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For the yachting professional on the Mediterranean

The Right Agent

Article by Claire Griffiths

With so many unknowns during the season ahead, it is vital to have professional help and advice on the quayside

It’s a hard time to write about the future. Harder still to know how this season will pan out for the superyacht industry. It’s especially tough for the agents, right now glaring into their crystal balls to get some idea of where we are heading. By now usually they are already lining up, standing to attention, waiting to welcome the first cruising yachts to their shores. But how many yachts come this year? The yes-men (and women) of yachting have taken time out of a strange schedule to report back on the future as far as they can see it from their own neck of the woods.

Yacht Agents Montenegro
Yacht Agents Montenegro

Montenegro

At the time of writing Montenegro had reported one death and 29 confirmed cases of COVID19. The country closed its borders and went into lockdown on 13th March. Explains Dejan Jankovic of Yacht Agent Montenegro, “We have been speaking with our clients giving them information that they might need. As our water borders are closed we are only able to serve clients who entered Montenegro before the shut down. It is having a big impact on our industry but we are aware of our geographical position and that all countries around us are quarantine zones so this was the only way of stopping the spread of the disease.” Says Jankovic, “Things are slowly opening and in the Mediterranean we are the first area to open and I hope we will get the lions share of this season’s yachts.”

Before COVID19 the Montenegrin season was looking pretty bright, with strong bookings and itineraries from clients planning to visit. Says Jankovic, “None of them has changed their mind for certain, but they are saying that they are waiting for this situation to clear. New bookings have now totally stopped since the virus took over Europe.” Yacht Agent Montenegro works with worldwide charter companies and private owners and Jankovic reports that clients are concerned about their multi-country charters and although Montenegro is relatively unaffected, surrounding countries are not.

We are very client oriented,” says Jankovic, “and our main goal is to provide a distinctive service to our clients that will make their stay in Montenegro unforgettable; the one place where they got everything they need in a timely manner. Precision and reliability are key: we dedicate one team member to each client with 24/7 availability to manage requests.” Yacht Agent Montenegro provides technical services, docking and maintenance with certified and authorised personnel, and the plan is to expand its season beyond the summer months and offer services to clients throughout the Mediterranean.

Ajka Matijevic is the Managing Director of A+ Yachting in the Adriatic and together with her team offer a service that covers Montenegro, Croatia and Albania. Montenegro and Albania are not part of the European Union, this along with adequate information online means captains and crew are often left in the dark when it comes to customs and administration fees for goods they’ve ordered. Ajka reminds us,

A+Yachting
A+Yachting

“Owners and charter guests are travelling to the eastern Mediterranean more and more, but the Captains and crew can sometimes have little practical and operational knowledge of the area. This is where they need a partner with local knowledge and a good reach throughout the region.” We know Croatia is in the EU, but are there different charter rules there? Ajka explains, “It is relatively easy to obtain a charter licence, but time is needed and there are of course certain hoops to jump through, but we have an experienced team, and once an itinerary is planned, we work with the Captain to facilitate the correct paperwork, but it can all depend on the yachts LOA and GRT. Our office takes care of everything and lets the Captain concentrate on looking after the guests on board.”

As we’ve mentioned before this eastern Mediterranean area of the Aegean is becoming very popular and with the current ‘logistical’ issues, the industry feels that this region could be very busy in 2020. Ajka and her team have worked long and hard to build a robust support network that enables them to offer and myriad of services to visiting yachts, including bespoke itineraries, help with spare part delivery and of course the all important opportunity for tax free and duty paid marine diesel. Having talked candidly to Ajka we too are confident, that 2020 will certainly see an uplift in charter guests and owners cruising the Adriatic.

In light of the current situation, our hope is to be able to work this summer
and thinking up new services remains a simple mental exercise

Italy

Rosalia Di Perna of Argentario Yacht Services usually starts off a new season by looking at how to improve services based on experiences from the previous summer; “… So that we can continually improve on what we offer. Our beach set up arrangement was popular last year,” she says. “This year plans are to add seabobs and fliteboards to the services available to visiting yachts in the Argentario area. And while there are no new regulations affecting yachting in the zone she covers, the public health emergency of Covid19 prevails in some form for now.” Says Di Perna, “We hope that everything gets back to normal soon, so the restrictions will be lifted. We really hope we all get the chance to enjoy the summer.” As with all yacht agencies, the Argentario Yacht Services’ aim is to satisfy any kind of request; for example taking just 20 minutes to fly a doctor onto Giglio Island to tend to a minor accident on board or sourcing a type of meat for dinner that is not readily available.

Siracuse
At the other end of the country Gianmarco Mauceri Boccadifuoco runs Siracusa Boccadifuoco Yachting. In September 2019 14 mooring buoys with 50 ton blocks were installed for megayachts in the Siracusa marina: “This means yachts do not need to put their anchors stern to and it can be a great option for the winter season,” he explains. He had been working on preparing new itineraries, services and magical places to visit before Covid19 struck; “Right now is a very sad time but we hope the restrictions relax more as possible and people start to travel again.” He adds, “We always work with a ‘can do’ attitude no matter what the request, be it private excursions, provisioning, spas and massages, bunkering etc…”

San Remo
Based out of San Remo but covering the Mediterranean and northern Europe, All Services was founded by Alessandro Sartore in 1980. Since the Italian lockdown began on 9th March 2020, the entire All Services team worked remotely but life is slowly getting back to normal. Alessandro has no idea how busy the season will evolve but he is fairly certain that supply will be greater than demand for chartering, although some reports suggest chartering will be popular with guests seeking to keep (or get) away from it all. Says Sartore, “In light of the current situation, our hope is to be able to work this summer and thinking up new services remains a simple mental exercise. But we are confident to see yachts arriving and as ever will deliver and faultless services.”

