THE BIGGEST YACHTING NEWS STORIES OF 2018
2018 has been a big year for many reasons, with landmark superyacht projects taking to the seas, a green wave of environmentally conscious action and a strong showing from new ports and marinas across the world.
But it’s not been just traditional topics of launches and grand openings that’ve got folks nattering throughout the past 12 months, with a heap of water-cooler-worthy moments turning heads from January to December. Politics, fires, destruction, chaos, mayhem, fires, storms and more fires made this year a particularly dramatic one.
So, what has the yachting industry been talking about in 2018? Read on to find out…
2018 was certainly a scorcher – in more ways than one. Not only has it been one of the hottest years ever recorded, with climate change fuelling wildfires and droughts across the globe, but the yachting world has also been hit by a spate of devastating infernos.
Near the top of the year 19 yachts were destroyed in a blaze at a Maltese marina, and British charter guests in Thailand were forced to evacuate in November after a lightning bolt set their sailing yacht alight. CCN-built Kanga was damaged in a violent fire, 42-metre (138-foot) Benetti build Lalibela was severely burned near Cannes and an Azimut pocket superyacht was pictured in flames off the Italian coast.
Arguably the biggest of all these events occurred in September, however, when Lürssen’s prestigious Bremen facility was the site of a particularly catastrophic fire involving a 100-metre-plus in-build project. It’s thought that insurers could face a joint bill of nearly €600 million after the major incident.
The Med saw a spate of calamitous weather events this year, with storms in Italy wreaking havoc across the Italian Riviera and damaging “hundreds” of yachts – footage of the event is especially dramatic, showing seawalls crumbling under the pressure of sea swells and yachts being tossed onto shore like flotsam and jetsam.
Unusually large waterspouts – basically big sea tornados – were also spotted in Turkey and Italy.
NAUGHTY BOYS LOSE NAUTI TOYS
Two mammoth yachting sagas have rumbled on for the best part of 2018: The legal cases involving Indian Empress and Equanimity. Played out in the public arena, these situations centred on the allegedly not-quite-above-board behaviour of mega-rich owners.
Both luxury superyachts have spent the year in ownership and auction disputes, with Indian Empress finally sold – at a vastly reduced rate – in order to settle unpaid debts and crew wages and Equanimity set to go under the hammer in the near future.
One of 2018’s stranger tales revealed the final resting place of Saddam Hussein’s last surviving superyacht. Basrah Breeze, one of the Iraqi dictator’s two uber-decadent vessels, has been given a new lease of life – as a hotel and recreational facility for port pilots in the southern harbour city of Basra, Iraq.
Danish yard Helsingør Værft built the 82-metre (270-foot) motor yacht in 1981 while Iraq was at war with Iran. She was previously named Qadissiyat Saddam, and she has a unique array of facilities, including swimming pools, a theatre, a helipad, a clinic with operating theatre, rocket launchers and a secret escape tunnel with getaway submarine.
Basrah Breeze was not the only superyacht owned by Hussein. Although never boarded by the dictator, her sister ship al-Mansur suffered a catastrophic end in 2003 after being bombed 16 times by coalition aircraft in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that courses through Basra. Following the assault, al-Mansur was ransacked and looted; today she lies among countless other wrecks in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
THE PASSING OF A YACHTING ICON
Paul Allen, the multi-billionaire co-founder of Microsoft whose interests spread into sports, music and World War II, passed away in October aged 65 following complications from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Allen’s well-documented, varied passions also notably included yachting and sea exploration. The 126-metre (414-foot) Lürssen-built explorer yacht Octopus, arguably his most famous vessel, included a swimming pool, a pair of helipads, a recording studio, a cinema, a basketball court and accommodation for dozens of guests – as well as a submarine with space for up to 10 more guests. Allen also owned 92-metre (303-foot) superyacht Tatoosh, built by Nobiskrug, and a research vessel named Petrel.
Octopus was made a member of a global programme used to assist maritime authorities in emergencies, and has been loaned for rescue and research expeditions many times. Petrel has been used to seek Second World War wrecks, and has located the likes of the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the USS Lexington, as well as the ships lost during the Battles of Surigao Strait and Ormoc Bay.
WELFARE AND WELLNESS
It’s a topic that’s been on the lips of many in the yachting industry throughout 2018: crew mental health.
The results of new research into the welfare needs of superyacht crew, conducted by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and MHG Insurance Brokers, were announced in December – providing startling answers to many questions. 82% of those surveyed had experienced low crew morale, 57% of women and 39% of men suffered from social isolation or loneliness at some point, and 77% of women, and 55% of men, had experienced problems with on-board leadership.
The report also featured quotes from crew who offered an insight into the exciting opportunities the yachting industry offers, including: “Yachting delivers beautiful adventures to remote parts of the world… at a fraction of a cost that any other occupation can offer.”
