Maryanne Edwards, GMBA, talks to Duthie Lidgard a long-time player in the New Zealand superyacht industry. Duthie is Managing Director of Catalano Shipping Services NZ, one of New Zealand’s leading Superyacht agents based in Auckland. Duthie comes from a very passionate yachting family and a 5th generation of boat builders and has been involved in the marine industry all his life. He went all the way from sailing dinghies as a kid to a Master 3000GT by his late 20s. The Yachting and Superyacht industry is a huge part of his life and needless to say he has been supplying his services to many of the vessels in New Zealand for the Americas Cup. Maryanne talks to Duthie regarding the current state of the NZ marine industry and the superyacht sector and the future for the industry having now won the 2021 Americas cup. The home of the Americas Cup remains for the time being at the RNZYS. The AC36 under a covid world was heavily impacted but New Zealand as always made the best of a bad situation. Now with planning well underway for the AC37 Duthie and his Catalano Team have already received 3 enquiries from yachts who could not make it this time to ensure their berth was held immediately for AC37, should the cup remain in NZ which clearly all of us downunder hope will happen. This fantastic win by Team NZ is expected to give the full South Pacific region a massive boost with returning Superyachts drawn back into our neighbourhood. Maryanne asked Duthie the following questions.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE KEY INDUSTRY SEGMENTS IN NZ AT THE MOMENT, THOSE DOING WELL THOSE MAYBE STRUGGLING?
“This is an interesting question and can be approached on many angles but across the board the marine segment is active in New Zealand. We have seen a huge influx on localised spend due to less international travel. Local yachties are investing in upgrades – new boats, new outboards, new Jetskis, new Sails and things like this the list goes on. For the Superyachts it really relies heavily on tourism around owners and their guests being able to join the vessels. Regardless of refit plans, the tourism side of the equation for the majority of owners programs is always a key factor when looking at coming down to the South Pacific.
Given the tourism attraction is such a key focus, as a superyacht agent we focus on having a strong Tourism team in the background, even though borders have been closed we have been moving forward especially with the flare we provide with our Maori Culture.”
WHAT ARE THE CRUCIAL ISSUES MOST BUSINESSES IN NZ ARE ADDRESSING TO ENSURE SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS?
“Diversifying and adapting to the environment, this is the crucial area for survival. We have gone from face-to-face dealings to promptly overnight moving to online servicing and remote
working. No networking, boat shows or large industry gatherings. All these changes instantly make it a challenge to ensure you remain up to date with what is readily available. Ensuring survival and success in regards to the way we are operating means changing our day to day operations to meet the current climate of the Pandemic regulations and perceptions. It is important to limit interactions to ensure you, your colleagues, your clients and family feel comfortable that your operation is taking every health precaution whilst still servicing their every need and request. This in turn creates trust. Having clients that trust you at any turn, I see is a huge success. We have had one of our busiest winters at the Agency leading up to the Prada Cup start in 2020, and I feel clients during the pandemic have turned to the businesses they have a relationship with – businesses that have trusted processes and deliver on the promise.”
HAS THERE BEEN A NOTABLE CHANGE SINCE COVID IN SUPPLY CHAINS FOR NZ MARINE INDUSTRY BUSINESSES WITH A MOVE TO SOURCE MORE LOCALLY?
“I personally haven’t seen any major changes, New Zealand suppliers had good stocks as we were in the peak of Summer when the pandemic hit, in winter 2020 we fully closed and when restrictions lifted there was sufficient stocks on hand to keep forging forward. We know many distributors do need to now look at ordering 9 months in advance as Europe manufacturing is affected which does trickle down to NZ, but effects everyone globally.
We still ship a few items in from Europe, USA or Asia for the Superyachts but this is merely due to being able to secure the larger products directly from the manufacturer overseas when there is no support in New Zealand.
All the freight companies we have dealt with have been on point and very few delays since the pandemic started across New Zealand. A good freight company can really solve a lot of issues, we have always been told what flights are running and what airports are backlogged before all has been booked. We continue to work with contractors and suppliers to come up with a fast and efficient ideal local solution where possible…. Good old number 8 wire kiwi mentality.”
THERE WERE REDUCTIONS IN SUPERYACHTS COMING INTO NZ COMPARED TO WHAT WAS EXPECTED FOR THE AMERICAS CUP. HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED INDUSTRY PLAYERS AND WHAT ROLE HAS THE AMERICAS CUP CURRENTLY FULFILLED FOR NZ BUSINESSES?
“Charter Brokers have been busy, we have seen many requests for wealthy New Zealander’s unable to travel abroad looking at chartering yachts, but also with the Americas Cup, this placed a great spotlight on Auckland and our Hauraki Gulf for anyone in New Zealand looking to charter a yacht.
Agents in general have been coping well, from our perspective the season overall has been a standard summer season as any other with visiting yachts. What has changed is how they plan and spend their budgets as the owners can’t easily fly into NZ, the crew can’t rotate and many of the crew end up being part time fill ins. With this change, given international owners can’t use their boats, the spend to prepare the yacht for the owner is reduced.
The Americas Cup has been a saviour as I see it for New Zealand, many may disagree. We are the endorsed Yacht Agent for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron – Home of the Americas Cup which saw the Yacht Club reach their 150-year milestone and after years of planning, almost every yacht who entered New Zealand 2020/2021 to date was solely for the Americas Cup. However almost all the yachts had been hopeful the border controls would change, and the owners would be allowed to enter and cruise their yachts across our pristine coastline, sadly this was not always the case.
