Yacht sellers seeking a profitable berth at Yas

Major yacht retailers are keen to have outlets at Yas Marina after a high-profile launch at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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Major yacht retailers are keen to have outlets at Yas Marina after a high-profile launch at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The marina, which is part of the US$40 billion (Dh146.92bn) Yas Island development by Aldar Properties, attracted yachts from as far afield as Australia for the Formula One event. "We are looking to open an office in Yas Island," said Francesco Pitea, the general manager of Sunseeker Middle East, the regional representative for the UK luxury yacht maker.

Mr Pitea pointed out that Sunseeker did not yet have a presence in Abu Dhabi and would now focus its efforts on the emirate. "Still, we have to understand the future plans of Yas Island," he said, adding that the F1 race was held only once a year. The regional Sunseeker unit, which is based in Dubai, has experienced greater demand from Abu Dhabi than Dubai, receiving between two and three inquiries a day from the capital, Mr Pitea said.

Yacht sales in Dubai had fallen by 75 per cent as of September from what they had been 18 months before, said Michael Derrett, who runs a consultancy specialising in market research and business planning for the marine leisure industry. But Jyrki Jaamaa, the general manager of the retailer Western Marine, which is part of ETA Ascon Star, said major yacht retailers were looking into opportunities at the marina. "We expect another camp for retail players in Yas Marina," Mr Jaamaa said. "Yas Marina will be the world-class location for dealers." Sunseeker and Western Marine both have sales offices in Dubai Marina.

Sales had been "severely hit" by the global economic downturn, Mr Jaamaa said, and he expected next year to remain "challenging". Once the availability of financing and general economic conditions improved, he said, he expected Western Marine to return to its core market of 55-foot to 85-foot yachts, which cost between ?1 million (Dh5.5m) and ?5m. The longer-term local outlook was positive given that the UAE yachting sector was still relatively new, with large stretches of coastline that could be developed, he said. Aldar Marinas plans to build 3,500 yacht berths in 14 marinas in Abu Dhabi.

"If you look at the scope of the next five years, it still looks very promising compared to other parts of the world," Mr Jaamaa said. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae