To Buy or To Build? With Ocean Independence

By Emily Dawkins

Making the decision to buy or to build a yacht is never an easy one. With thousands of yachts available for sale and even more concepts to choose from, the prospective yacht owner of today has never had more choice. That’s where the experts come in. We spoke to Ocean Independence's Sales Director, Toby Maclaurin, to discuss the pros and cons of both buying a pre-owned yacht or building a custom one, providing an exclusive insight into the perspective of an owner in the post-pandemic world.

When asked what the main considerations are for an owner choosing to build a custom or semi-custom yacht, Toby’s first question is this: ‘Who is going to support the owner when it comes to the specifications, and the review of both the contract and the design?’ 

Light-heartedly referring to the industry specialists as a wingman for the owner, Toby asks, ‘Ultimately, who is going to be your wingman, and what is the scope of work that you are going to give them to do?’ But his point is very much valid. During a time of uncertainty and staggeringly high rates of new builds, it has become more important now than ever for a prospective owner to be fully prepared throughout the build project. Toby emphasises the importance of having a team of industry specialists to aid their decision: ‘A prospective owner must ask themselves; who is going to be on my team to advise and look at the details of everything that will be needed?’ 

With competition rising around build spot allocations, it is also becoming more important for an owner to allow themselves, and their team, as much time as possible to make these decisions. ‘It is the earliest opportunity that a prospective owner can get to do an in-depth review of the build specifications, design and general arrangement, that really helps smooth the process going forward.’ 

‘An owner still needs their wingman, but a different kind of wingman’, Toby tells us as we ask about the differing considerations for an owner buying a brokerage yacht, ‘You’ve really got to live with what is exactly in front of you and what is being presented to you.’

When buying a brokerage yacht, the key considerations that Toby advises are: ‘Has it been built well? Is it fit for its intended purpose? Will it do what you want it to do and what the builders originally said it would do?’ And finally, Has it been well-maintained, and what is its current condition?’ 

With the superyacht industry seeing a sudden increase in sales and build requests during the pandemic, yacht brokerage has undoubtedly had to quickly adapt to the new normal: ‘Being released from Covid, and with the market becoming much faster moving, everything has to be done so much faster than it would have been done previously.’ Toby comments how Ocean Independence ‘were able to do things in less than half the time than we actually ever thought was possible.’ For Ocean Independence, alongside many other yacht brokers, the past 12 months have been a swift adjustment period, ‘That's what we’ve all had to cope with: to learn how to condense the process that could normally take a few months, into a few weeks, whilst ensuring that the full due diligence is done.’ 

The industry has adapted quickly - but for some owners, as Toby tells us, not quickly enough. ‘We’ve seen a couple of cases where there has been phenomenal pressure and desire to get afloat as soon as possible. It’s very interesting because the unique selling points (USPs) of owning a yacht have not changed. They've always been freedom, security, flexibility, and delivering a phenomenal experience.’

After the pandemic, free and unrestricted travel has never been more appealing. ‘The pandemic made these USP factors even more important in people's lives…in that way, we feel that the pandemic has accelerated the market.' 

Of course, the more new-build yachts commissioned during this ‘accelerated’ period, the fewer resources left in the supply chain to build them. Although some shipyards have been able to secure the parts they need, we wanted to know, should an owner be concerned? ‘An owner should hope that their industry wingman would know the right questions to ask. The first thing to understand is, what has the shipyard done to mitigate any disruption. The second thing is to consider alternatives already.’  

There is no doubt that the industry is becoming more sustainable, and there is a larger emphasis than ever for new build yachts to reduce their environmental impact in the water. Sustainable alternatives are certainly becoming more sought after by clients and Toby agrees; ‘I think that shipyards are listening to the industry rhetoric and are now better prepared for these questions than they ever were before.’

Despite the rise of a younger generation of UHNWIs, according to Toby, the demographic of those choosing to build has not hugely changed: ‘Generally speaking, clients building tend to be older and normally more experienced.’ With build times increasing, Toby explains how time is one of the most important factors for a client, The younger generation of UHNWI have even less time, so speed is important to them’, ruling out timely custom new builds.

‘It's a combination of strength of desire and patience. For strength of desire, it would seem that building, particularly building a custom yacht, is almost the pinnacle of an owner’s superyacht journey.’ Toby remarks on the differences between those who buy and those who build: ‘It doesn't tend to happen to first or second-time superyacht owners, it’s part of the progression.’

In the position of an owner, there is no doubt that the decision to buy a brokerage yacht or build a custom or semi-custom yacht is faced with hundreds of careful considerations that cannot be made alone. Ultimately, ‘Ocean Independence is the wingman on the journey.’

Offering numerous services and expert advice regarding brokerage, shipyards, technicalities, reviews and negotiations, Toby comments how Ocean Independence is, ‘really able to be the person to help make sure that the client gets it right.’

Essentially, the work of Ocean Independence and the brokerage industry is about more than presenting a boat to the market. ‘This is where the yacht brokerage community is sometimes misunderstood: it's not our job to sell a boat,’ says Toby, ‘It's our job to present to the buyer all of the options that are available and guide them to make an informed decision that is going to stand the test of time: to be the right choice for them, their friends and their families.’ 

Whether providing guidance on a second-hand yacht, or animating an owner’s new build yacht project, the work and success of Ocean Independence is growing. ‘We’ve always said that Ocean Independence, first and foremost, is an advice-driven company, and that's what we stick to. That's a strong USP for Ocean Independence in the marketplace and is absolutely what we strive to achieve.’ 

As a prospective owner looking to make the buy or build decision, there is no doubt that you will need your industry wingman. Get in touch with Toby and the rest of the Ocean Independence team to support your yacht build or brokerage purchase.

"This is where the yacht brokerage community is sometimes misunderstood: it's not our job to sell a boat. It's our job to present to the buyer all of the options that are available."

Toby Maclaurin, Sales Director, Ocean Independence


"This is where the yacht brokerage community is sometimes misunderstood: it's not our job to sell a boat. It's our job to present to the buyer all of the options that are available."

Toby Maclaurin, Sales Director, Ocean Independence
By Emily Dawkins