China’s Next Port of Call: Luxury Yachts

Business Week reports on the new trend among China’s wealthy elite: luxury elites:

China’s economic growth has resulted in flush times for the country’s emerging yacht industry. A half dozen or so Chinese yacht builders are now competing bow to bow against established Western builders like Azimut Yachts, Ferretti Yachts, Princess Yachts International, and Brunswick (BC) for wealthy consumers on the mainland. “This is a sign of China’s own industrial confidence,” says Ryan Swift, editor-in-chief of Asia-Pacific Boating magazine.

While the number of millionaires in China is estimated at more than 447,000, there are only about 100 Chinese-owned yachts longer than 60 feet, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, who compiles the Hurun Report, which tracks China’s wealthy. In the U.S., there were more than 7,000 that size in 2006.

In Zhuhai, Sunbird Yacht is building two vessels for export to a Milan-based shipyard in July. Sunbird’s staff of 400 workers is capable of producing only about 20 boats per year, making it a small fry by industry standards. Large-yacht building is new to China and workers lack the skills and experience of their Western counterparts, says Filippo Bertoni, an Italian naval architect from Perugia, Italy, who designed the boats that Sunbird is exporting. “That first boat was like a school boat for them,” says Bertoni, who expects the vessel will require 100,000 man hours to make in China, a task that would take an Italian crew 35,000 hours. “For the next boats, they will be faster.”

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