As we near the close of 2020, SuperyachtNews speaks with Oceanco to discuss performance throughout the pandemic and, perhaps more importantly, to explore how the shipyard intends to tackle one of the superyacht market’s most pervading challenges.

“Like many other companies, Oceanco had to go through some drastic changes when the pandemic struck, our whole performance was geared towards three things: keeping safe, maintaining progress and maintaining quality,” starts Paris Baloumis, group Marketing Director of Oceanco. “Naturally there has been social distancing, PPE, testing and working from home for most employees. We also offered our facilities as a safe-haven for our fleet where they could stay safe and complete maintenance and refit work. Despite 2020’s difficulties and uncertainty, it has been quite successful in terms of sales performance.

Baloumis’ comments echo much of what has been observed market-wide in 2020. As the severity of the pandemic became clear, there was a period of adjustment and uncertainty that saw business slow as UHNWIs focussed their energies on the safety and security of their families, friends and businesses, especially as the markets crashed and strict travel restrictions were imposed. However, as individuals became accustomed to the ‘new normal’ and pined for freedom and new surroundings, many UHNWIs returned to the market having realised that floating residences represent one of the safest options for leisure in the pre and post-COVID environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting effect on the superyacht industry, as it will the majority of industries globally. On the one hand, working practices will remain changed. The notion of spending half a day travelling to conduct an hour-long meeting no longer feels like an appropriate use of time and resources. Equally, the pandemic will remain at the back of the mind for many stakeholders. Indeed, it seems unlikely that shipyards, charter brokers and others will not include pandemic provisions in the wording of their contracts and, finally, the pandemic will likely have an impact on superyacht design.

“From a technical perspective, we are already seeing a far greater awareness for health and safety on board superyachts,” continues Baloumis. “Clients are now inquiring about new filters for air conditioning, technologies for removing viruses and bacteria, as well as questions about improving the autonomy and range of superyachts. These types of queries are already arriving from our clients, it is clear that clients view superyachts as attractive prospects in the event of a continued pandemic or another outbreak in the future.”

As anomalous as 2020 has been it has not stopped strong businesses looking towards the future. For all the difficulties that the pandemic has thrown up, the challenges that the superyacht industry is facing have not fundamentally changed. Chief among these challenges is the need to attract new demographics of UHNWI to engage with the market.

“We recently launched out NXT project,” explains Baloumis. “At Oceanco, we believe that we need to get closer to new pools of clients that have not already entered the superyacht market. Of course, this is an industry-wide challenge, but it is also one that Oceanco is tackling directly. What we have discovered is that the values of potential clients are not always in line with the values that the superyacht industry has showcased to date. Through the NXT project, we are connecting with experts from outside our industry to better understand how they connect with their clients. We don’t always need to innovate from within the industry, there are a host of innovations out there already and the greatest innovations in humankind have not been generated in a vacuum, instead they are a stitching together of ideas and creativity from lots of different existing thinking”

Oceanco fundamentally believes that the best way to set new benchmarks is to co-create with experts from a wide array of industries. By bringing together new perspectives from a variety of sources, Oceanco is tackling head-on the challenge of attracting new demographics of owners. Naturally, the NXT project places a great deal of focus on developing a more sustainable superyacht product and industry, but it goes beyond that. Oceanco is examining how analogous industries are using spaces, language and experience to match the values of their clients.

“It is not about celebrating our yachting values, it is about celebrating and getting closer to the values of our clients. There is no single approach that works for everyone,” says Baloumis. “Every element of the superyacht journey should be designed to echo the values of a particular client, accepting that no two owners are the same. Through co-creation we want to develop a better understanding of these values and belief systems and, as a result, support the superyacht market’s growth.”

In the years that followed the global financial crisis, one of the most frequently discussed topics has been the superyacht market’s inability to capitalise on the rapidly growing population of UHNWIs. It is refreshing to see a renowned shipyard like Oceanco accepting that perhaps the market doesn’t understand the UHNW population quite as well as it thought it did. Appreciating that there is much to learn from other industries, a willingness to change and actively seeking co-creation feels like a huge step towards tackling the market’s most pervading challenge.

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