or youth, or where they want to operate, where they want to charter, where they want to buy the boat. Basically, it's quite a lot of work on my side, but it works fantastically for the client and the team.”Photo: Bluewater Though Peter shares some stories of why this personalised service is so important to the company, they cannot be divulged here, but they imbue a sense that he really knows the industry and the needs of every buyer, inside out. When asked if one yacht sale particularly stood out from the crowd, the beautiful 68-metre superyacht Icon, which was built by Icon Yachts in 2010 and sold by Bluewater following a refit and extension by the yard in 2014, who at that time still owned her. Following her sale in 2017, Bluewater have exclusively chartered the yacht with great success, offering accommodation for as many as 12 guests, taken care of by a crew of 17.As for the future, Peter sees bright things ahead for the superyacht industry. With many companies having cut back during the pandemic, those who have survived are raring to be inundated with orders as the world reopens. It isn't just new builds that he predicts will be booming in the coming months, “Worldwide the charter industry is going to really kick off, people have been pent up for so long and now they want to get away. You won't be able to book a holiday, all the yachts that want to charter will be chartering, maybe not this year but definitely next year. I recommend that if you want to charter in 2022, book early to avoid disappointment!”That brings Bennett onto one of the subjects he is most passionate about – crew and crew management. “The other thing I would say is that the industry needs a lot of crew. Covid-19 really has been a nightmare for young people, a report in Germany suggested that 70% of young people believe their career prospects have been seriously impacted by this pandemic, but I believe crewing is a great option. Our industry will bounce back faster than many traditional industries, and I think many people will be looking to yachting to sustain them while the cities return to normal.” With many yachts having been laid up for long periods over the last year, many vessels have lost experienced and integral crew, meaning there needs to be an injection of crew into the industry to meet the upcoming demand. Bluewater’s training programme is a great place to start for young people looking to enter the industry, and their management team aim to ensure that the correct crew are placed aboard every yacht.Finally, I asked Peter what advice he would give to a first-time superyacht owner, and his response was somewhat unexpected: “They need to find a company which has a good base in crew management and yacht management, and they need to discuss with that company how to manage a boat, how to be cost effective, and what restrictions and regulations need to be followed.” The point Peter emphasises the most, however, is the importance of understanding your crew, “You need to understand how crew work, how the MCA contracts work, crew rights, how they need to be accommodated, and what you can get from them, if you understand those elements, finding the yacht is easy – I bet you don’t hear that answer very often!”As Peter notes, most brokers will focus on the asset, but at Bluewater, there is a real impetus toward the importance of crew management, because it is his opinion that crew are what make or break successful yacht ownership. “A lot of owners give up on yacht ownership because they get fed up with crew management and regulations, it can take the joy out of the experience to be tied up in red tape, so it is a really important factor for any owner.” What is clear is that Bluewater’s unique understanding of the superyacht industry gives them a special edge, and with their founder predicting an upcoming boom, they are ready and raring to go.
To find out more about Bluewater Yachting, to see the yachts they currently have on offer, or to organise your next charter, contact them at:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +377 99 90 12 22