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Demand is such at the very top end of the yachtbuilding market that a few owners are apparently selling build slots among themselves, says Phil Draper. Unbelievable or what?

AUGUST 2007

Happily it seems demand remains at an all-time high at the superyacht end of the marine industry spectrum. Order books for the better yards now include delivery dates that stretch reassuringly into 2010 and 2011, and in a few crazy cases slots have been ‘acquired’ as far ahead as 2012 and 2013 for a few vessels. Few will disagree that a six-year view is amazing, especially when we’re not just talking about a handful of very large ‘ultrayacht’ projects.
But there could be another reason or two for all that forward-order activity, causes beyond the more understandable new-build ambitions of big yacht owners. Rumours were flying around earlier this year that yard slots were actually changing hands for serious money, meaning owners with contracts signed and designs ready to roll were actually choosing to be bought out of their queues. Crazy days, yeah? I know this sort of thing has been happening for many years when it comes to the most sought-after cars, but only at the dealer level. Superyacht slots are something else entirely. The ‘slot prices’ that run with the rumours are well into six figures too — which is a lot of money whether pounds, euros or dollars!

“The ‘slot prices’ that run with these rumours are well into six and seven figures too — which is a lot of money whether pounds, euros or dollars!” 

Now obviously yachts change hands at all sorts of stages from concept to construction, but selling ‘windows’ is a new one on me. Or maybe it’s simply that I haven’t found a yard that will admit to me that its clients are actually trading their ‘access’ to its halls.
But then it does all have a ring of truth about it, doesn’t it? After all we’re dealing with a client base that above all else knows how to buy what it wants for what frequently appears to be crazy sums. Some of you out there - especially the superyacht yard bosses, owner’s reps and brokers - will no doubt know.
Similarly mad was the story I heard a couple of months back about one client with a large motoryacht project currently at the fabrication stage in Germany being so worried about his chosen yard being able to source the necessary subcontract joinery skills to cope with his project that he instructed his lawyers to buy up a well-known superyacht interior specialist just to secure the necessary commitment in advance. The rumourmill suggests the interior specialist in question is Metrica, the yard Peterswerft and the boat is the 133m (436ft) diesel-electric 'Project May', which it is believed will become the Qatari royal's new 133m (436ft) Al Mirqab; but non-disclosure agreements are said to make verification of any of these details impossible.
This sort of thing is not quite what I understood ‘futures trading’ to be about, but we live and learn.
Crazy days indeed. Long may they continue!

© Phil Draper