We have estimated there are 12 Superyachts over 30m available for charter in New Zealand currently. For New Zealand this is massive compared to other years of seeing 4 or maybe 5 yachts. This increase is seen as being due to the forward planning around the Americas Cup.”
ARE CONSUMERS STARTING TO BUY LARGER VESSELS, OR WITH COVID ARE CONSUMERS LOOKING TO SPEND MORE RECREATIONAL TIME WITH THEIR FAMILY ON A MANAGEABLE SCALE AND LOOKING AT SMALLER, EASIER TO MANAGE VESSELS?
“I do see throughout the industry that consumers are indeed upgrading across the board.
Larger and newer models for sure. Since New Zealand has reached maximum capacity in our marinas, the upgrades are limited to what can fit into the current berthing available.
Recreational time on the water has been busy this summer, I have never seen so many recreational fishing boats out in the Hauraki Gulf for some time, it is great to see people getting out and enjoying time with family or colleagues.”
WHAT IS THE HORIZON LOOKING LIKE IF BORDERS REMAIN CLOSED? WHERE WILL BUSINESS COME FROM?
“This is an interesting question. Where will business come from? We ask ourselves this every day.
Hard to secure international business with borders closed. We have adjusted our business model to also service the local market, and this is all about service, service, service. It is exciting to hear this week that the borders may soon be opening between Australia and NZ, currently it is only open one way with people coming from Australia still having to quarantine. Hopefully, other South Pacific countries will follow suit.”
IS THE NZ GOVERNMENT SYMPATHETIC TO THE PLIGHT OF THE SUPERYACHT INDUSTRY AND FACILITATING THE ENTRY OF INTERNATIONAL VESSELS?
“I truly believe in New Zealand we have the world’s best Customs and Immigration teams doing whatever they can to make the border controls work for Superyachts.
They see every day how this industry provides a huge economic impact across a wider group of segments, not just in the marine sector.
We continue to push government and we continue to thank our Customs and Immigration officers who really are trying to open the doorway for change. Captains will often tell us what a warm welcome they have received on entering New Zealand.
The government itself understands the superyacht industry, but they are wary about the public perception that billionaires are buying their way into NZ. This is a number 1 issue, with the industry trying to ensure the public are well informed of the economic value and jobs this industry creates for New Zealanders. Everyone has their own views, and we accept that, but when you look at the fact New Zealand borders are closed but the government is allowing the *WIGGLES* to enter New Zealand for a 3-week tour for parents to pay for their little kids to go watch, compared to the economic value of a $5million superyacht refit which will keep 1,000 New Zealander’s employed for 2 months…. the system seems flawed. The system should allow both as all in their own way benefit NZ, is it government”?
I do feel it is solely with government, our legislation like most countries isn’t easily changed but in a country like New Zealand where the marine industry is a significant revenue earner and job creator we must start to review decisions made that affect our economy and opportunities for jobs. However, no matter how much I can disagree with the systems in place, we work within our current systems and create new processes to facilitate a friendlier environment for our clients.”
An example of this issue re regulations that has been widely reported is regarding MY BOLD which had recently received Ministry of Health approval and Border approval to enter New Zealand for much needed refit works. Sadly, on final application for crew visa’s it was highlighted that 7 of the crew could not be ruled essential for the vessel movements and were declined visa’s to arrive into NZ. Unfortunately, due to New Zealand’s legislation on what makes a Marine Crew and what makes an Essential worker – Superyacht Crew do not fall under our legislation to easily be approved. For a yacht willing to spend $750,000 over the space of 3 weeks in New Zealand and to have to cancel everything because of 7 crew being denied entry is heart breaking for the industry that so desperately needs yachts to enter for Winter.”
HOW IMPORTANT ARE TRADE ASSOCIATIONS IN REPRESENTING AND SUPPORTING THE INDUSTRY IN THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT?
“I have always looked at Associations as “Old Boys Network” and under current restrictions now more than ever we need to be united and strong as an Industry. A strong leading association for the marine industry is key, ensuring every supplier, contractor, seller has a voice. It is important for that voice to be heard near and far to ensure the populous understand what we are faced with, especially now we are at the end of the Americas Cup. Whilst this event has been significant it could be seen by some as too little too late. We needed to maximise our industry exposure whilst the world looked at New Zealand. Borders closed is not an excuse to lower the voice or actions and is the perfect time to inject new minds, new thoughts, and new processes to show the world what is on offer and what can be done. Associations need to ensure they capture the whole industry. Unfortunately for many associations they are unable to be targeted across one segment within an industry without upsetting another part of the industry. We as a business are solely focused on Superyachts and everything to do with Superyachts so we forge on ensuring our clients get the attention required in pursuit of 100% satisfaction. I suppose in any trade association you want them to create a positive environment for your industry and we all need to see clearly the benefits provided.”
WHEN INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOWS RESUME, WILL THEY BE AS IMPORTANT AS BEFORE?
“I have never been one to see a Boat Show as a key critical tool for our business, yes they are important to show face but having been locked into a country for 12 months and not seeing new clientele for some time, I now feel the boat show will be a significant step in reconnecting with the world. But with the reconnect we will be implementing new future proof tools to ensure we never lose connection again… watch this space.”
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