GOB data shows that superyacht production ground to a halt at times in 2020, with significant impacts on delivery schedules worldwide
Superficially, this year’s Global Order Book (GOB) paints the picture of an industry in robust health, with 821 superyacht projects in build or ordered globally, an increase on last year’s number of 807. However, a dig down into the detail reveals a decidedly more mixed picture.
According to our research, some 159 of those 821 projects should have been delivered before the GOB year-end of 1 September 2020. They are counted again because they are delayed and officially remain “in build”. Delayed projects are nothing new – each year the GOB includes boats whose deliveries have slipped beyond our year-end, but the sheer number this year is significant, and double that of an average year. Covid-19, clearly, has played havoc with superyacht delivery schedules around the world.
Not all delays are equal, however. In some cases, the economic impact of the pandemic has forced the owners of some custom projects, and shipyards building projects on spec, to adopt a “go slow” approach. Elsewhere, lockdowns deprived shipyards of manpower and raw materials, with inevitable consequences for delivery schedules. In other cases, crews couldn’t access boats to begin training or sea trials, and some owners, seeing delivery dates slipping past summer, have opted to receive their boats in 2021, in order to get a “younger” model.
If we were to halve the number of delayed projects to 80, which would be consistent with a normal year, you get a GOB number of 741, some way down on last year’s 807.
The explorer market, however, remains hot. We recorded 64 explorers in build or ordered in this year’s GOB, an increase on last year’s 58 – and the most ever recorded. Explorers now account for 9.4 per cent of the GOB, up from 4.1 per cent a decade ago, when there were just 31 explorers in build. The trend for long-legged cruising has firmly cemented itself, with owners demanding more autonomy, range and capability from their boats. Yards across the market have benefitted – from Damen with its punchy SeaXplorers, to Cantiere delle Marche and its pocket expedition yachts. Clear, too, is the growing acceptance in the market for standardised explorers. No longer is a custom build a prerequisite for serious passage-making.
Two other yacht categories saw significant growth over last year’s figures. They are support vessels, of which there are now six in build globally, from Australia to the Netherlands, and multihulls. We counted 26 multihulls in this year’s GOB, up from 24. All other yacht classes remained stable on last year’s survey.
Looking at the size of yachts, there was a strong uptick (21 projects) in the number of 37- to 60-metre projects in build. This is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that all new-build yachts over 24 metres LOA, and/or fitted with engines of 130kW or greater, started after 1 January 2021 must meet the IMO’s Tier III engine exhaust requirements. In other words, keels have been laid strategically in 2020 to avoid this regulation. All the growth in this size bracket comes from semi-custom models, which supports the assumption that shipyards have been laying keels of speculative projects early, in order to avoid more complex engine installations on boats started after 1 January. There was a similar rush to lay keels before LY3 requirements took effect in 2014. Growth has also been spotted in the smallest category we count: 24 to 27 metres, likely for the same reason.
The only noticeable drop in activity this year is in the 30- to 36-metre segment, which has dropped 10 projects on the previous year.
The number of active shipyards continues to climb. There was a big jump in the number of shipyards building superyachts last year, from 151 the year before to 170. This year, that number has risen again, to 179. Five of these new yards are entirely new to the superyacht market, while four have appeared previously but fell inactive due to a lack of projects. Half of all the projects recorded at these nine yards have been started on speculation – a sign of their long-term confidence in the global economy.
If we look across the market, 87 of the active shipyards counted this year are building just one project (up 10 per cent from last year); 60 shipyards have three or more superyachts on their order books; 33 shipyards are building five or more superyachts; 19 have 10 or more projects under way.
The number of active shipyards reached its peak in the pre-global financial crisis years of 2008 to 2009, when we counted 199 operating globally. We’re unlikely to see that number again, at least for some years, and time will tell what impact Covid-19 will have on active yard numbers in coming years, given the timescales involved in superyacht construction.
Azimut-Benetti maintains its position at the top of the GOB with 100 superyachts in build or on order, one less than last year, but still comfortably more than any other company. If lined end to end, these projects would stretch more than 3.5 kilometres.
Sanlorenzo sits in second place, both in number of projects and combined length. This Italian yard’s projects are bigger on average than last year, thanks to the 23 projects in its Superyacht division. For the first time, Sanlorenzo’s projects are, on average, larger than Azimut-Benetti’s, mainly thanks to Benetti’s delivery of two of its three 100-metre-plus “gigayacht” projects.
According to our research, Ferretti Group, comprising Ferretti, Custom Line, CRN, Riva, Pershing, Wally, Itama and Mochi Craft, should appear in the top three. However, the company, as last year, has declined to share precise order-book data. We estimate the number of hulls on its order book to be 95, but without access to hull numbers we are not prepared to include them in the builder leaderboard.
UK builders Princess and Sunseeker have also declined to share order book data this year.
Our estimations for each of these builders’ order books have been included in other totals, however. We hope to see each of these yards participate in next year’s GOB.
Taking third place again is Feadship, with 1,162 metres of construction, including nine projects at the outfitting stage. Fellow Dutch yard Damen, meanwhile, sits in sixth place, with 15 projects totalling 1,028 metres. Heesen lands in 10th place with 11 projects and 626 metres of construction and last of the Dutch yards is Oceanco, with five projects. However, it should be noted that the average length of these five Oceanco projects is 113.2 metres, second only to German giant Lürssen.
Interestingly, Damen, Heesen and Oceanco are all now building their flagships. Damen announced the signing of its first 100-metre-plus order this year; 120-metre Project Signature will be delivered in 2025. Heesen has completed the hull and superstructure of 80-metre Project Cosmos, delivery of which is expected in 2022. Oceanco, meanwhile, is engaged in building Project Y721, which we understand to be a 125-metre sailing yacht. Delivery of Y721 is slated for 2022.
Taiwanese shipyards have had a strong year, with growing numbers of boats in build and a steady stream of new models at Ocean Alexander and Horizon, in fourth and seventh places respectively. Ocean Alexander unveiled three new models during the recent Fort Lauderdale boat show, the 36L, 32L and the 27E. Expected next year are the new 35R, 30R and 27R. Horizon continues to gain market share with its high-volume FD series. The first three FD102s were delivered this year, along with the first FD92. The FD125, due next year, is highly anticipated.
With nine projects, all giants, Lürssen remains the sole German yard in the Top 17. The yard is expected to deliver four projects in 2021. Another German yard, Nobiskrug, might have squeaked into the top builders’ list were it not for non-disclosure agreements. It shared details of four projects, but one was listed simply as “100-metre-plus” due to privacy reasons. We’re therefore unable to use this in their total. We also believe the yard has one other undisclosed order.
LAND OF GIANTS
This Global Order Book reveals a record number of superyachts in build exceeding 100 metres. There are 23 projects of 100-metres-plus (including two on hold) scheduled for delivery between now and 2025. Lürssen remains the champion in this category with seven 100-metre-plus projects, two of which are scheduled for delivery next year. Fellow German yards Abeking & Rasmussen, Lloyd Werft and Nobiskrug also have 100-metre-plus projects on their books.
In the Netherlands, Feadship has just shipped a 118-metre project into one of its sheds, Amels has announced a 120-metre order and Oceanco has an impressive order book of five 100-metre-plus giants. In Norway, construction continues on 182.9-metre REV Ocean, slated for a 2022 delivery, and Freire in Spain is building a 111-metre project.
TOP BUILDER COUNTRIES
The leaderboard for biggest builder nations remains largely unchanged. Italy sits in the top spot, followed by the Netherlands and Turkey. Each country is building more and larger yachts, but Turkey has seen the biggest growth in activity, with 76 superyachts in build, up from 65 last year. The country has seen less disruption from Covid-19 than Italy and the Netherlands, which appears to have attracted buyers.
