Understanding Superyacht Activity With BOAT Pro AIS
by Drew Broomhall
To celebrate reaching 5,000 verified tracked superyachts, we analyse 2019’s data and share unique insights on the active superyacht fleet
BOAT Pro was created with the singular ambition to answer questions about the superyacht industry that could not be answered anywhere else. Our industry-standard Global Order Book and brokerage sales data have led the way in providing critical insight to businesses in our sector, but a key challenge has remained superyacht behaviour – forecasting it, adapting to it and then exploiting it. That challenge has now been answered with the integration of AIS in the BOAT Pro platform, making it possible to accurately map superyacht movements in unprecedented detail.
We became the first company to invest in an AIS solution dedicated to superyachts in direct response to customer feedback. Clients were frustrated with commercial AIS offerings, which are optimised towards cargo and passenger vessels. The standard AIS definition of ‘Pleasure Craft’ does not cover the superyacht sector accurately and frequent name changes or flag changes cause duplication and inaccuracy when looking at superyacht activity. Our unique approach ensures that we track superyachts accurately throughout their life, ensuring that you always have a clean, verified fleet of superyachts to work with.
Our AIS platform has now processed over 200 million positions and counting. We’re making it easy to find the trends within all this data. All charts in this report are taken directly from BOAT Pro itself, using tools available to our customers. Here we answer some of the most common questions asked by our clients.
How many active superyachts are there?
In 2019, we found and tracked 4,721 superyachts that sent at least one AIS position. However, this does not mean that all these yachts are in active service. We can see that yachts often send AIS signals when they are in refit or moored up for lengthy periods. To remove largely inactive yachts, we set a benchmark of 100 nautical miles and found 4,100 yachts that had travelled further than this in 2019.
The “trackable” fleet currently represents 47% of all 10,824 yachts over 24m LOA delivered between 1864 and December 2019. Not all yachts are trackable through AIS as many fall below the 300GT threshold that requires compulsory AIS, while others choose not to send signals. Therefore, the total active fleet may be slightly larger than the trackable fleet, but the missing yachts will almost certainly be below 30m LOA.
Which builders have the most active yachts?
Unlike the commercial shipping AIS trackers, we match every yacht we find in AIS data to our own verified superyacht database. This means we can connect positional data with other important information, such as accurate LOA measurements and onboard equipment through to live brokerage sales data.
One simple example of this capability is looking at the active fleet by builder. We tracked yachts from 846 different yards, of which 83 have 10 or more active vessels. The Top 20 is dominated by European yards, with Benetti leading the way with 231 active yachts, followed by Feadship with 176 and Sunseeker with 166. Westport is the first non-European builder, with an active fleet of 115 yachts.
The sheer number of Benetti and Feadship yachts in active service is impressive when we consider total delivered units. The Benetti total constitutes 73% of their total delivered fleet, while Feadship has 87% of its yachts still active. These are notable figures considering the average age of their active fleets is 25 and 27 years respectively, and testament to their build quality and long-term investment value.
Which types of yacht are the most active?
We calculate the distances travelled by each yacht constantly, which means we can assess activity at a granular level. Let’s start by looking at whether motor yachts or sailing yachts tend to travel further:
As we might expect, on average sailing yachts travel over 600 nautical miles further than motor yachts over the course of a year. However, if we look at the subset of motor yachts classed as “explorers”, we see the average distance travelled shoots up to 6,139 nautical miles.
We can also examine the relationship between yacht size and activity. We segmented builders with 50 or more delivered yachts and plotted the relationship between average size and distance travelled. Here we can see that yachts from Lurssen, Feadship, Perini Navi and in particular Amels travel greater average distances than yachts from other builders, helped by more regular Atlantic crossings and busy itineraries. We can see that yachts in the 30-35 metre range tend to travel much shorter distances – around 2,000 to 2,500 nautical miles – largely due to a higher percentage of charter usage covering shorter routes over the season.
How does the fleet differ between regions?
