The data is in and the tallies are totted: we present the definitive analysis of the superyacht industry in 2018...
The trend continues – the number of superyachts under construction has gone up again this year. There are 773 boats of 24 metres and over on order or under construction globally, up from 760 last year, and with the same average size (40.8 metres) as 2017. It’s the highest total since 2009 and if those 773 boats were lined up end to end they would measure 31.5 kilometres.
The top three builder nations remain the same, and Italy leads the pack again. Production in both Taiwan and UK shows continued health, and Germany drops a few places this year but its position doesn’t paint the whole picture. Many German projects are confidential, so the final LOAs of some boats in build are not known – and there are likely others that are entirely secret.
In 10th place there is a newcomer to the top tranche, Norway. It may have only four projects, but they are interesting ones. Chief among them is REV, designed by Espen Øino, the largest project under construction in the world, with a length of 181.6m and a GT reported to be greater than that of Dilbar, currently the world's biggest yacht by gross tonnage. Another exciting project, at Ulstein, is an 88.5m explorer yacht also designed by Øino.
Comparing countries by gross tonnage, Italy leads again, but this time followed by Germany. With 353 projects in Italy and only 15 in Germany, the contrast between average GTs is stark: 371 versus 6,773 respectively. And by gross tonnage rather than length, Norway, with its four giant projects, is the fifth builder nation.
Azimut-Benetti retains the title of busiest builder, with 2,840 metres of projects, followed by Ferretti Group and Sanlorenzo. In terms of actual number of hulls in build, Ferretti Group tops the table. All three of these yards have seen good order book growth, in terms of hulls in build – with Azimut-Benetti up 18 per cent, Ferretti Group up 23 per cent and Sanlorenzo up 11 per cent.
Feadship has revealed more details of its order book than in previous years. The yard therefore appears in its rightful place for the first time: No 4.
And there are a couple of new entries: Cantiere delle Marche cracks the top 20 with a total of ten projects, including three one-offs recently ordered and scheduled for 2020, the existence of which had not been made public until now. China's Heysea also joins the top 20 with 12 projects with a total length of 400 metres.
The category for the biggest yachts (76 metres and above) has once again set a new record, with 53 projects, one more than last year. Within this sector, many superyachts of 100 metres or more were delivered in 2017 (142.81 metre Sailing Yacht A, 123 metre Al Lusail, 110 metre Jubilee, 104 metre Amadea) and as we went to press 116 metre Ulysses and 106.7 metre Black Pearl were scheduled for imminent delivery.
There is now a welcome stability to the production of 100 metre-plus yachts, with 20 projects in this GOB promising a steady stream of launches in the coming years. Lürssen, for example, has seven projects exceeding 100 metres in build – an unprecedented situation. We understand other huge projects will be signed soon by Lürssen and its competitors. Despite the practical challenges such large yachts have in visiting harbours, which has led to speculation the market would suffer, the appetite for monster projects is strong.
At the other end of the spectrum the smallest categories – under 37 metres and especially 27 metres to 37 metres – have also seen success. Semi-custom builders are focusing on them, creating or redesigning many series. Most of these projects are built on speculation, but smaller superyachts are also becoming more popular with owners who want a limited number of crew members.
In terms of types of yacht, two categories seem to be suffering: open yachts and sailing yachts. The decline in open yachts could be explained by a move towards lower fuel consumption. For sailing yachts, however, the market is clearly evolving. Most clients are repeat customers, with newcomers proving hard to come by. There have been around 50 sales a year over the past few years, counting both the brokerage and new build markets, but brokerage is growing every year (from 32 in 2015, to 38 in 2016 and 42 in 2017), while new build declines.
Motor yachts, however, show a clear increase in construction. The number of expedition yacht projects also continues to grow – it’s slow but the trend is positive and recent new orders seem to confirm that next year will see more of the same.
At the time of writing, 2017 has just broken 2014's record of 412 brokerage sales and should go on to exceed 420 sales before the end of the year. Between January and October 2017 340 sales were recorded, and the tally should exceed 400 by the end of the year. Of the superyachts sold this year on the second hand market, 47 per cent went to Americans, showing that the US is currently the most important brokerage market.
Superyachts sold in 2017 were slightly smaller and older than yachts sold in previous years, but some impressive sales were recorded, including the 107.4 metre Ulysses, the 85.6 metre Oceanco Y708 and the 85.1 metre Lürssen Solandge. The second hand market had been suffering from a lack of pedigree yachts, but this seems to be changing if you examine new listings.
Again this year the lists of every yacht on order contain a few hulls that the relevant shipyard named only as “custom”. Most of these are in build, but for confidentiality reasons the yard is not allowed to confirm that these projects even exist. On a different note, while it is sometimes argued that the projects listed as “on hold” shouldn’t be included, a good number of them are restarted every year – around 10 per cent of the total, or six per year on average.
The 2017 Global Order Book listed the number of yachts built on spec for the first time, and it is clear that more such projects have been started this year. This reflects optimism: clients are back, mainly from the US but also from the rest of the world; the second hand market is strong, with a limited stock of yachts, and clients want a yacht in a limited time frame. Building on spec for quick delivery makes sense. This approach has its risks, but it also demonstrates the confident outlook of the shipyards.
This year, most of the lights are green: new designs, new series, more orders, more projects started on speculation. Business, on the whole, is good. The highs of 2008 and 2009 are still way out of sight, but so they should be. The global financial crisis was a chastening lesson in over confidence. What we're seeing now is steady, incremental growth.