Argentario Yacht Services
Argentario Yacht Services
Boccadifuoco Maritime Services
Boccadifuoco Maritime Services
Ibiza Shipping
Ibiza Shipping

Spain

Ibiza
Joe Buckle is Managing Director of the Facilitators Company where he has been running operations on Ibiza for 20 years. The company is open all year round and so it is usually well prepared for the season ahead but Buckle admits that the summer 2020 and beyond does present new challenges. He says, “We are currently participating in many virtual conferences and online courses to equip us with new knowledge to enable us to develop advanced sanitation protocols and care of our clients. We simply do not know if the port of Ibiza will be open for business at any stage of summer 2020. If the port opens, we do expect increased control measures, which will become clearer in the coming period of time.” He adds that while Ibiza has low numbers of infection and is potentially a great escape destination, the situation in Spain means that there is a chance that the 2020 yachting season might start slowly, but we feel there will be a season if not a little late.”

He adds, “Historically guests’ main concerns focused on getting well-positioned peak season moorings, or nabbing a GREAT VIP table at Ibiza´s AMAZING hot spot venue ‘Lio Ibiza, Restaurant, Club & Cabaret’! ….but the primary concern for 2020 and beyond will include maintaining yachts’ sanitation while allowing the owners and guests to enjoy the wonders Ibiza can offer.”

The Facilitators
The Facilitators

Buckle describes the Facilitators as pragmatic, determined and tenacious with strong personal friendships with key partners “..with whom we always find a positive solution… With Covid-19, our special projects division is consulting with leading security and risk management professionals to develop knowledge, capabilities, skills and purchase of equipment to enhance yachts’ resilience whilst in the port of Ibiza and surrounding waters.”

The Facilitators will focus on the health, safety and sanitation of all those on board any yacht and during their movements around the Island including to leisure venues. Buckle adds, “We will offer dedicated Facilitator teams to provide vigilant port side access controls surrounding the yacht, keeping safe distancing, minimising the number of visitors and contractors on board, ensuring everyone is screened, questioned, logged, wears a mask and gloves as a minimum requirement, and many other protocols. Social distancing may be required for the foreseeable future, and our Special Projects Team will provide professional ‘Travel Facilitators’ to lead a dedicated hospitality team comprising of vehicles dedicated to the client throughout their stay (sanitised), trusted professional drivers, and VIP Chaperones to co-ordinate and take command of all movements of owner and VIP, when exploring the Island and visiting venues where they ensure that social distancing is respected.”

What ever the 2020 season brings, we are sure that Joe and The Facilitators Team will provide just the right level of service and safety to the yachts visiting the islands.

France

The Liberty Yachting Agency works all year provisioning and supplying fuel to clients. Aoife Bowler, Office Manager at Liberty is keeping an eye on the changing regulations for the coming season and describes France as a very open country with great structures tailored to yachting. She is opting for a positive spin on the recent virus restrictions: “We believe that we will be very busy from July onwards as our sources confirm that many owners and yacht guests will board their yachts. The Mediterranean remains the heart of the world yachting industry but after this sanitary crisis we can suppose that the guests on board will probably go less onshore than usual.” She adds that there are some concerns regarding charter yachts as the totality of spring events were cancelled.

Preoccupations for 90% of Liberty clients (captains and yacht managers) remain the usual ones she says, namely getting the yacht and crew ready for the 2020 season.

Always looking for new services to offer its clients, this year Liberty will focus on its new service: The Maritime Cruise Agreement; explains Bowler, “We have been working on it over the past three years. Liberty has a licence to establish this contract which in turn allows commercial yachts to navigate with duty free fuel and a VAT on charter of 10% or 0% depending on whether the yacht has been to a foreign port during their cruise or not.”
Fulfilling weird or wonky requests are part of the yacht agents’ daily lives and holed up at home they reflect nostalgically on seasons past: These guys are ever ready to protect client privacy but a few anonymous anecdotes that will stick with the agents for a long time slip through the protective nets, just don’t tell anyone…

Liberty Yacht Agency
Liberty Yacht Agency
Wandering Yacht
Wandering Yacht
Nautica Superyacht Agency
Nautica Superyacht Agency

“I remember,” says Jankovic, “we had a charter captain who kept ordering the yacht internet cards to be recharged about 10 times in just one day. We couldn’t understand how someone could use all that internet because it is hundreds of GB. The next day we asked the captain if there had been some kind of problem with the internet. He said all the guests were using it for one sole purpose: to play the song ‘Despacito’ on their phones for a 24 hour Despacito party.”

Boccadifuoco at Siracusa scratched his head when he was asked one day to supply a helicopter for a trip that would take half an hour by car, but the boss is always right! Buckle once produced a private event with mermaids and scuba divers in the swimming pool, treasure chests containing a ‘magic potion’ to serve to poolside guests…

As the ‘new’ season gets underway none of our talented agents can wait for the chance to get their brain cells bonging together again and fulfil another nigh on impossible demand. And neither can we. Good luck to one and all during the 2020 season and Stay Safe.

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