BY Tommy Ho on 27 Jan 2022

Market forces in the pandemic era mean more boats being enjoyed, but more risks in the water and shortages of experienced on-board staff, says the CEO of Voyager Risk Solutions

What does Covid-19 mean for the yachting industry in Asia?

Despite the drastic impact of Covid on the world in the past two years, the pandemic has indirectly boosted the yachting industry in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong. As people spend less time travelling and more time in their hometowns, private yachts have become one of the better possibilities for owners to spend time with their friends and loved ones in privacy and safety.

From my company’s involvement in yacht financing and insurance, we can see that there was a significant increase in the sales volume of yachts – for both new orders and in the second-hand market – since 2020. This is good news as the increase in ownership of yachts directly increases the jobs across the yachting industry. The demands for yacht captains, crew, stewards, yacht management services and other related expertise are reaching record highs. In fact, the yachting industry became a lifeboat to the service sector in the aviation industry, which took a huge hit under the pandemic.

But there is something that we should be very aware of while we enjoy the blooming yacht industry. With an increase in the demand for larger yachts during the pandemic comes a shortage of experienced captains and crew members. When people buy new yachts or are upgrading their boats, they require professional and experienced captains and crews to operate them.

The yachting industry became a lifeboat to the service sector in the aviation industry, which took a huge hit under the pandemic.

Some owners may have noticed that their crew options have decreased in recent years due to a shortage in these niche areas, and it makes finding suitable and capable crew personnel one of the most difficult processes in buying a new yacht. Covid has also impacted the availability of yacht stewards – another major discussion for the industry.

According to our yachting loss records, grounding is one of the most common reasons for losses. Most of the time, grounding happens when a yacht is in unfamiliar surroundings. In other words, if the captain is not familiar with the route, the conditions underwater, or simply isn’t paying attention, grounding is more likely. These are the common issues we have found when owners hire a captain or crew with less knowledge.

Also, without an experienced assigned captain to take care of the yacht, an owner will not know where, when or how best to keep the boat in optimum, seaworthy condition. Yacht losses can occur when the captain or owner fails to keep the boat in proper condition, resulting in serious damage to the yacht.

No matter if you’re an experienced yacht owner or a novice, or someone who has just joined this industry as a professional, you should have a clear understanding of a yacht or have professionals look after it. For yacht owners, it starts with an understanding of the yacht market – then it’s about the daily operation or maintenance, crew recruitment and training, insurance coverage. Paying attention to all these areas will help safeguard you and your yacht.

It is too soon to tell what long-term effects Covid-19 will have on the industry. But the pandemic certainly has changed people’s thoughts and actions. The normal holiday experience of visiting exciting and exotic locations in other countries has been postponed for so long, and the appeal of owning a secure ‘holiday home’ that can accommodate family and friends while visiting tremendous places around the world has never been greater. Yet, for those taking part in the ongoing superyacht boom, vigilance is always advised.


Tommy Ho

Tommy Ho is the CEO of Voyager Risk Solutions and an avid boater.