Dubai: The UAE luxury-yacht maker Gulf Craft is checking out having of a boatyard in Europe, most likely somewhere on the Mediterranean shores, as it starts winning more contracts from clients there.
“We definitely need a ‘Mediterranean window’ based on what we have been doing in Europe these 2-3 years,” said Mohammed Hussein AlShaali, Chairman of Gulf Craft, which has its primary boat-making facility in Umm Al Quwain and a smaller one in the Maldives. “A Mediterranean yard is still under consideration – we will wait for the right one to buy or invest in.
“We have been using a European presence not just to sell more boats to clients there, but use it as a base to market what we make to buyers all over the world.”
Europe’s marinas remain the hotspot not just for those craving a lot of water, sun and all the settings for a life of ease, but serious buyers looking around for their next vessel. Gulf Craft has been going big on super-luxury and performance through the recent past, and it’s a move that has been paying dividends. Substantial ones at that.
AlShaali reckons that Gulf Craft can sail through the uncertain times the global economy is having with inflation – and a possible recession waiting down the horizon. “The order book for 2023 remains strong, we have doubled it in fact,” the Chairman added.
Riding on ‘charter’ demand
One such demand has sprung up from charter operators at a time when Gulf Craft was making determined bids to get more from European customers. “You could say the charter business discovered us rather than the other way round. We happened to be building a presence at the right time,” more or less immediately after the Covid showed signs of stabilising.
“We cannot say exactly how much of our revenues are derived from charter operators, because a lot of vessel owners could also be placing our boats for these services.”
Gulf Craft emerged from the initial Covid phase quite strongly – those who could afford to head off for the open seas in brand new yachts did just that. It was the same theme that played in 2022 and extending into this year with the ‘doubling of the order book’. And when they were not buying, clients were chartering them for longer stretches. That was a Covid legacy.
“If Covid created any change, it was to be in constant review mode, whether it’s the design of the boats, our cost controls, engineering, etc.,” said AlShaali. “
Plus, top up on the luxury options wherever it makes sense to do so on the boat - because there will always be a buyer for that sort of upscaling.