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Global order book: Over 1,000 superyacht projects on order in 2022

13 December 2021• Written by Raphaël Montigneaux and Nicholas Robinson

Despite some initial wobbles in 2020 when Covid-19 first struck, the superyacht industry has largely shrugged off the pandemic to record a third year of consistent order book growth. The 2022 Global Order Book records an impressive 1,024 projects in build or on order, a rise of 24.7 per cent on last year’s 821.

More than 40 kilometres of superyachts will be built, launched and delivered between now and 2026, the result of unprecedented demand on shipyards. And according to discussions with builders, dealers and brokers, it was the fourth quarter of 2020 that proved a pivotal turning point for the industry, with orders surging from this period. Smaller semi-custom ranges soaked up a significant chunk of this increased demand, stocks of which quickly sold through.

Shipyards saw buyers clamour for their products in response to harsh lockdowns and travel restrictions the world over, with buyers seeing superyachts as private, Covid-secure floating islands to take refuge on.

As a result, the last handful of 2021 semi-custom hulls available in mid-2020 quickly sold, followed by 2022 production slots. And as we write, a large swathe of 2023’s semi-custom hulls are being sold.

It is now a challenge for would-be buyers to find a semi-custom project available for purchase before 2024. The same is also reported for full-custom production, with longer delays before deliveries.

Azimut Benetti Group vice president Giovanna Vitelli:

Summarise 2021

This year, as well as the previous one, we registered a remarkable increase in demand on all the markets that did not find us unprepared: we launched new and extremely innovative models and we were thus able to seize new opportunities in an extremely satisfactory way. Just to give you some figures: with a production value forecast to exceed €1bn, a 20% rise on the previous year (2020/2021), Azimut Benetti Group closes the 2020/21 yachting season with great satisfaction and foresees for this year a growth up to €1bn. In the last six months only, our order book has tripled compared to the previous season. We are talking about an order book worth today €1bn and €500M and the most extraordinary part is that in the past 90 days alone, a timeframe that includes the three major Mediterranean boat shows, we acquired orders – related to models over 24 meters – for over €508M.

How are you preparing for next year?

We look forward to next season, comforted by an excellent order book which sees the production lines already saturated for more than two years. The new projects we are working on will allow us to continue on our path of organic growth even in the medium term: in the coming months we will launch several new models that will offer the market an even more exciting experience onboard. Because of our innovative drive and the know-how gained over the years, as a group we are today in a privileged position: both our brands are an authoritative point of reference within their market segment. New clients refer to us every day and at the same time we manage to maintain a close and deep connection with them. Our position allows us to keep monitoring the emerging trends, anticipating owners’ needs, exploring new opportunities and solutions.

How will you ensure order momentum in the coming years?

Our strategy is, as always, products oriented: over the years we always focused on new and innovative models looking for new solutions in terms of new technologies and new yacht concepts and it’s a strategy that has been rewarded by the market.

Top builders by total length of construction

Demand is strong across almost all superyacht categories and sizes, but particularly pronounced in the sub-45-metre range, the hotbed of the semi-custom market. Delve a little deeper to focus on vessels below 30 metres, and the GOB shows 424 projects within this size range, an incredible 30.5 per cent rise on last year. Similar growth of 28 per cent is seen in the 30- to 45-metre segment, while 45 metres and above witnessed an uptick of 10.5 per cent.

Almost all of the main superyacht types have seen growth, but three noteworthy areas are expedition yachts, sportfishers and sailing yachts. The expedition segment grew by 33 per cent, with 85 vessels recorded as in build or on order in this year’s GOB, showing the trend for tougher, longer-range vessels is accelerating.

The erratic sportfisher market has also had a good year, showing 133 per cent growth and 26 projects on order or in build. Most are built in the US, led by Viking, who has already reported 10 sales of its new 90 series. The world’s biggest sportfisher project, meanwhile, is a 52-metre currently in build at Royal Huisman.

