Following a year which saw much superyacht activity grind to a halt, SuperyachtNews speak with Simon Judson, Peters & May’s new CEO, about the challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020, as well as looking towards the year ahead in order predict how superyacht migration and activity may change as a result the pandemic and various other trends that were already in motion.

“From March 2020 onwards, the demand for superyacht transportation dropped off a shelf. Our lifeline for the year was the Caribbean season; a lot of individuals with sailing yachts in the 60-80ft were forced to ship. Typically these clients would have sailed their yachts across the Atlantic but most were unable to get to their boats and many others were concerned about the health risks of contracting COVID-19 during the voyage,” starts Simon Judson, CEO of Peters & May. “For that reason, we shipped more boats transatlantic this year than we have done ever before. By contrast, the vast majority of superyachts simply stayed put, there was a huge number of enquiries, but this was counterbalanced with a great deal of indecision.”

Within discourse for 2021, it will incredibly important to view 2020 as an anomalous year. Granted there are a number of lessons to learn from 2020 and indeed several trends have almost been supercharged by the various logistical restraints that have been placed on businesses and private individuals, yet it is important to note that many trends that have been highlighted by 2020 were already well underway.

“One thing that we have noticed is that Australia has become even more of a superyacht hub with a lot of the larger yachts showing interest,” continues Judson. “With the passing of the Special Recreational Vessels Act (SPVA), which allows foreign-flagged vessels to charter in Australia, combined with the extremely low levels of COVID-19 in Australia, the region is looking increasingly attractive both for domestic superyacht owners and international clients.”

Indeed Australia is the in the midst of a superyacht renaissance with practical developments being implemented across the market’s entire scope. In conjunction with the implementation of the SPVA and low COVID count, there are a number of large superyacht infrastructure projects underway, as well as various sporting events in the Asia Pacific region. Indeed, Judson believes that the number of Peters & May sailings to Australia could double in the next two years. That being said, it is still far too early to start comparing the growth in superyacht activity in Australia to the traditional yachting milk run.

“Off the back of the developments in Australia, we will also see remote islands like Fiji, Tahiti and Vanuatu opening up and growing in popularity. Furthermore, with the development and roll-out of COVID vaccines, and the small populations of these islands, when vaccinated they will become COVID safe zones far quicker than some of the world’s more popular yachting destinations,” explains Judson. “In addition, we are also seeing growing interest in The Maldives for very much the same reasons. However, unlike the Polynesian islands, The Maldives is an easy destination to reach because of the amount of cargo traffic going to Asia and the Far East.”

As has been the case for many businesses, 2020 served as a wakeup call for Peters & May with Judson and his team streamlining processes, reassessing the use of resources and completely shaking up the methods by which individuals and teams communicate.

“If you had asked me if Peters & May could survive in a world where everybody was working from home previously, I would have said no. As a logistics business, I would have said that everybody needed to be in the office because you need to be able to hear what people are doing around you and respond accordingly,” comments Judson. “However, communication has been improved dramatically throughout 2020. People feel more engaged with meetings and we are able to bring in individuals and teams from around the world that may have not been included in certain meetings. Our communication as a business has improved exponentially.”

With various new lockdowns measures and protocols in place globally, 2021 has not necessarily proved to be the defining boundary that would see a return to relative normality. Nevertheless, Judson remains positive that 2021 has the potential to be a strong year for the yachting market and indeed the superyacht transportation industry.

“Up until the end of last year, we had high hopes for 2021. Q1 is typically the quietest quarter for Peters & May because vessels are mostly settled in the Caribbean. Demand usually picks up around March when yachts start to come back to Europe, but we expect this to be pushed back by a couple of months. However, there is a huge amount of pent up demand at the moment, seemingly clients simply cannot wait to get on board their yachts. Not only are they eager to enjoy their assets, but increasingly the superyachts themselves are being viewed as safe havens,” explains Judson.

With 2020 now in the rear-view mirror, it is clear that 2021 will bring with it its own set of challenges. However, with the advent of COVID-safe travel and a strong pipeline of demand, there is plenty of reasons for the superyacht transportation industry, and indeed the superyacht market as a whole, to be positive.

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