Quick Q&A: Market observations with Ocean Independence CEO Peter Hürzeler

The brokerage market is the part of our industry that is naturally most reactive to world events. Those working in this sector have to swiftly navigate through difficult times in order to survive. Therefore, it is important to hear from the leaders in the brokerage world not just to share their insights on the current global pandemic, but to help educate those who are not so familiar with the work of brokers. Willing to share his knowledge and perception of the market is Peter Hürzeler, CEO of Ocean Independence.  Ocean Independence CEO Peter HürzelerOcean Independence has quite a large charter fleet. How do you think this season will compare to last year? 

The way we see our numbers developing implies that this year's turnover will be roughly 50% down. As a team, we are dealing with cancellation, postponements, but fortunately, there is a lot of appetite for chartering. We see that charter clients know that it is a very good way to be with your family, your loved ones, your best friends in 'isolation' which we hope will help us catch up on our losses in the latter part of this year. We will be able to catch up on quite a bit, but not much. Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesDo you think that the charter season will be longer this year and we will see more activity in September and October?

There are some indications that this might happen, and not only for longer but also widely distributed into areas that have not always been popular. For example, for those American charters who like to say in the Americas, we are seeing more interest in Alaska and a new interest in New England. September and October could mean more charter activity, but this is also influenced by factors such as school holidays - as charters are very much a family holiday.Superyachts during the Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesEach market reacts and adapts differently, but all have been impacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Do you see any differences between Europe and the US markets at the moment? 

If we are looking at the bookings from the last few weeks and the inquiries we currently receiving, there might be a very slight edge on the American market. Keep in mind, this is just part of the bigger picture as there still remains a large number of people who are not keen to travel at all. Overall it's fairly equally distributed amongst our clients and our markets.Superyachts during the Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesFor some companies, being 50% down in revenue is not easy. How are you managing this within each of Ocean Independent’s locations? 

It very much differs on each location. Every country has a different system. Despite being up against the wall business-wise with charter and sales, there is still a lot of work to do but by accommodating flexible working and with governments offering support, we can certainly not complain. There's no doubt about it: we will still see a heavy loss in 2020. Even if we are carefully optimistic about gaining some business back in the second half of the year, we’ve still had to keep our employees and the system running. Clients still expect the service, care and attention, especially in times when they are isolated for a couple of months. As a company, we have an obligation to be here for them and these are all efforts come at a cost which will show at the end of the year.Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesWhat is your opinion on the status of the upcoming yacht shows?  

The Monaco Yacht Show and yacht shows, in general, is a big topic of discussion and has been for quite some time. If we look at the lockdown situation, the restrictions and the economic environment, I do believe that we have a responsibility to look outside the superyacht world and react accordingly. So to go and celebrate a boat show in September in Europe doesn't seem to be the right thing. The financial element does come into it, not just because it's the single highest marketing expense that we have in any year, but also because it is, in our opinion, not a partnership with the organisers. Maybe 2020 is a year to stop for a moment, think and then hopefully, sit at the table together and discuss the future as partners. Yachts at Monaco Yacht Show 2019Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesWhat have you observed about the market recently and what do you see happening in the long term, post-corona?

From my perspective, one of the surprising and positive observations during the crisis has been how resilient our clients have been to the situation. People are really standing up to it and optimism has remained high, which is something that I found quite reassuring and different compared to the 2008 crisis.