Trends in customer demand, 2007 to 2022

The sailing yacht industry has recorded its best numbers since 2018, showing 70 projects in build, up 18.6 per cent on last year. The new-build sailing sector has remained relatively stable over the last five years, tallying between 50 and 75 projects since 2017.

Sport yachts have seen limited growth of 5.2 per cent this year, with 61 units on order books globally. This could, in part, be explained by the changing desires of pandemic buyers – ie yachts with volume that can act as sanctuaries, which works against more open, sportier models.

The market’s increasing acceptance of multi-hull platforms can be seen in this segment’s rise of 65 per cent on last year’s Global Order Book. There are now 43 multihull superyachts in build or on order around the world, a number we expect to see rise again next year as more and more builders introduce multihull models to the market.

Numarine international sales director Ali Tanir:

How has business been this year?
This year's orders are mostly done at the end of 2020. We can say that with the start of the pandemic the sales were incredibly fast and the shipyard’s ability to work with full capacity during this time helped us a lot.

How are you preparing for next year?
Our production line is almost full for 2022. The shipyard is finalizing the master plan for 2022 deliveries and already starting to plan 2023 possibilities.

How will you ensure order momentum in the coming years?
We are trying to stick to the production and delivery dates. We are always trying to be ahead one year of production so that the shipyard can predict the production possibilities.

The fleet by gross tonnage, 2019 to 2022

The number of operational shipyards continues to grow from a 10-year low of 151 active yards recorded in the 2018-19 report. There are now 186 active yards building superyachts, a rise of four per cent on last year. New players are being attracted to the industry by this increased demand for yachts, and as sheds at established shipyards reach capacity.

The GOB shows there are 69 yards now building just the one vessel, a 21 per cent decline on last year’s solo project facilities. Not only does this show a stronger overall sector, but it provides more yards with business security by having multiple sources of revenue. Some 65 yards have three or more superyachts (+8 per cent) on their order books, of which 38 are building five or more superyachts (+15 per cent), and 24 have 10 or more projects underway (+26 per cent).

Shipyard activity vs projects

But which yards are putting in the strongest performance? Topping the Global Order Book volume charts again this year is Azimut-Benetti with 128 projects, up 28 units on last year. If placed end to end when built, the vessels would stretch more than 4.6 kilometres, a 30.7 per cent increase on the builder’s total length last year.

Sanlorenzo again comes in second place with 117 projects in build or on order. The builder’s overall and average lengths are just short of Azimut-Benetti’s, at 4.1 kilometres and 35.5 metres respectively.

According to BOAT Internationalresearch, Ferretti Group, comprising Ferretti, Custom Line, CRN, Riva, Pershing, Wally and Itama, should appear in the top three most productive yards. However, the company, as in previous years, declined to share precise order book data.

A Tankoa Yachts spokesperson said:

Describe the business in 2021

So far in 2021 the business has been very good and we are confident to close a couple of contracts before the year end.

How are you preparing for next year?

We are trying to expand our building facilities in order to fulfil our growth plan. Beside this we are presenting new projects and designs in various ranges in order to satisfy the clients request of more and more modern and sophisticated yachts. Finally, we are continuing to establish working relationships with new designers such as Cassetta, Dini, Mancini, Hotlab.

How will you ensure order momentum in the coming years?

As mentioned, we are growing our building capacity. Beside this we want to stay a ‘boutique shipyard’ that can fulfil all clients custom request and at the same time deliver a high-quality product. We have the feeling that we are on the right path and if the industry will keep this good momentum we will be ready to welcome clients and contracts.

Top builder nations by volume

Without access to hull numbers, we are not able to include the yard on the leader board. UK builders Sunseeker and Princess also declined to share detailed order book information.

Taiwanese shipyards, less impacted by the pandemic, had a strong year. Ocean Alexander’s notable performance moved the builder into third place in the GOB, pushing Feadship down one spot. The yard is strong within the US market and presented a number of new models at the 2021 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Taking fourth place is full custom shipyard Feadship, with a total of 1,469 metres ordered or in production, up 26.4 per cent on last year. Other Dutch shipyards listed among the top 20 include Damen Yachting, Heesen and Oceanco, with all announcing strong order books and most projects sold.

