What makes a ‘Yachting Hub’

ACREW talks to JJ Lavigne, (Asia Superyacht development CEO) about the emergence of Singapore as a Yachting Hub of the future.

“When I first got involved in the superyacht industry, I was told of the influence that crew can exercise over an Owner and a Captain in destination selection. How cheap the beer is, in that regard, “a key factor in the decision making process”. Not being a beer connoisseur, I failed to appreciate the wisdom of that axiom and started working wholeheartedly with my peers on transforming Singapore into a superyacht hub and destination on its own right.

Problem is that beer in Singapore is probably the most expensive in the world. We were doomed. Since Singapore could not fairly compete with, let’s say, Phuket (cheap everything), we had to devise an alternative strategy to “cheap beer”.

Honestly, I was a bit surprised that cheaper beer would be strong enough an appeal to force a glossy superyacht from the Med or the US all the way to Southeast Asia. But then again, I don’t drink beer… So, we had to focus on less rational factors like the quest for new cruising grounds and the fact that, quite objectively, Singapore sits pretty right there in the centre of it. It is the passage oblige from North to South, East to West in the region. A stopover can be avoided, but for works & supplies there is simply no better place for thousands of miles around. So let’s talk about work, the prerequisite for the full appreciation of a fresh beer.

If you are a Stewardess, Singapore is the place to get your fresh flowers, get new bouquets arranged, get crew quarters curtains altered, new spa towels done and ordinated with nice embroideries. Hair styling training with the best and trendiest educators to meet the requirements of an Indian guest for example can also be arranged. Long is the list. If you are the Chef, heaven awaits. Here comes an explosion of cuisines, spices, forms and shapes, price and quality ranges. My team particularly delights in showing the Chef the best places for the freshest leaves and fruits, the most exotic stalls and flavours and the best meat purveyors in town. We initiate and then leave the Chef and Sous-chef on their own, like hounds tracking their fox. If you are the Chief Engineer, pretty much anything can be done or found (besides “barnacle buster”!-don’t ask!). Organizing a dry-docking is possible albeit still at a price as only commercial yards can accommodate yachts above 25 meters. That said, yards like JSML and Penguin have a good deal of experience with superyachts and get most urgent things done. Of course, a better long term solution is in the making and the superyacht community will only benefit from it. Bunkering is a breeze (and competitive) and supplies of all sorts can be arranged with your agent or shore support partner (like me!).

Captains and First Officers will be happy to know that finding a berth up to 100 meters is do-able and that more are currently being planned. For up to 70 meters, there are some good options near the Central Business District (CBD) too. The cruising in Singapore waters offers some limitations and sea-trials of any sort needs to be seriously organized. They will also be happy knowing that nightlife present no obvious danger to their beloved crew. It is safe, taxis are affordable, public smoking non-tolerated: Life on shore, is as good as it gets. Urban and civilized.

That said, the most miserable of the lot could be the deckhands. Rain showers drench the glossy gelcoat with their daily dose of black rain courtesy of Singapore being broadly a mix between a giant oil & gas plant, a huge ships-park burning without ceasing the same oil and a giant receptacle for Indonesia’s haze. They will be consoled knowing that it has not rained for over two months and humidity level it at an all-time low. Cleaning has never been that easy. If you missed that window, of opportunity, what can I say?

Does that mean that Singapore is indeed a Superyacht Hub? No, it is not. In spite of all the chest drumming, a successful and growing Yacht Show (April 10th – 13th), an international yachting conference, being the host to the Clipper Round the World Race, the Volvo Ocean Race, the Extreme 40s, it is not a hub. Yacht and superyacht population, infrastructure did grow tremendously but compared with Europe or the US, Singapore’s yacht universe is a tiny one. Any 10 NM of Florida or California coast beats us hands down. Same goes for Spain or Italy for that matter. Not to mention the French Riviera.

In short, we just fell off the nest. So, dear visiting yacht crew, kindly bear (and beer) we us. We have a long way to go… together.”

Jean-Jacques Lavigne is the CEO of Asia Superyacht development, a Singapore-based company focused on yachting services in the region. Jean Jacques (JJ) while having an investment and leisure infrastructure background was the first executive director of the Superyacht Singapore Association, Co-founder of the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association and managed several projects in the yachting industry in the region.