Big yachts to bring big bucks to Miami, industry insiders say
By Charlotte Libov
Whether they call the vessels mega yachts or super yachts, those who follow the development of the industry of the super rich agree that Miami is poised to become the next destination for those who sail - and those who follow - these private vessels, the size of small cruise ships and staffed by up to 50-person crews.
"The term was 'mega yacht,' but the ships are getting bigger and bigger, so they are now called 'super yachts,'" said Mehmet Bayraktar, chairman and CEO of Flagstone Property Group, which is building Flagstone Island Gardens, a $480 million marina and hotel project on city land on Watson Island that is to have slips for 50 of the private ships to berth.
He expects the development to become a gathering point for super yacht owners, who tend to travel to the same places, partly because there aren't many facilities in the world that can host vessels that size.
"These people prefer to sail together," he said. "Each May in Monaco, there's a Formula One race, so it's time to go there. Then, it's St. Bart's at New Year's. There will be at least one or two opportunities because of the long season in Miami when they can gather."
Furthermore, where the super yachts tend to gather, so do the super yacht followers, and all of this business translates into profits for the community, said Thomas Murray, a marine business specialist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who said that in 2002, the last year tracked, super yacht owners contributed about $576 million to the economies of Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties. That, he said, included $34.6 million generated in business taxes.
"These are big numbers, he said. "It's a great industry, and fortunately, South Florida seems to have a leg up on competitive regions."
The super yacht industry is not only big, it's growing. In March, the second annual International Super Yacht symposium will convene at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The two-day symposium March 15-16 is being held in conjunction with the 22nd annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention, which is expected to draw nearly 10,000 attendees and more than 900 exhibiting companies from more than 100 countries March 13-16.
But although the cruise convention is larger, the super yacht symposium is expected to generate a great deal of attention, said Michael Kazakoff, vice president of CMP Princeton Inc., the conference coordinator.
Conference sessions cover pertinent industry issues, including shipbuilding and design, product development and distribution, shipboard management, technology and the future of the cruise industry.
"The statistics on super yachts have skyrocketed and the size of the vessels has grown dramatically," he said. "Now there are yachts that are the norm that are the size of small cruise ships, and Miami is poised to capture much of this market. Thanks to the development of Watson Island and the dredging of Miami River, Miami is really good position to capitalize on this growth."
Christopher Hayman, managing director of Seatrade Communications in Colchester, England, is involved in programming the conference, which he said isn't intended for cruise ship passengers but for those involved in the cruise ship - and, consequently, in the super yacht - business.
"The Seatrade Miami show has been, in the past, the biggest annual event for the cruise industry," he said. "But, as we see the number and size of the large yachts increasing, there is synergy" between the two industries.
"The suppliers of the cruise industry are the suppliers for the super yacht industry - the design, propulsion industry, navigation equipment, communications, furnishings and so forth," he said. "You're starting to see some overlaps between the cruise ships and the super big yachts."
The symposium, he noted, will address the linkages that are developing geographically as well.
"Just as there is a very good relationship building up between the South Florida ports, including Port Everglades, Miami, Tampa, etc., with the Caribbean destinations, these linkages are developing on the super yacht side as well," he said.
He agreed that Miami is poised to become the next destination where super yacht owners - and super yacht watchers - congregate.
"One of the undoubted attractions is the presence of the super yachts themselves. They are a very big tourist attraction in their own right. They are very satisfying to look at, very glamorous, and they provide an attraction and draw for people in their own right. St. Tropez, Cannes and Nice, those are the places where, when the super yachts are in, people come to see them."
"It is important business for South Florida," he said. "It is very valuable business, and it is business that is going to expand."
Details: www.cruiseshipping.net or (609) 452-2800.