While other build countries have performed admirably this year, Italian shipyards deserve special attention. Along with Azimut-Benetti and Sanlorenzo, Overmarine, The Italian Sea Group, Baglietto, Cantiere delle Marche and Palumbo have shown substantial growth in the overall length of their production. Most have also begun plans to extend their facilities to increase production.

Projects by length: 15-year comparison

There are no real changes this year when it comes to the top build countries, with Italy remaining in first place, followed by the Netherlands and Turkey. However, the nations producing mainly semi-custom series are gaining the most ground, growing by 20 per cent or more.

Global Order Book data shows this is the case with Italy (+28 per cent), Taiwan (+19 per cent) and the UK (+31 per cent). Countries known for their full custom production have shown more limited growth, including the Netherlands (+4.3 per cent) and Germany (+5.2 per cent). Meanwhile Turkey, well known for both its semi-custom and full custom production, sits in the middle with growth of 15 per cent.

For the first time in many years, the US has not only arrested its decline in production, but is growing again, with an order book of 42 projects at a length of 1,312 metres – up 29 per cent on last year. This boost is down to Viking’s success, as well as that of Rybovich, Smith and Merritt. Full custom shipyards in the States have also seen orders rise by three units compared with last year’s GOB.

Poland is also another noteworthy build country in this year’s GOB, rising on the top 20 list to ninth place, thanks to an impressive order book from Sunreef, Galeon and also Conrad.

Princess Yachts chief commercial officer Will Green:

“Commercially, the past year has been very successful for Princess Yachts and the business continues to achieve outstanding sales success with strong retail sales and record low stock. However, we are experiencing the same industrial challenges seen by others in the industry.

“The impact of delays within the supply chain as a result of Covid-19 have not been insignificant, nor has the impact of the ‘pingdemic’. With 3,200 employees and absentee rates reaching a peak of 20% in the summer, multiple boat lines have been affected.

“However, Princess continues to expand and has an intensive recruitment programme in place through to the end of 2022 to support the retail sales rate which has grown to the highest levels in the history of the company.

“The market has been exceptionally strong. Covid-19 has had an impact not only on people’s sense of their own mortality, but the lack of travel and the desire to isolate has been universally good for the boat industry as a whole. During the past 18 months of uncertainty Princess has remained one of the industry’s most trusted brands, with a highly experienced and long-serving distributor network and a world-leading product range, offering customers a unique and safe place to isolate.

“This growth in demand has appeared to accelerate as we head into the recovery phase of the pandemic. Although there continue to be interruptions in the supply chain, we are on track to significantly improve our financial performance in 2021 compared to 2019 and 2020 and we expect even stronger results in 2022 based on orders already secured. As the industrial challenges begin to recede and operating conditions normalise, we will be able to unlock capacity in order to rebalance output levels with the burgeoning order book.”

Semi-custom vs full-custom yachts

This is more than a story about the remarkable growth of the order book in the last year; it’s about the sheer number of boats sold in advance. Stocks are sold for 2022, most of them for 2023, while 2024 is already being eyed on the semi-custom front. The number of boats started without owners – speculative production – has dropped to its lowest level since we started collecting this data, with just 25.5 per cent of the order book representing “spec” builds, down from 39.3 per cent a year ago.

This is good news for the industry, with many busy years to come that will give builders resources to invest in their facilities. However, this also brings a challenge for the future, as growth requires more skilled labour which is not easy to come by in a niche industry such as superyachting.

With so many projects sold and yards eager to maintain quality, delays to builds should be expected as shipyards tussle with contractors to have components delivered on time. This was the case during the boom at the start of the century. Price will also become a bigger challenge in the coming years, with the cost of many materials having already increased this year and likely to continue doing so.

But for now, let the good times roll, because history teaches us that these periods can be brief, and end suddenly.

Larger superyachts on order