When Mohammed Al Barwani acquired Oceanco last April, he was relatively unfamiliar to some in the yacht business. Much of his business investments, through his MB Holding Company, centered on oil, gas, manufacturing, and minerals in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. However, as an owner of a handful of motoryachts, Barwani saw a good opportunity to combine his passion with his profession. Since that time, he has become one of the latest founding members of the International SeaKeepers Society, and he continues to extoll reasons why he sees Oceanco as a strong brand. In this interview, he explains his reasons behind the acquisition and why he believes Oceanco is well-positioned to emerge from the recession.
Q: What convinced you to acquire Oceanco?
A: Our senior management team, along with my two sons and myself (below), visited Oceanco. We were very impressed with what we saw in Oceanco’s people, management systems, product quality, and strong brand name. We did a thorough due diligence on the company and talked with key people in the industry. It became very clear that Oceanco was a strong player in the industry, and its products represented one of the highest qualities possible in the large super-yacht sector. It was apparent to us that acquiring Oceanco would be a good investment. It would offer an outstanding growth opportunity as the world economy recovers. We wanted to enter the yacht industry; we were very selective and chose to acquire a company with an impressive reputation.
Q: What have your main challenges been as the new owner: learning more about the superyacht market in general, learning about clients, or other things?
A: While the yachting industry was new to us, we have had a broad and diversified business and engineering experience, and we were ready to listen and learn from Oceanco’s experienced and knowledgeable managers. In the past year we also made an effort to meet key industrial drivers, designers, naval architectures, sub-contractors, brokers, journalists and most importantly owners. In the process, we have learned a lot about the yachting industry. Learning is a continuous process. Owning Oceanco was our first investment in the marine industry. We plan to invest in Oceanco: expand its facilities, and provide enhanced customers services and after-sales support to ensure they enjoy their ownership experience. I am confident that Oceanco will continue to inspire confidence with our current and perspective clients.
Q: Oceanco is positioning itself as a young, innovative company. What specifically makes it innovative?
A: Soon Oceanco will be celebrating its 25th-year anniversary. It has built a long line of inspired and innovative yachts in close cooperation with owners of Oceanco yachts. As proof of Oceanco’s innovation, one has to look at yachts such as Lady Lola, Indian Empress, Amevi, Alfa Nero, Anastasia, Vibrant Curiosity, Sunrays, and the just-delivered 7 Seas. Throughout its history, Oceanco has focused its energy and resources on developing innovative design ideas and technologies, which is now part of the Oceanco brand. Yacht owners expect from Oceanco extraordinary yachts. We will continue to push the design and technology envelope to improve the owner’s experience onboard, ranging from new, efficient, and reliable operating systems to latest environmental and safety features.
Q: What differences do you see among Oceanco owners in comparison to owners of other yachts?
A: We truly believe our owners are visionary; who want bespoke yachts that represent their image and lifestyle. Oceanco has the distinction of having built some of the largest yachts in Holland, which offer the highest-level finish and state-of-the-art technology. Many of those launched over the last ten years appear in the Top 100 world’s largest yachts listing. We have the utmost respect for our competitors, but we work to our own stringent set of standards. We always keep abreast of new trends and technology. We are fortunate enough to have worked with extraordinary yacht designers and thus we build extremely unique yachts for a select few visionary owners.
Q: Many people believe that China and India are the top emerging markets for yachts. What country or countries do you see having the most potential for your yachts?
A: The traditional superyacht buyers were from Europe, the USA, and the Middle East. Today, new wealth is created by innovative entrepreneurs all over the world. Demand for superyachts is now growing from new emerging markets such as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). Russia along with the CIS* countries have become important buyers. The economies of India and China are fast growing, and both nations are becoming major markets. In principle, it is impossible to predict from which country the next Oceanco owner will come from, but he will certainly be an informed yacht lover with a passion for sea.
Q: Some people predicted there would be less interest in yachts in the 100-meter range because of the shortage of support facilities and marinas worldwide able to accommodate them. Yet, Oceanco is pursuing this market, even building a new construction shed for these yachts. What did you see that others did not?
A: We have serious inquiries to build yachts in the 100-meter plus range. It is true there are only a handful of marinas that can accommodate yachts over 100m, however, over the last 10 years or so, newly built marinas are including space for really large yachts, such as Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas, and Port Louis Marina in Grenada. … Since large yachts have to apply the ISM and ISPS regulations, more and more European marinas and ports have started providing these services. For example, Marina Port Vell in Spain can accommodate and service yachts up to 180m. In the Emirates, Dubai is also well equipped to welcome large yachts.
*Editor’s note: CIS stands for the Commonwealth of Independent States, a regional organization whose participating countries were formerly part of the Soviet Union.