More established Turkish yards like Bilgin Yachts and Turquoise Yachts continue to impress with the number and size of their projects, but we also note the arrival of some newer shipyards which have wasted no time in investing in some innovative projects, such as Alpha Yachts and its Spritz 102 designed by Giorgio Cassetta, Sirena Marine with four yachts in its Frers-designed 88 series and SES which is preparing to launch the third hull in the elegant Truly Classic 128 series designed by Hoek. Dunya Yachts is also preparing a comeback with a 47-metre expedition yacht designed by Greg Marshall.
Sitting in fourth place is a country that has sailed through the pandemic: Taiwan. Its production has grown 5.8 per cent year-on-year.
Poland, meanwhile, has more than doubled the number of superyachts in build in its shipyards. This improving performance can largely be attributed to Sunreef Yachts, whose catamarans have caught the attention of sports stars such as Rafael Nadal and Nico Rosberg.
Dropping two places to sixth is the UK, and China has fallen one place to eight. The remainder of the top builder nations show solid, stable results.
Shipyards’ appetite for risk appears to be waning, with a 6.6 per cent decline this year in the number of speculative projects in build, perhaps reflecting the choppy economic waters many were anticipating in 2020, even before Covid struck.
“Spec” projects still account for 39.3 per cent of the GOB, but this represents the lowest share of the order book since we started recording data on speculative projects in 2017. However, risk aversion is not applied equally. Turkey is clearly betting on attracting impatient owners, given 59.2 per cent of its order book is comprised of spec projects. The figure in Italy is 36.1 per cent, and in the risk-averse Netherlands, just 28.4 per cent of its order book is speculative.
THE BROKERAGE MARKET
The brokerage market, so often the superyacht industry’s bellwether, ended 2019 strongly and started 2020 in bullish fashion, with January and February eclipsing the same period the year before in number of sales, up 10.6 per cent.
Then Covid-19 hit, lockdowns were applied and the brokerage market all but shut up shop. Just 62 sales were recorded between March and May, down 44.6 per cent on the year before. June was better as travel was liberalised and the period through to the end of August, our GOB year-end, saw 100 boats sold on the brokerage market, up one per cent on the same period the previous year.
THE FINAL WORD
Looking back at the text of last year’s Global Order Book, we note wryly the comment: “The superyacht industry [is]… awaiting 2020 with a little anxiety.” And that was before we’d seen the word “coronavirus” in any headlines! Obviously no one could have predicted what happened next, or the impacts a pandemic would have on the superyacht industry, which have been profound.
During the first lockdowns across Asia and Europe, superyacht production ground to a halt. Since then, shipyards have worked hard to make up the lost ground, introducing split shifts and keeping sheds operating round the clock to reduce delays and maintain social distancing.
But the production chain, in many places, snapped, forcing significant delays to projects. As mentioned at the start of this report, we estimate that 159 projects missed their delivery slots this summer, meaning they stay in the count for the 2021 report. While delays are not unusual, they typically account for between five and 10 per cent of the GOB total. This year, delays account for 20 per cent of the total. No size category or type of project was untouched.
We anticipate consumer anxiety to continue into 2021, until a reliable vaccine is introduced widely and air routes reopen. It will be interesting, too, to watch how the market reacts to the presidency of Joe Biden. The US is the world’s largest superyacht market, accounting for half of all brokerage sales, and US buyers have been particularly active during Trump’s term.
In Europe, Brexit continues to depress sentiment, and whether the UK stays a home to many European and Russian superyacht owners remains to be seen. China, as ever, is an enigma.
As we finalise this report, a second wave of the pandemic is sweeping Europe, and the US is on its third wave, which will lead to further economic hardship, lockdowns and delays to deliveries. But promising news about vaccines has bumped up indexes such as the FTSE and Dow Jones and some positivity is creeping back into headlines. In our industry, soundings taken suggest hatches will remain battened in H1 2021, with many holding out hope for a return to normality in the second half of the year.