With over 500 people registered for the first episode, the SuperYacht Times Webinar series kicked off yesterday with yachting expert Hein Velema hosting an enlightening discussion around the topic of the current state of the market. Given the global coronavirus situation, a panel of key industry players was invited to provide some well-needed insight into the current affairs of various sectors of the industry. If you missed the webinar, catch up via the video recording found below.
Opening the discussion was Amels and Damen Yachting’s Managing Director, Rose Damen, who confirmed that the shipyards remained operational, but was taking into account the important measures needed to both continue on with the construction of their projects and keep their clients and workforce safe. Raphael Sauleau, CEO of Fraser Yachts, echoed this statement by saying “Our yacht management division and, to some extent, our project management has not been affected. Where we are affected is in new deliveries as our team cannot travel and therefore, they cannot assist owners. However, we are still getting requests for crewing.” Photo: Tom van Oossanen / Amels / DamenGoing on to explain how those at Fraser are “busy trying to protect and renegotiate bookings,” Sauleau voices the concerns of many brokers and companies around the world who are faced with contract and booking enquiries. Maritime Lawyer of Robert Allen Law, Bob Allen, shared his expertise on the matter: “I think it's pretty clear that this pandemic is a force majeure, which is something that happens outside of the control of the parties, and the way that this is typically dealt with in contracts is through a list of circumstances that are defined as force majeure. If you are a person who wants to cancel a contract because of force majeure, look very carefully at the language of the contract to see if you can. Take note that a change in any economic circumstances of the buyer is generally not considered a force majeure.”
“In general, the answer is that it is difficult to cancel a boat contract once the boat has been accepted either as a brokerage boat or a new build. The contract is going to have adequate force majeure provisions to allow for an extension of build time or to deliver,” he added.Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesWith the panel going on to agree that although the future is unpredictable, the industry will be able to bounce “back to normal” and superyacht owners and charter clients will, most likely, take sanctuary in the safe haven of a superyacht. However, it was stressed by Velema that, at this moment in time, stating “that yachts are very safe” is something “the industry has to be very careful with. Large crews on board have a lot of interaction with unknown people which can put their safety at risk.” There are many well-known measures in place for many marinas, superyachts and shipyards, to which Sauleau explained is “a challenging situation for those on board to manage in terms of core movements. At present, our management has postponed all movements for one month.”
The discussion continued with a question submitted by an attendee, which Velema shared via an online poll: “Considering that our customers are cash-rich, the economy will be hit by the Corona crisis. Will this affect our customers?” The audience was divided in opinions, as the results returned very similar percentages between those who agreed, and disagreed. Damen added that she felt confident clients will “navigate the situation in the best possible way.” Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesThe seminar concluded with the panel vocalising whether or not the coronavirus epidemic has had an effect on the environment. “I think this crisis is an eye-opener on how we are damaging our planet. We shut down the world for one month and look at the benefits it brings to the Earth,” remarked Sauleau.
“The internet certainly puts several accent points on the situation and the effect on the environment - which is probably a good thing. But in terms of climate change and our industry, let's keep building boats that are more efficient,” added Allen. With the question also put to the audience who interacted with a poll, the results confirmed that 66% agreed that people are becoming more conscious in light of the coronavirus crisis.Photo: Charl van Rooy / SuperYacht TimesThe SuperYacht Times Webinar series will continue tomorrow, Thursday 26 March at 16:00 in Europe or 11:00 in Florida, United States with a focus on ‘Green Yachts, Now is the Time’ along with four special guests. The sessions are free to attend however, participants are required to register here.