Small country, Big influence As export director of the HISWA Holland Yachting Group, Jeroen Sirag is well placed to explain why such a small country like the Netherlands has such a big influence in the superyacht world.
No-one seems to dispute that some of the best superyachts are made in Holland today. How did a small country become such a big player in a global market?
No-one can explain the success of Dutch yachting without first delving back into our past and what historians have called the Golden Age. In the 1600s the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ruled the trade waves as companies that were competing in the European market worked together and shared the risks of sailing to Asia. It’s incredible to think that over half of all Europe’s trade was carried on Dutch ships in 1648. That’s some pedigree for doing business abroad and the Dutch have learned to do it very well in a way that combines honesty and dedication to quality.
In the Netherlands we do things our way, and that means synthesising traditional skills with an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit. Call it quirky if you like but this is very much part of the Dutch character and mentality, and we find it often a good match with the sort of people who choose to build superyachts.
How did this history of trading translate into yachtbuilding?
The Dutch can lay claim to many milestones in the history of yachting, including being responsible even for the word ‘yacht’ itself. The first wealthy individual to be presented with (the seventeenth century equivalent of) a superyacht was Charles II of England and many more would follow.
And it’s not always been superyachts of course. In a waterlogged country like the Netherlands, boats of all shapes and sizes have been in the DNA of the Dutch for centuries. Many of today’s yards and supply companies can trace their roots back into the nineteenth century and it is these generations of craftsmen that later enabled the Netherlands to put superyachts on the world map based on this unique combination of heritage, innovation and a quirkiness.
There’s another part of history that also needs to be taken into account and that’s the fact that over a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level, including Schiphol airport! Visitors admire our dams, windmills, polders and canals, but all serve a purpose and Dutch knowledge of water management is second to none. Winning the centuries-old battle against the sea has involved us in tremendous feats of engineering and technology, and this permeates throughout our industries.
According to the latest stats in 2013, the Dutch superyacht industry generated some one billion euros revenue in deliveries This represents a 25 percent market share. How are these exceptional figures possible?
Let us also not forget that we also achieved an increase in new orders in 2013 of over fifty percent in 2013, which is a vital figure in terms of the continuity of our business. Moreover the world superyacht market only grew by a small fraction of that amount in the same time, and there are many factors that have enabled the Dutch superyacht yards and suppliers to come through the turbulence of the global recession in such robust health.
In addition to the history mentioned above it’s crucial to note that the leading companies – many still family-run – have always ploughed profits back into their businesses. This stands them in great stead when times become challenging. Dutch yards also have access to a unique geographical set up, where all the subcontractors involved in a project are within two hours by road. Cooperation between the domestic parties is a given in Holland, where resources are pooled and new solutions become joint ventures.
Dutch yards always look for long term relations with co-makers, who invest time and money into a balanced product and service that addresses the particular needs of the yard building the yacht. No yard is the same and all yards have different needs but all Dutch yards know that owners get the best product when the parties involved gel together. Holland's location as a gateway to Europe and the geographical clustering of experts within 200 km makes for a genuinely unique ability to provide everything ‘in-country’.
Everyone says they have quality – how would you define Dutch quality?
To me quality revolves around a determination never to compromise on one’s values. If it costs more to get the right quality then so be it because, ultimately, the buyers receive a better return on investment and a higher resale value on their superyacht. Quality means you get value for money while also enjoying the benefits of maximum performance, comfort and safety with friends and family. Quality is about heritage and craftsmanship as we have seen, but also an ability to deliver on one’s promises on budget and on time, which is by no means the norm in the superyacht world. Quality is having the right people in the right place at the right time to ensure every single system on-board a superyacht works to perfection. Ultimately, quality is a puzzle that needs constantly working upon in order to complete the task at hand to the full satisfaction of clients and owners. The constant stream of awards picked up by Dutch yards (and therefore, by definition, also the marine equipment suppliers with whom they partner) are proof positive that Holland can provide this quality, as are the unrivalled number of repeat clients.
Does quality mean expensive?
Quality does come at a cost but you get exceptional value in Holland. You reap the rewards of efficiency and experience. You have access to constant innovation and some of the leading maritime technical research institutes in the world. You have the assurance of an education system that is geared to ensuring the future of the Dutch yacht building industry (see page xx). And you have the safeguard of a high resale value, which smean that you are not only investing in your own pleasure when you buy a superyacht but also creating something that will hold its worth while you enjoy it.
In conclusion, why buy a superyacht in Holland?
Dutch superyachts come with a great deal of prestige as well as all the other benefits we have discussed on these pages. Ultimately, the decision to buy a superyacht is an emotional one and you want to know that you are going to enjoy your precious time onboard. Going Dutch is in my opinion the best possible way to make this happen.
Jeroen Sirag has his roots in the luxury hotel sector, which has many similarities with high end yachting, not least the fact that they serve the same clientele. The Holland Yachting Group is the world’s most sophisticated national representative body, maintaining the cooperation among Dutch companies that has made it a global force. “It is unique to have both yards and suppliers united in one group promoting their country in a destination driven way. Our goal is to ensure that when people are considering buying a superyacht or superyacht equipment, they continue to think of Holland first.