A question-and-answer conversation between Larry Rumbol and Toby Allies, joint managing director of Pendennis Shipyard.
Q. Toby, do you think Pendennis Shipyard occupies a niche sector that has been at the root of its success?
A. We are active in multiple segments across the entire market, so I’d say perhaps not a particular niche, but there are multiple segments where we perform particularly well as a company. Specific examples include custom sailboat construction and the restoration, rebuilding and re-engineering of both sail and motoryacht vessels in the 30-90m range. It does mean that we have to ensure we market the company on many levels so that customers can see that diversity. That’s sometimes a challenge that we do not get pigeon-holed as specialists in just this or that kind of yacht.
Q. How do you see the refit sector developing in the next few years?
A. I think if you had asked me 12 months ago, I would have answered differently. Brokerage has certainly come back, but the refit market is still difficult to forecast. We do see pressure to undertake work quickly post brokerage sale, and we are working hard to accommodate that. I see a strong market for people to buy a vessel and put their own mark on it, and we notice that project completion in one season in a timely manner is as important as ever as owners just want to get out there. The attractiveness to get out on the water and spend quality family time has never been stronger. I see that growing.
Q. Do you see the explorer market expanding?
A. From what we have seen, the demand for the explorer-style yacht has remained fairly constant over the past few years. This style of yacht is always going to appeal to a certain type of client who wishes to go farther afield for longer periods of time, and the systems and technology within the industry to enable this to be achieved is forever evolving to allow them. We saw this firsthand during the build of M/Y Steel, our first-ever ice class motoryacht project.
As for visiting the UK and Europe, despite the difficult conditions, we have had more than 30 yachts here in the past six months, actual visits to this coast and to Ireland and Scotland. More and more yachts are tending to explore beyond the typical Med/Caribbean areas, and that’s a good thing.
Q. Do you see the market expanding with new owners coming through, or are past owners refitting and upgrading? Is there a shift?
A. Yes, the industry is still attracting new owners to the market in quite a high ratio via the brokerage or charter routes. But I think as a collective, the industry can do more to attract additional clients and make ourselves more accessible.
Q. Are you able to find the right skills in the UK?
A. We have worked very hard over the past 20 years with an award-winning apprentice scheme and recently celebrated our 250th apprentice. Our fantastic facility here would not be what it is without the people we have in the company, and we are one of the few shipyards that train and develop our own staff. We are rightly proud of that both here and in our Vilanova Spain development. So finding skills? Yes, we took the challenge to create those ourselves and have had tremendous support from owners and captains alike. In fact despite a 90% absorption rate here of apprentices after training, there are many Pendennis apprentices out there working on yachts today.
Q. Are there still classic projects out there waiting for dedicated and visionary owners to take them on as a classic rebuild?
A. Yes there are, and there are many plans and projects out there to rebuild some true classics. We are always discussing such projects.
Q. What plans for the future can you share?
A. We recently invested heavily in Vilanova Grand Marina (Spain) and that is coming into its second winter now. We have lots of plans for that yard, having recently relocated our 620-ton hoist there and putting an 800-ton replacement hoist into Falmouth. We are very excited about the reception we have received there and how owners who have visited like the link with Pendennis Falmouth.
Q. What has been the most satisfying contract to date?
A. Impossible question Larry. You are asking me to choose a favorite child. I just can’t.
Q. Who is your superyacht industry icon, past or present?
A. It would have to be William Fife III. I had the opportunity to be part of Mariquita’s race team for a couple of seasons and she participated in the inaugural Pendennis Cup. Beautiful yachts, beautiful lines and a heritage we should all be proud of.
Q. The speak-easy question: If you had the choice of a question in a short interview like this, what would that question be and what would be your answer?
A. What has been the key to the success of Pendennis over the last 30 years? And my answer would be that it is the people, without a doubt, whether it be the clients, the designers, the brokers, the management companies or the wonderful people we have in the yard, we have been very fortunate. To have such visionary people from the start and mentors like Mike Carr and Henk Wiekens who have driven the company, and around them the non-execs we have had over the years. They have all made this company what it is today. All of them “realizing the dreams of the clients”.