Health, safety and, I would add, environmental and ocean protection are becoming increasingly the main inputs in the design phase of superyachts. For a dynamic and creative industry like ours, these topics represent the main objectives and opportunities on the global stage.
The path leading towards a completely safe, healthy and environmentally conscious industry was already set before Covid-19. I believe that the ‘new normal’ approach will likely support and validate this direction – a direction which has been supported by the Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss) for many years.
In the short-term, production continues. With the exception of a few delays in deliveries due to the lockdown period, orders have not been cancelled and the feeling for 2021 is largely optimistic.
However, looking at the long-term, there is a large degree of uncertainty. Many have looked to the smaller recreational boating sector as a sign of hope. This sector has seen a marked increase in demand as the water becomes viewed as a safe haven for recreational activities.
Of course, the superyacht industry is a very different market, and even within that, there are many different segments. So, while it is too early to state with any degree of confidence what the future will hold, there is optimism that our industry might also see an increase in demand as people recognise the security and other benefits that superyachts have to offer.
At SYBAss, our goal is to give the superyacht industry at large a voice at the table. To put it simply, the members of SYBAss, and indeed the wider superyacht build sector, want to be heard.
A misconception is that the superyacht sector is small, niche and undeserving of the same recognition as the other larger sectors that make up the maritime industry. Because of this, it’s easy for the needs of the superyacht industry to be overlooked. And for many years, they were.
In fact, it’s the reason why SYBAss was founded. Superyacht builders found themselves squeezed between the international regulations of the commercial maritime industry and those that applied to the smaller leisure sector.
SYBAss was established to be the strong, unified voice for the sector. In my role, I champion our members’ needs within the global regulatory field. My task is to assist in advancing SYBAss’ role from monitoring to structurally influencing, representing the unique needs of the industry. This increased involvement reflects the growing complexity and importance of regulations and standards within the superyacht industry.
Since acquiring consultative status within IMO in 2011, SYBAss has actively monitored regulatory developments affecting superyachts, along with regular consultation with various flag states and class societies. Representing SYBAss members in front of IMO, flag states and international technical organisations is both an opportunity and a responsibility.
Thanks to SYBAss’ efforts, the superyacht industry has gained an active role in the regulatory-making processes, deserving of its position within the maritime sector.
Here, I can say that my former experience at RINA has played a key part. Its undeniable that my time in RINA between 1987 to 1999 as head of the yachting department was an essential contribution to my 30 plus years of experience in the maritime and yachting industry.
SYBAss continues to strengthen relationships with all IACS Class Societies and assist with their consultation with our members. I recognise that RINA has gained an important position in the areas of classification and advisory services that can really ensure added value to the superyacht industry.
And no discussion of the future of yachting is complete without reference to sustainability. Sustainability has always been an important topic for SYBAss. This was formalised in 2017 with the creation of the SYBAss Sustainability Committee – a platform for members to come together and discuss issues pertaining to environmentalism. Later, SYBAss supported the creation of Water Revolution Foundation, a non-profit taking the lead to neutralise the superyacht industry’s ecological footprint and preserve the world’s precious oceans.
Looking at the regulatory environment, the original IMO mandate was principally concerned with maritime safety. However, since 1954 IMO has assumed responsibility for pollution issues. In fact, of its 51 treaty instruments adopted so far, 21 are environment related. Thus, for many years, legislation has been the driving force for innovation in the maritime industry.
With IMO currently working on the fourth greenhouse gas survey, it is clear the organisation wants the entire maritime industry to contribute to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – including yachting.
With the establishment of sustainability-focused industry bodies and committees, the superyacht industry now has the opportunity to demonstrate we have the capability to develop new, forward-thinking technology and stay ahead of what is required. Innovation before legislation!