Hong Kong still beats China as yachting hub, elite boat builder CRN says

Elite boat builder says low taxes and lots of billionaires keep city sailing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 5:06am

Yacht owners may have to wait for up to two years before securing berths for their boats in Hong Kong, but yacht maker CRN still prefers the city over other fast-developing mainland marinas as its base in the East.

"Hong Kong has a culture of yachting and has a concentration of billionaires," explained Lamberto Tacoli, president of CRN - the prestigious Italian luxury yacht builder within the Ferretti Group favoured by boat-owning tycoon Li Ka-shing and many Hollywood movie stars.

"And the opening of the Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau bridge in 2016 will also pose new opportunities for more marinas," Tacoli said. "Hong Kong is like Monte Carlo. There is a limit to the amount of space available and it is very difficult to create new marinas in the city. But we can create them in other places like Zhuhai, which can be easily reached by boat owners."

Guangzhou and Sanya are among the southern mainland cities keen to tap the booming yacht business. But the mainland's hefty 43 per cent tax on yacht values means Hong Kong - with its tax-free policies - remains more attractive for yacht owners.

However, if they moor their boats for any length of time outside of the jurisdictions in which they are registered they may still have to shoulder part of the tax.

Despite a shortage of berths, Hong Kong's Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club said it had noted a steady increase in the number of yacht owners in the city. The number of yachts showcased at the club's annual boat show rose by 15 per cent last year, general manager Albert Wu said.

Ferretti's Hong Kong office was set up after China's state-owned Shandong Heavy Industry took it over in a €374 million (HK$3.7 billion) deal last year.

Positioned as the group's custom-made specialist and maker of mega yachts of up to 80 metres in length, CRN said it sold around 10 vessels during the past five years, although none has yet been sold to a Chinese buyer.

Tacoli said CRN might outsource part of its production, such as the construction of ship hulls, but works that involved sourcing of materials, and ship assembly and finishing, would continue to be done in Europe.

The price of a CRN yacht starts at about €19 million.

Ferretti chief executive Ferruccio Rossi said earlier the firm was looking to add smaller boats ranging between six to eight metres to their collection in a bid to meet growing demand from the country's affluent middle class. The group is also considering a stock exchange listing in Asia over the next three to four years to gain visibility.