I am typing this article at 39,000 feet en route to London after a week-long visit to Florida to review our US operations and meet up with the Pinmar USA team. There is some turbulence caused by the back end of Hurricane Florence, which veered north before hitting the East Coast of the US in North Carolina and, therefore, avoiding our main bases in Savannah, Georgia, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Having seen the devastation wreaked by last year’s hurricane in the Caribbean and the disruption it caused to cruising and refit schedules, it looks as if the industry has dodged a bullet here. Let’s hope the remainder of the hurricane season passes without further incident.
My objectives for this short hop across the pond were to review the progress on Pinmar USA’s growth strategy, see the new facilities that our major shipyards’ partners have developed and spend some time with our local leadership team.
We have just finished our first major project at the new Savannah Yacht Center (SYC) facility in Georgia – the full refinishing of a 68m Abeking & Rasmussen yacht, completed in 14 weeks in the 140m graving dock. I am pleased to hear that the captain was very happy with the quality of the finish and that he and his crew enjoyed the SYC experience. We are now gearing up for 2019 with the construction of a new paint facility including a purpose-built paint cabin, workshops and offices that will be staffed by the local Pinmar USA team. The facilities that SYC are developing are truly impressive and will provide the ideal infrastructure for undertaking major refits on the expanding fleet of yachts over 70m, which has been lacking on the East Coast of the US. Their new travel lift will be commissioned early in 2019 so the Pinmar team are working with SYC to prepare for a busy refit season.
I arrived at our new Pinmar USA headquarters in Rybovich’s new Riviera Beach yard in time to see the commissioning of the new 500-ton travel lift that will be hauling yachts on to the expanded hardstanding area adjacent to our new paint production facility. Rybovich has always been a favourite location for superyacht captains and crew, due in equal parts to the quality of the workmanship and the professional and super-friendly service ethic championed by Carlos Vidueira and his team. Now, with their newly expanded facilities and unique service model that provides a mix of in-house services and commission-free option to contract directly with technical specialists such as Pinmar, I foresee major growth in West Palm Beach. Rybovich is also planning for a very large 1,000-ton travel lift in the next year or so and this proves its continued commitment to the refit business in the US.
Pinmar USA was founded in Fort Lauderdale in 2008 and has built a strong presence in this superyacht hub over the past 10 years. Our aim is to maintain our market share in Fort Lauderdale, working with our longstanding partners, while also exploiting new opportunities for larger yachts in West Palm Beach and Savannah.
The US superyacht market continues to grow apace, fuelled by the increasing number of billionaires, as the US continues to exhibit strong economic growth. Similar to the luxury-car market, the trend is to buy European manufactured superyachts and, given the limited recovery of the USA new build brands after 2008, this seems unlikely to change despite President Trump’s protectionist policies. These larger superyachts need bigger facilities – hence the major investments being made at Rybovich and SYC. Pinmar built its reputation on servicing the larger superyacht sector and I believe we are well placed to service the growing fleet of 60+m yachts based on the US East Coast and yachts positioning between the Caribbean and Mediterranean cruising grounds.
The market structure and dynamics in the US are very similar to Europe in that we are dealing with the same captains, management companies and owners’ representatives, whose expectations in terms of quality, service, speed and value are no different. Having a global brand that conveys these qualities is a major advantage in driving our growth in the US.
As I sit back in my seat and reflect on my trip, I think we are in good shape; we have a great team, the right facilities and strong partners who are investing for the future and are aligned with our growth strategy. I will now try to catch some sleep before a quick stopover in London to meet our stakeholders and then heading to Monaco to hopefully sign some deals to fill that US order book.