Lost Weekend…in a hotel in Amsterdam.

Well not quite, but getting the lyrics from a Lloyd Cole and the Commotions song into a blog is too good an opportunity to miss out on!

In truth however, I was in a hotel in Amsterdam last week, but with a two minute walk to the conference I was attending it would be stretching the point to say I was “lost” at any stage….

So why Amsterdam? Well, it was a gathering of professionals from the yachting community attending the 2015 Global Superyacht Forum hosted by The Superyacht Group. This was the first time I have attended the event, which I found to be excellent with one of the best breadths of industry representatives I have seen in the recent past, from architects to builders through to tax advisors and yacht managers. The message being we got the chance to receive 360 degree feedback in one room at the same time…invaluable for keeping abreast of where we are in the yachting sector.

Prior to arriving at the show, and on my early (and very bumpy) flight from Liverpool, I was thinking about the likely topics of conversation, especially having been at the Monaco Yacht Show recently and the Superyacht Fiscal Management Meeting event earlier in the spring. My intention was to see where we had taken the desire to “mature” as an industry and to see whether we had made any traction on creating a level playing field in terms of VAT, with the desire to see that we had.

To add context to the above, if I hark back to the days when I first started looking after clients in the yachting world, I found some of the diversity in approaches to yacht related matters very frustrating. In essence it had the best safety and technical management of an asset class I had seen in any industry, however if you asked anyone to ensure cash flow projections for a vessel were correct, or that the direct tax position of the owner was being handled correctly, people either “disappeared” or shouted a lot (sometimes a combination of the two!). In short the industry was inconsistent and “immature” in its approach to vessel related matters, so I approached the show with the view that the “mature” point was still in need of a watching brief…

Taking the above into consideration, the three days at the conference were a line in the sand for me, and whether it was the Lloyd Cole “lost weekend”, or the bumpy flights to and from Liverpool (the return journey was worse than the outbound!) I have come back with a different sense about the yacht world…

In short, the consistent message around the need to “mature” as an industry should, in my opinion, be put in a darkened room and left alone (dare I say like a fine wine), as I think we are doing ok.  I listened intently to sessions at the show, which proved to me that the market is maturing and people are seeing that things need to change and adapt. We had sessions around changing the architecture of the boats to make them more “sexy”, we had sessions around improving the structure of the VAT system, we had conversations about the behaviours of crew…all were encompassing, all were diverse in opinion and all were done with good intention of improving the industry.

So let’s continue the dialogue, learn from our mistakes and continue to operate in a safe environment; but let the industry mature at its own pace and enjoy the journey…we are making more progress than we might give ourselves credit for!!

Written by:

Paul Swindale
Senior Manager, Abacus Trust Company Limited