S'pore powers ahead in yachting

Phenomenal growth in recent years with Singaporeans going for large power boats

"There's a lot more going on here than people thought," says Mr Nick Stratton, of Simpson Marine, seen with a Monte Carlo Yachts 70.
"There's a lot more going on here than people thought," says Mr Nick Stratton, of Simpson Marine, seen with a Monte Carlo Yachts 70.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The yachting scene in Asia is expanding rapidly, with Singapore well-poised to play a leading role in this hot market.

Mr Nick Stratton, country sales manager of Simpson Marine, Asia's biggest yacht dealership, is surprised at the rate of growth of the industry here in recent years.

The market here is busy and vibrant, Mr Stratton, 32, told The Straits Times recently.

"There's a lot more going on here than people thought. The marinas are full and there's a lot of activity. In the last couple of years Singapore has been the leading market in Asia, so it's pretty mature here."

There is a trend towards bigger yachts here with the average local buyer, generally aged 40 to 70 years of age, showing a preference for large power boats that range from 60 to 80 feet in length.

Singaporeans make up around 50 per cent of the buyers, a figure that has been steadily increasing.

The company, which has a presence in seven countries, represents six European and one American luxury yacht brands.

Overall, growth in Singapore has been phenomenal, with sales increasing by over 150 per cent over the past four years.

Mr Stratton said: "Five or six years ago One Degree 15 Marina Club was almost empty, and now it's become a real hub. The speed at which it's happened is incredible."

He added: "We have people here on their third, fourth or fifth boat."

However, in some ways the company has been a victim of its own success, with the largest challenge now one of berthing space.

He said: "We've run out of space. The marinas are almost at capacity, and we're desperate for a new marina."

To mitigate this, Simpson Marine utilises its expansive network to sell second-hand yachts to buyers outside of Singapore.

As the most mature market, the Republic also serves as the company's headquarters for South-east Asia.

For instance, plenty of customers from Malaysia and Indonesia come here to view the broad range of yachts on offer.

A second leading function is as a service provider.

"We look after a lot of the boats cruising around the region and help in sourcing for more established marine supplies that aren't available elsewhere," he said.

"For instance, if you're cruising off an island in Bali and you need a spare part for your engine, the chances of getting it in Bali are very slim, but the chances of getting it in Singapore are very high and we can carry it out to you within a day."

Not surprisingly, Simpson Marine is expanding to keep up with the flourishing market.

The company has signed agreements to represent various yacht companies across Asia, and is hiring more staff and doubling its office space in Singapore.

However, one might wonder how the yachting industry is affected by the issue of piracy, which has re-emerged in South-east Asia despite maritime patrols and increased international cooperation.

Mr Stratton is quick to dismiss the security threat, arguing that pirates on the high seas tend to go for the large commercial tankers and cargo ships.

He said: "I have never heard of a single episode against yachts in Singapore or the surrounding areas. I've cruised all around the region, as have my clients, and we don't have any problems at all."

He added with a laugh: "But it is a question everyone asks."

With so few problems on the horizon, and as people in the region grow richer and start developing a taste for luxury, it looks like smooth sailing for both Simpson Marine and the industry as a whole.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore powers ahead in yachting'. Print Edition | Subscribe