The yacht chartering industry in Singapore sees progress.
The presence of the 115-foot long expedition yacht belonging to renowned South African explorer Mike Horn sits in a berth at Marina Club, its unpainted, steely grey hull radiating the worldly, authoritative demeanour of one who has been to the harshest frontiers on Earth. To the uninitiated, the sight of the famous vessel might not hold much significance, but it heralds progress in Singapore’s yachting scene.
According to the Superyacht Singapore Association, a non-profit association formed in 2007 to promote Singapore as a superyacht destination, it has registered “a steadily growing annual superyacht presence in Singapore—from 15 in 2006 to 27 in 2007 to 55 in 2008 and eventually to 59 last year, despite the harsh economic climate.” Superyachts are a class of yachts that measure from 80 to 120 feet, and is typically professionally crewed.
A successful entrepreneur once said that to forecast the trends in the mainstream market, one only has to look to the top tier of consumers. Much like how golf was once the exclusive sport of rich men, yachting, usually an activity reserved for the well-to-do, might see its popularity edging upwards a few years down the road.
The idea for the SSA came about in 2007, as the newly-developed berths at Marina Cove (numbering more than 200, with 4 lots for superyachts) found themselves underutilized. “If there are not enough superyachts cruising through Singapore, the berths do not make much business sense at all,” says Jean-Jacques Lavigne, General manager of ONE15 Luxury Yachting and director of SSA.
With a group of individuals and organizations involved in the provision of facilities and services to superyachts such as marine engineering, carpentry, finishing, crew placement, legal assistance, security as well as marina consultancy, SSA was set up with the objective of creating economic value for Singapore’s yacht berths.
Chartering a yacht
Lavigne is also the General Manager of ONE15 Luxury Yachting where he oversees a charter fleet of 14 yachts. Despite the “luxury” tag, the yacht chartering company, an associate of ONE°15 Marina Club at Sentosa Cove, readily caters to both high and lower-end pockets, from VIP and corporate events such as presidential functions, luxury product launches and media events to individuals looking to spend quality time with family and friends in a different way. The marina setting is also slowly but gradually becoming a favorite choice among newlyweds as they look for more unconventional settings to hold their wedding receptions. The foremost criteria when chartering a yacht are the type of event being organized, the number of the guests as well as budget.
Where do the yachts sail to? Beyond cruising along Sentosa Island, Marina Bay and around the Southern Islands like Kusu Island, St John’s Island and Pulau Hantu, Tioman Island in Malaysia is a popular destination, as are Batam and Bali, as well as Phuket and Koh Samui.
One of the company’s newest acquisitions, the 35-meter superyacht Nymphaea, is undoubtedly one of the crown jewels in the company’s fleet of vessels, being the only licensed yacht in Singapore to hold a capacity of 50. Available for a day cruise or a glitzy evening dinner party, the Nymphaea has all the trappings of sailing in style, with a spacious main salon furnished in touches of dark leather and wood reminiscent of a bachelor pad, bedrooms to rival the comfort of that in a 5-star hotel and washroom countertops made from Italian marble, among many others.
| PHOTOS COURTESY OF ONE15 LUXURY YACHTING
Another one of its vessels, the Italian-built Azimut motor yacht, Hye Seas II, ranked among Asia’s 2009 Top 50 Superyachts, boasts luxury on a different scale, with a full-beam master suite, four guest cabins, a large sundeck for lounging and evening cocktails. At 116 feet long, its roominess beats that of some condominium units in Singapore. It all comes at a price, of course—S$11,700 for a 3-hour charter.
At the other end of the luxury spectrum, the 37-feet GrandBanks yacht affectionately named Popeye does not come with the same trimmings but is well-suited for a laidback fishing or island-hopping trip. Fully air-conditioned, with a small galley, washroom, television and CD player, it can hold up to ten guests from S$500 for four hours—working out to about S$50 per person. Sure, it’s pricier than a night out in town but well worth the “novelty” factor.
If you’re wondering why charter costs are so high, construction costs of a yacht itself runs into tens of millions, especially for larger models. Charges incurred are used to cover fuel, berthing fees, provisioning, insurances as well as staff salary—every yacht has its own captain and a team of crew to man it. “It’s just like running a floating hotel,” says Lavigne. Even the maintenance fees run into a few million dollars each year.
“When we started developing our products last year, we started with two yachts. The idea was to develop a fleet that can match any kind of demand, in terms of style, capacity and pricing. Whether someone wants to have a very casual experience for 35 people or a posh experience for only 12 people, we have it.” The only missing piece in their array of vessels is one that can hold up to 150 people, which is under construction at the moment and will be completed next year. Aptly named Le Majestic, it is to be Singapore’s first purpose built party yacht, with a capacity of up to 200 guests. It is designed in the image of the presidential vessels of the 1920s to evoke an old world charm, although one can be sure that there will be nothing old-fashioned about the technology and equipment inside.
Among the challenge of meeting bottomline targets, Lavigne sees the change in the mindset of the public to embrace yachting as an alternative leisure option as one of the obstacles the industry needs to overcome. While it remains very much an extravagance at the top tier, yachting has been made more affordable to the masses over the years, thanks to the presence of myriad players in the market.
In the league of the superyachts, on the other hand, it is hoped that the opening of the Integrated Resorts and casinos will cause a spillover effect of high-rollers onto the marina scene as they look for “5-star activities” to indulge in while staying at the hotels and resorts in the vicinity. The superyacht industry in Singapore is still very much in its infancy, but the outlook is bright—the SSA believes that traffic can hit 200 superyachts in Singapore waters by 2012.