An excellent industry, the editorial by Franco Michienzi

Italy is the world’s largest producer of mega yachts, but hasn’t managed to make that a strong competitive factor. Concrete action has to be taken to overcome the competition from Northern Europe

 AT THE END OF A DAY AT THE MONACO YACHT Show I happened to be walking through the tunnel leading to the Yacht Club. As if I were in a Truman Capote film, somewhere between Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, I asked myself what you have to do to be happy. We all think we know the most obvious answer: you just need to have plenty of money, to look good, be eternally young and perhaps also have a prestigious job to be the happiest man or woman in the world.

Looking at the endless queue of Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, I saw that the occupants were getting rather annoyed at having to wait in a banal queue. According to a piece of authoritative research published by the British weekly “New Scientist”, the reasons for being happy are quite different: for example, inheriting a pleasant personality from your parents, having real friends to call on, believing in God, getting married, envying neither the wife nor the possessions of others. Money, beauty and youth don’t have much to do with it: one can be perfectly happy with little money, a hooked nose, an average job and having celebrated a large number of birthdays.

In fact, you are much happier when you don’t madly try to be happy. That is something that perhaps might help to understand the surprising league table of the world’s happiest countries drawn up by the English magazine: Mexico and Venezuela are amongst the top countries. The United States are 15th, Italy is only 26th. Amongst the top ten there are only three developed western countries, down in eighth, ninth and tenth places. The Monaco Yacht Show of course provided many other reasons to reflect. There are clear signs of a degree of market saturation, the bay was not quite as packed with mega yachts as it has been in the past. And despite the research work done by Deloitte for Nautica Italiana on the penetration of pleasure yachting in different geographical areas and the distribution of wealth in the world, reality tells us that – even though the potential for development is very high – pleasure yachting is still a world apart.

The extent of yacht ownership is only estimated at 2.5% amongst the richest people in the world, a sector that includes 15.4 million people whose wealth grew at an annually compounded rate of 7.5% between 2009 and 2015. The two areas of the world in which yachting is practised are Europe and the United States, all the other areas are marginal. It will still take many years before nautical culture in Asia becomes a significant factor for our industry. Nowadays it is very difficult to identify potential new clients, the supply of mega yachts far exceeds demand, and competition is getting tougher and tougher. On one hand we have the system of the northern European shipyards, and on the other all the others.

Even if Italy confirms its leadership in value terms in the new build sector, there is no reason why our nautical industry shouldn’t show its strength clearly. In Monaco, as ouryachts were showcased, it was not at all clear that Italy is second in the world after the US, and is Europe’s largest producer in total boat production, with 1.7 billion euros of production value, or 10% of the world total, ahead of the UK with 6.9%, the Netherlands with 6.5%, Germany 6.4% and France with 5.7%.

Can you even imagine the MYS without Italian yachts? Can you envisage the Cannes Yachting Festival without Italian brands? We have a strength in yachting that no other country can boast, but we are incapable of showing it. The world is changing at the speed of light, and there are things that are happening in front of our very eyes without us reacting at all. Lürssen has bought Blohm & Voss to exploit its production facilities and patents in the military area, which can be transferred if needed to pleasure yachting. The Dutch producers are becoming increasingly protectionist, and are excluding Italian components wherever they can.

I believe it is time to take coordinated, decisive action to reply to the tough offensive launched by the northern European yards. We make an excellent product, whose worth is being doubted by some of our shipbuilders of dubious values, both industrial and ethical. I would suggest creating a quality brand linked to certification given with transparent rules and objective criteria that can be verified by a third party. And let’s stop all this stuff with the order book, that just bamboozles the media. Let’s stick to the number of launches made a year. More ethics and transparency help those who practise it and also the Italian system, which is second to none.

 Francesco Michienzi

(An excellent industry – – Ottobre 2016)