From engine parts to flowers, the goods that keep the yacht industry afloat are short on supply and long in coming — ripple effects from the production shutdowns and shipping delays due to COVID-19.
“Right now, engine parts are hit or miss, either in stock or 6–8 weeks out,” said Tom Rowe, director of marketing and business development at National Marine Suppliers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Ridiculous lead times” have hit supply orders, including Kohler products, while vital Racor filters have been unavailable for a while, he went on to say. Certain electrical parts are scarce, like Hubbell plugs for shore power cables and circuit breakers, and contactors are completely unavailable. Essential items for first-aid kits are allotted or on backorder, often for months, and the popular K2R cleaning products are not available because the factory cannot source packaging materials, Rowe said.
Why the troubles? Isolating exact causes can be complex. They include:
- labor shortages at ports and in shipping, trucking and rail transport.
- Shortages of new shipping containers.
- Shipping containers stranded or awaiting transport.
- Delays in unloading and transporting products from shipping containers.
- Continued factory delays stemming from labor and product shortages.
Vicki Abernathy, co-owner and chief operating officer of AERE Docking Solutions, said she thought the North Carolina yarn that the company uses in fender covers was immune from delays — until a chemical process of its manufacture that is handled in China was affected. “Normally, bulk yarn takes three to four weeks,” Abernathy said. “We had a six-month wait last year.”
Yacht flowers are at a premium because, early on in the pandemic, crops were not harvested — then transportation halted, followed by bad weather, according to Delia Chen, co-owner of Yacht Flowers in Fort Lauderdale. “That [price] quote will not work from last year,” Chen said. “Costs are 35% more than last year.”
Diverse reasons have changed how companies source, according to Dennis Foster, president of Foster’s Yacht Services in Fort Lauderdale. “It used to be that distributors had products on the shelf, but after COVID, things are on ‘order only’ [status],” Foster said. “Distributors only order after we order. Now, they have to make it, and it becomes a custom order.”
Without materials Foster can lose jobs. And every delay backs up marine shops, shipyards and marinas — and yacht schedules. These disruptions also mean higher costs for manufacturers, distributors, and customers. “The costs are multiplying, sometimes daily,” Abernathy said.
But there can be wins for yachting, as well, according to John Pinkerton, director of yacht provisions at Yacht Chandlers in Fort Lauderdale. For example, charter yachts have access to food and beverage supplies that restaurants once used. “Actually, many high-end restaurants have been slow to ramp up and others just closed,” Pinkerton said. “We share a lot of the same suppliers, so goods intended for them are now a bit more available.” But most come with a higher price tag, he added.
As to the future?
“I don’t know what will happen, the situation appears to be getting worse,” Abernathy said of the challenges in receiving and sending orders. “I read that Ikea followed other businesses by buying or chartering a boat to get products or materials.”
“Aere can’t afford a boat,” she said with a laugh, but she is hopeful. In business since 1998, Abernathy said they continue to find workarounds. “We’re not going to be taken down by the supply chain.”