This year has been successful for much of the superyacht industry in terms of brokerage and shipyard activity. How have the last six months been for management and what markets are proving active?
We are obviously management focused and not brokerage-led, so it is difficult to make statements about the market, however, I would say the management market is directly impacted by political and economic developments. As a management company, you have to be aware of shifting political concerns, and that manifests itself in the Mediterranean with fiscal controls, customs visits and port state controls. We see more regulations in the yachting industry as a result of political impact, specifically with flag and port regulations. With increased political and economic impacts on the yachting industry, management becomes very important. Captains and owners definitely appreciate management support more during times of uncertainty, as we can provide legal and corporate advice, so our market has infinitely profited in the last six months.
Having expanded your offices to Limassol in Cyprus at the end of last year, do you feel that the move has proven to be successful?
It’s proven to be a great location geographically, as Cyprus is in the eastern Mediterranean. We have a lot of boats that transit from the Med across the Red Sea to Eastern countries, and so Cyprus is an excellent mid-point. It’s definitely a point of interest at the minute as well, as we have a great shipyard there where we can accommodate several refits and refurbs every winter.
The recent Cyprus and Malta Leasing Schemes Agreement on the understanding of VAT rates between countries has also made Cyprus a desirable destination as a management company. So thus far our move has been quite profitable. We have had several big yachts, such as Mogambo from Nobiskrug and Aviva from Abeking & Rasmussen, come into berth at our port in Limassol, and that has helped to solidify the location as more of a yachting destination.
How was the Limassol Boat Show in May 2018 for Hill Robinson?
The Limassol Boat Show is rather small in comparison to the likes of Monaco and Fort Lauderdale, so it was helpful to be a big fish in a smaller pond at this event. We were able to establish ourselves amongst a smaller group of competitors and suppliers, and we had an enjoyable time getting to know several new clients.
The launch of your new Hill Robinson Aviation division is an exciting development. How has the market responded to the news?
Most big management companies are aware that yachts are getting bigger and those that are 80-100m-plus include helipads. As a yacht manager it is quite difficult to ignore the logistics and teamwork between helicopter pilots, maintenance crew and yacht crew. Instead of employing two separate maintenance and management companies to manage these areas that cooperate and cross-over so often, we felt it was the right move to integrate our services to deliver an over-arching blend of management. It can be a challenge for captains to manage helicopters without proper guidance and teaching, so as a matter of safety and responsibility, it made sense to make this latest expansion.
Hill Robinson has recently taken on senior members of staff from the commercial shipping sector. Is this the first of many and what do you hope they will bring to the brand?
Our new Special Operations department on the Isle of Man has been introduced specifically to employ commercially trained individuals to help with large refits. Peter van Toor has been brought in as procurement manager for his extensive knowledge on the subject, particularly as the Special Operations department has to deal with large yacht refits, as well as helicopter and aircraft supply. The best people to deal with such projects are those who have been commercially trained. Some of our new recruits have come from the industrial oil sector, and they have been trained in helicopter operations, so it makes sense to look to the commercial shipping sector for such specialised knowledge.
What can we expect from Hill Robinson at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show?
We have plans to consolidate our different services into a clear ‘menu’ of options. We have prepared a new proposal and presentation on our crew placement — from individual videos for candidates to skype interviews to personality tests and crew training.
We’ll also be engaging in much more contact with engineers and yacht captains about our spare sourcing, as our spare parts sourcing department delivers all over the world and we can guarantee 24/48-hour delivery. It is a fabulous service we really want to market this year at the Monaco Yacht Show to bigger yachts. We will also be pushing our project management services, our offices in Palma and Majorca and our office in Palm Beach, Florida is focused primarily on the refit market so we are seeking part-time project management support for these offices. So we have a lot to communicate to the superyacht industry this year at the show.