“Despite stressful global travel restrictions during the VirusCasedemic era, Carmen Lau of superyacht brokerage Camper & Nicholsons has been flying around Europe, the Middle East and Asia to attend sea trials and meetings, visit shipyards and represent clients“–Paul Ebeling
A little over 2 yrs ago, going from a meeting in Hong Kong to a shipyard in Italy with a stop-off at Camper & Nicholsons’ London office could be organized on your phone in the taxi on the way to the airport. Back then, business travelers used to think one person in front of them at check-in was an inconvenience.
Travel, as with most areas of our daily lives, has been rather complicated since Spring of Y 2020. It is also hugely stressful, especially when people are counting on you.
In Italy last yr, I was booked to attend a sea trial on a fully-crewed superyacht, which typically would have involved a short internal flight between 2 cities.
However, as it was at the height of the pandemic, and despite my almost 20 yrs of industry experience, nothing could have prepared me for the day I learned my Covid certificate was not accepted for my flight. I had one day to make it to that shipyard and was currently over 220km away.
Panicking, I had to run to a nearby Covid test center to try to get a valid certificate in time to board the following morning. However, when I arrived at the door of the test center, they denied me entry because I had the wrong type of face mask. Furthermore, the hospital did not sell the one I needed.
It was not the denial of entry that broke me emotionally or the thought of having to restructure my travel arrangements yet again. It was when an Italian security guard saw my distress, walked over and pulled out a brand-new FPP2 mask from his pocket. “Here’s my spare one,” he said, handing it to me.
For the last 2 yrs, it has been imperative that I continue meeting all my clients’ requests and ensuring they feel secure in their dealings with me. As such, I have spent a lot of time travelling to multiple countries and meeting potential clients, shipyards, surveyors and suppliers.
Considering how difficult it has been to travel and how most people in Asia have flown so rarely, this has put me in a privileged position in the yachting industry, knowing 1st-hand what is happening in leading shipyards and hearing the needs of yacht owners around the world.
Despite the numerous challenges, the market has remained extremely active. According to a study by C&N, there are just over 1,000 superyachts over 80ft in build in Y 2022, representing a 30% increase on the average of the previous 5 yrs.
This demand has been evident in my conversations with people across the industry. The VirusCasedemic put life into perspective for many, and people are ready to get out on the water and happy to invest in superyachts.
I felt this sentiment at the Monaco Yacht Show last September. With the previous yr’s edition cancelled, it was nice to go back and see familiar faces. Unfortunately, due to stringent quarantine requirements, few brokers from Asia were able to make it and I was one of the lucky few who did.
My main mission was to view the yachts in-show on behalf of our clients, arrange live viewings, share the latest yacht launches and design attractive offers with them.
Once the show wrapped up, I travelled to Naples, Italy on behalf of a client to inspect Eclipse, a 43m Feadship. The captain and crew were extremely professional and efficient, which made things easy for me.
After meeting with the client via Zoom, I completed a sea trial and spent the rest of the day going through details with the crew. I was able to complete a thorough assessment of the condition and maintenance of the yacht within the day, and send the report back to the client over the weekend.
While waiting for their response, I travelled to Viareggio. Between meetings, I was even able to visit the UK for my son’s birthday before heading back to Italy, in Imperia by the border with France, to close the sale of Eclipse with my colleague Alex Lees-Buckley.
My travels were not over. On behalf of another client, I travelled to Dubai to visit Gulf Craft. I found it to be a highly organized shipyard with a complete in-house production team for everything from design and construction to technical implementation and interior design. It was staggering to see such fine-tuned infrastructure in the middle of the desert.
At Mina Rashid Marina, where Gulf Craft has an office, I viewed Nomad’s flagship 95 SUV while the client joined us via Zoom. I was also lucky enough to view an impressive Majesty 140 before it travelled to the US.
During my visit, the UAE celebrated its 50th National Day, so the shipyard organized activities and experiences for their guests, including serving authentic and delicious Emirati treats.
Next, the UK was on Hong Kong’s red list, and I 1st needed to fly to Italy for a mandated ‘wash out’ period of 2 wks before I could then to fly to Hong Kong, via the UAE and Thailand. Direct, it was not.
Rest assured, I didn’t rest. On the contrary, I toured a total of 9 shipyards in Italy. Between the coastal stretch from Viareggio to La Spezia, I visited Benetti, Sanlorenzo, Codecasa, Mangusta, Perini Navi and Tecnomar.
I then flew to Ancona on the east coast to see Cantiere delle Marche (CdM), CRN of Ferretti Group and Palumbo Shipyard. I viewed many of their products and inspected 5 new build projects I was involved in.
I also had many conversations that have provided invaluable insights into the state of the market. These insights have informed the advice I have given to prospective and longstanding clients alike.
After my 2-wk stay was completed, I finally headed back to Hong Kong, albeit with 2 stops along the way and with another 2 wks of hotel quarantine at the end of the journey.
However, it was great to be back and I was happy to complete the sale of another of my listings, an Azimut Grande 35 Metri. I also organized the premiere of the brand-new CLX96 in Hong Kong in May, as C&N is the central agent for CL Yachts’ latest and largest model.
Most importantly of all, I was able to see my proud client as he received Eclipse. Because, when it comes down to it, that is what makes the travels, trials and tribulations worth it: to see happy clients on board their new yacht, ready for whatever adventures lie ahead of them.
Enjoy your travels, the chaos is over, Keep the Faith!