COTE D'AZUR - not enough berths

ELSEWHERE - not enough boats

EVERYWHERE - not enough crew

Shortage of crew, shortage of berths; perhaps there's also a shortage of foresight in the luxury yacht industry?

If the house building industry had a shortage of bricklayers and had run out of land to build on, it would consider itself in crisis. The luxury yacht industry is in a comparable situation, yet seems to just hope the problems will go away. Mention crew shortages to most people in the industry and they’ll agree it’s a growing problem, but ideas to solve it are thin on the ground. Talk about shortage of berths, on the Côte d’Azur, and they’ll tell you people will just have to keep their yacht in Spain, or some place.

The old adage “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” springs to mind. Builders don’t expect to sell luxury houses that aren’t in the right sort of area, so why do boatbuilders expect luxury yacht buyers to want to moor in places that don’t have the required cachet?

In any case, most owners use their yacht for just a few weeks each year and it’s on charter the rest of the time. What does a charterer, paying thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands a week want? A fashionable cruising ground; lots of “in places” to visit; things they can go home and impress friends with! “We dined at the Negresco, in Nice.” fits the bill, “We ate at el Café, in Badalona.” is likely to get a “Where?”

Recently, Miquel Alabore, General Secretary of the Catalonia boating industry association, ADIN, told BYM News “When these big yachts come here, they give work and many benefits. That is the reason we are trying to become the big megayacht place in the Mediteranean.” Alabore is not alone, many people - from restaurant owners to repair yard bosses - would love to see a profusion of large yachts in Spain. Of course, none want to attract them more than those who have invested in marinas capable of taking them, but - over these last years - since the marinas have been planned, or built there is little, or no sign that they will ever attract large yachts, unless there are some fundamental attitude changes.

In 2004, Leo Selter, of Cartagena’s “luxury yacht” marina, sent out 200 letters encouraging megayacht owners worldwide to take a mooring. He claimed 20% interest and 5 contracts imminent. In August 2005, Selter said, after the Rising Sun had paid a visit “According to the representive of the yacht, Cartagena would be the ideal place to have as a base for the Rising Sun, as the location and the services offered by the marina are up to the needs that this sort of yacht requires.” Three months later, Selter had sold his 50% share in the marina and told BYM News “the marina wiil no longer focus on megayachts.”

In June 2005, Malaga Port Authority said it had received requests for 5 permanent large yacht moorings in a new facility “in the best area of the port, with the most modern facilities” and added “the inauguration of the 24 moorings is imminent.” When, in March 2007, BYM News asked the Port Authority how many large yachts were moored there, the answer was “None”.

Two years ago, BYM visited two Costa Brava megayacht marinas that were under construction. At that time, Inigo Prada Nicholson - then with Tarragona’s Marina Tarraco and Sebastien Twose of Barcelona’s Port Forum were adamant that the megayachts would come and both cited the same reason. “Because it is the captains who have most influence, when it comes to deciding where a yacht will have it’s home port, and the captains will choose Spain.” A second visit, by BYM News, in March 2007, proved that very few captains have chosen Spain! Marina Tarraco was home to three sailing yachts and an Azimut; despite the “Barcelona effect” Port Forum’s large yacht berths were by no means crowded.

Even the America’s Cup seems to have failed to attract large yachts to Spain in anything like the numbers that had been hoped for. During last year’s Louis Vuiton, King Harald’s royal yacht Norge had no problem finding space to moor alongside, occupying a number of spaces intended for large yachts to moor stern to. More recently, the America’s Cup team has been at shows, offering 43 large yacht berths for this year.

It’s no good keeping on saying “people will just have to keep their yachts in Spain”, you have to make them want to.