Using BOAT Pro’s advanced geospatial filtering options, for the first time ever we can look at the active fleet by continent, country or custom region. This shows useful differences in ownership trends across the globe. For example, we are able to see the most popular builders according to cruising region. For this analysis we compare Europe and North America, counting yachts within a fleet if they appeared within 10 nautical miles of the continent’s coastline during 2019. Some yachts appear in multiple fleets depending on their activity; for example, a yacht that crossed the Atlantic will have been spotted on both continents.
European yards comprise all top ten positions of the European fleet. American yards comprise 50% of the North American top ten, with the remainder populated by Feadship, Benetti and Azimut plus two Asian builders focused on the US market, Ocean Alexander and Horizon. We had expected Azimut to appear in both tables, however one clear learning from our data is that smaller yachts are less likely to have an active AIS transponder. Given Azimut’s average LOA of 28.62m, many of the yard’s yachts may be untraceable through AIS data.
Overall, we observed that the European fleet is larger and more diverse in origin than the American fleet. There were 50% more yachts located in Europe than North America, spanning 566 different builders compared to North America’s 395.
What are the most popular superyacht locations in Europe?
Every single yacht position in BOAT Pro is mapped to the closest continent, country, region and town/city, as well as the current ocean or sea area. This means we can drill down into superyacht activity with unprecedented levels of detail. Let’s start by looking at the most popular countries in Europe. For this analysis, we filtered positions to show yachts within 0.1 nautical mile of the coastline:
The top five countries will come as no surprise, but it might seem unusual to see Albania vying so closely with Croatia and Montenegro in terms of total yachts visiting. However, we also measure the time spent in each location, and we can see here that superyachts spent a total combined 269 days in Albania in 2019, well below Croatia with 12,560 and Montenegro with 5,148. Why is this? Albania has fewer superyacht-ready facilities than its neighbours and we observed many yachts passing through for short periods, or cruising right past. Conversely, we can see that Spain and Greece buck the trend with a higher than average time spent per yacht due to the number of yachts using their ports and marinas for lengthy winter berthing periods or as regular home ports.
What are the most popular superyacht locations in North America?
Instead of using countries, we can analyse North America at a regional level, which gives us a breakdown by state or island:
Here we can see the extent to which Florida leads superyacht activity, with four times more yachts than New York State. The East Coast fleet dominates the list with six out of the top ten regions. We can see spikes in time spent in regions with good superyacht infrastructure such as California, Washington State and British Columbia.
What are the most popular superyacht locations in Asia?
Unsurprisingly, Turkey leads the way in Asian superyachting countries for both volume and time spent. The UAE, Hong Kong, Lebanon and Qatar all have a higher time per yacht than other Asian locations:
Egypt sees a lot of yachts passing by due to the popularity of the Suez Canal as a route in and out of the East Mediterranean basin. Within BOAT Pro, we can draw a boundary around the Suez Canal to isolate all positions in this area:
Within seconds we can convert this into a chart showing the number of yachts within the area by month during 2019. This clearly shows the arrivals and departures at the start and end of the Med season:
What are the most popular ports and marinas?
There is a lot of overlap between ports and marinas in superyachting. For example, Port Hercules is a port, but we might want to compare traffic with dedicated marinas such as Marina Port Vell, which is a marina located within the Port of Barcelona. We have catered for all options within BOAT Pro, using ports for larger port areas plus marinas for detailed comparison.
Focusing on marinas, we can see that the three most popular marinas are all in close proximity on the Cote D’Azur, and 17 of the top 20 are located in Europe, reflecting the larger fleet and popularity of these marinas over longer periods.
As with regions, we can filter down by country to see the ports and marinas within one country. For example, this is the top 20 filtered for United States only:
The future of superyacht AIS
We have nearly three years of AIS data within BOAT Pro, allowing us to plot trends in activity and migration over longer periods. Our focus for 2020 is making our data even easier to interpret and understand, with new types of visualisation and plotting using real-time and historical data to help answer the most complicated of queries. We are learning more and more about superyacht behaviour as we dig into our data, and we look forward to sharing our findings with BOAT Pro customers as we develop our platform further.