Superyachts sail into plans to rebuild economy

  • Isolation charters: visiting vessels would offer wealthy clients an ocean escape (File photograph)

    Isolation charters: visiting vessels would offer wealthy clients an ocean escape (File photograph)

The island could reap massive benefits from a new drive for superyacht business, the head of a chandlers business has said.

Mark Soares, the owner of Bermuda Yacht Services, admitted the push would not result in America’s Cup numbers of visiting vessels, but even five or ten yachts over the summer would provide a valuable boost.

He added that some international charter companies had discussed the idea of “isolation charters” for wealthy clients.

Mr Soares said: “You would fly in on your private jet, you hop on board the yacht, you know the crew are all clean and have tested negative, and you can enjoy yourself on board the boat, enjoy the chef and the vessel itself and swim. You just won’t be able to go to shore.

“People have asked who would want to come and stay on a boat for 14 days. Not everybody, but some people are interested in that.

“Now that we have the guidelines in place, let’s see what the appetite is. Let’s see how many of the inquiries we have received already pan out.”

He added: “If they decide to come, there is the provisioning and the food and the flowers and the money they spend.

“Sure, they may not be able to do shore excursions and there won’t be as much transport and shopping as usual, but we have nothing to lose.”

Mr Soares said BYS had received several calls from superyacht captains interested in voyages to Bermuda.

Some were interested in Bermuda as a destination or as a stopover spot between the Caribbean and Europe and others had considered “waiting out” the Covid-19 storm in Bermuda’s waters.

Mr Soares added that many superyachts spent summers in the Mediterranean, but that European destinations such as Spain and Italy had been hard hit by the coronavirus.

He said: “There are a lot of boats that are still trying to decide if they are going to return to Europe this summer.

“That’s what drove us to try to figure something out.

“Our main concern — and I think everyone’s main concern — was to make sure whatever guidelines are put in place do not put at risk our community and our hospital.”

Mr Soares said any visiting yachts would most likely spend most of their time at anchor because of the strict regulations.

He said: “We already facilitate their arrival and clearance in St George’s because we have secure docks.

“Apart from that, I think you’ll find that they spend most of their time at anchor because they are not allowed to get off.

“I would hope that eventually they are able to use other facilities like the Hamilton Princess, even if they are confined.”

Mr Soares said the Government only recently introduced new rules to encourage superyachts to visit the island, such as allowing vessels to do charters in Bermuda waters.

He had hoped to capitalise on the new regulations this summer, but the pandemic had dictated a “soft launch”.

Mr Soares said: “Maybe this is something that will give people a taster.

“They might not be able to come ashore until the later phases, but they can say ‘wow, this is beautiful, let’s come back next year and really see it’.”

He emphasised that the policy was only for superyachts and smaller boats were still being asked not to remain near Bermuda any longer than necessary.

Mr Soares said: “If they need to stop because the boat’s broken or they need fuel, they are being encouraged to move on after 72 hours, which most of them are doing.

“The superyacht initiative is different — we are encouraging them to stay under a strict set of guidelines.

“At this time of year we could have as many as 50 boats in St George’s Harbour. This year, I think the maximum we have had is ten or 11.”

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Published Jun 1, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 1, 2020 at 6:58 am)

Superyachts sail into plans to rebuild economy

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