In contrast, other responses shone a light on the physical strains of the job: “…you work [very] long hours without a day off in weeks during charters.”
Elsewhere, the report also provides an honest assessment of the care crew receive from their employers: “I know a lot of yachts look after their crew but a lot don’t.”
Yachting Pages also spoke to serving crew about mental health on board superyachts – read our in-depth investigation.
BREXIT REMAINS BEWILDERING
More than two years on from the landmark Brexit vote, the UK remains none the wiser as to the eventual outcome – despite the clock running down at a rapid pace. The political atmosphere throughout the past 12 months has been nothing short of shambolic, and the cavalier attitude of the government towards the British populace has left many with a sense of unease as the future rears its mystifying head.
Back in January, Nautilus International sought assurances from British politicians that UK seafarers' certificates will continue to be recognised within the European Union during and after the Brexit process.
Nautilus is asking whether the UK has plans in place to ensure the continued recognition of UK seafarers' certificates without interruption after Brexit. It wants to know whether Britain agrees with the Commission's interpretation of the directive on the mutual recognition, and what steps have been taken to ensure that the UK is recognised as a 'third country' post-Brexit.
The Union is also urging the government to consider whether the future recognition of UK seafarer certificates could be part of any transition deal, and what contingencies are in place for a "no-deal" scenario.
Although almost a full year has passed, it seems unlikely that the yachting world is much closer to a resolution on these matters.
Carl Allen – a businessman, philanthropist and owner of multiple superyachts –announced over the summer that he is planning to resurrect the marina on Walker’s Cay, a historic Bahamian island he recently purchased.
Walker’s Cay, a once-popular sportfishing location which attracted high-profile guests such as US President Richard Nixon, actress Jane Fonda and The Who’s Roger Daltrey, was abandoned in 2004 after catastrophic hurricane damage.
"I've been going out there since I was a little kid," Allen, who is the CEO of Allen Exploration, said. "Walker's was destroyed by two hurricanes back-to-back and was closed to the public in 2005. Since then I've dreamed of working together with Bahamians to build Walker's back to its former glory. I decided it would be a good base for my fleet."
Allen’s fleet includes 50-metre (164-foot) Westport superyacht Gigi, 55-metre (180-foot) Damen support vessel Axis, and a Viking 52 Open Express Frigate. The revitalised island and marina will be a base for his yacht fleet, which will be kept at Walker’s Cay when not in use.
Although its primary use will be for Allen’s private fleet, the marina will also be open to the public. It will be able to accommodate six superyachts up to 55 metres in length, as well as a number of sportfishing yachts up to 27 metres.
TRUMP'S TROUBLING TRADE TARIFFS
Over the summer an open letter from US shipbuilders described the European sector as “basically unmarketable” for American yards following a 25% duty hike in certain American imports by the EU – and President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies had been to blame.
The rise in duty on “sea-going boats and yachts, with or without auxiliary motor, for pleasure or sports” imported from the US was a direct response to the Republican administration’s bullish approach to trade with key allies – chiefly the recently imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium entering the US.
Nicole Vasilaros, senior VP of government relations and legal affairs at the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), told Boat International that the “significant” increase in duty led to Europe being a (suddenly) challenging arena.
In response to the tariff changes by President Trump, the NMMA joined forces with the International Council of Marine Industry Association and the European Boating Industry to write an open letter calling on the commander-in-chief to end provocative and escalatory trade measures.
The letter, addressed personally to Trump, claimed that the dispute had “effectively frozen the export market” and resulted in “marine dealers in the EU and Canada [cancelling] orders of US-built boats”.
LIVING THE HIGH LIFE
Most owners use their superyachts for a little R&R, or to host extravagant soirees, or embark on one-of-a-kind getaways with the family, but not everyone has such wholesome ideas for their vessels.
Over the summer, a 30.36-metre (100-foot) expedition motor yacht was found off the Ibizan coast with 300kg of cocaine. Halter Marine-built Yacht HCH-X was found to be carrying the cocaine, believed to be the biggest ever discovery on the Balearic Islands, with a street value of up to €18 million. The haul was found divided into two parts of 150kg each, hidden inside the yacht’s interior and captain’s cabin. Five crewmembers have been arrested.
And they’re not the only yachties to have found themselves in hot water.
Trinidadian and Tobagonian authorities have confirmed that they would shut down a four-day ‘Sex Island’ event, scheduled to take place off the coast of the Caribbean nation in December.
The organisers say that this year’s all-inclusive event will be taking place on a “drug-friendly” private island in the Caribbean, with enough space for dozens of guests. There will reportedly be various erotic activities (including a welcome orgy), live shows, unspecified “surprises” and more traditional holiday entertainment, all aboard glamorous yachts. Tickets cost more than $4,500 per person.