Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine given the superyacht industry an image problem?
Although Russian money is invested in only 8% of the superyacht fleet, when it comes to the Mega Yachts over 90 metres, this rises to 30%. How much of that is subject to sanctions and freezing – or as Boris Johnstone called it – destraining – is speculation and guesswork. But in the public imagination, the equation of superyacht equals oligarch equals the murder of innocents is gaining traction.
There is another image problem: the ostentatious display of wealth when living standards are falling in Europe and the USA post Covid, aggravated by the fuel crisis. When filling a superyacht with fuel – often tax free – costs as much as the average person earns in a year, resentment is growing. It is starting to look like the Court of the Sun King on the eve of the French Revolution.
The double whammy of Russian sanctions and the cost of living issue are not going away any time soon, and perceptions will become deeply engrained unless the image problem is addressed. Yachts, once a thing of marvel and wonder, will become an object of contempt. Owners will want to dissociate themselves from media opprobrium. An image problem can easily become a product liability.
Enter the PR and marketing departments. The Superyacht Industry has to detach itself from wealth, luxury and the lifestyle that a yacht can offer the owner. Instead, the industry has to focus on its adoption of pioneering green technologies and its use of experimental marine systems. You could argue that this might be seen as a cynical ploy to distract, but if this resolution is sincere and genuine, the superyacht industry will overhaul its image as the playground of the ultra wealthy having a whale of a time, and will be perceived as altruistic, caring and humane.
The Green Revolution is an idea whose time has come.