While the current coronavirus pandemic is affecting many industries right now, it’s a fact that superyachts still need to get home. Behind the scenes there are some hefty logistics and a team of highly skilled people hard at work to ensure this happens, one of those being DYT’s Area Manager, Gabriele Consiglieri.
Here he discusses how DYT is overcoming current challenges in order to provide the best possible service to clients, and how the pandemic is likely to impact the yachting industry longer term.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got involved with the yachting industry?
When you are born at sea, you grow up with a deep relationship with it, you live it all year long. Boating is the essence of spending time at sea, it’s fascinating in every way and a synonym of freedom.
Personally, I have always been passionate about shipping, focusing my studies with the aim of working in the industry. I couldn’t wait, and eventually I started working before graduating and studied in my free time and during weekends. There weren’t many doubts about the direction the wind was blowing me.
When did you join DYT Yacht Transport and how did that come about?
It was back in 2014. I was craving a new challenge and opportunities with a wider international element. DYT was in the process of getting settled after having moved under the Spliethoff umbrella and invited me to join the team in Genoa. I accepted without hesitation.
There aren’t many jobs where you can mix shipping and yachting; our company is a synthesis of these two worlds.
What does your day-to-day role as Area Manager in Monaco entail?
I focus mainly on the commercial aspects of the business, with a close eye on customer care (a DYT must). Within the company, we’re not limited by our physical location - we cover our own regions, but we look after our own clients wherever they are. As Area Manager my task is then to oversee the Pacific market both for inbound and outbound vessels, coordinating our agents and making sure our sailings go smoothly, respecting the intended standards.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic your ships are still operating – which routes are available?
Since entering the COVID emergency we decided our goal as service providers should be to continue. We wanted our clientele to be 100% sure they could depend on us, and our sailing schedules have remained as planned.
There has been a huge joint effort at DYT together with our representatives and agents to fulfill this, notwithstanding the numerous restrictions we have had to comply with in these complicated times.
I have to say, local authorities have been very accommodating – preparations just take a bit longer to make sure every regulation was respected.
What are the most common reasons for yachts wishing to move around at the moment?
There was a big volume of yachts in the Caribbean when the lockdown in Europe became a reality, and sending boats and crew home became the priority for many. Some were wintering there and decided to return to their home ports, and others needed to reach a final destination in respect of prior commitments.
How do the numbers compare to a normal year at this time?
Operationally it’s not over yet, we are still delivering and things are evolving every day. However it’s clear that a substantial number of charter yachts are missing in the Med and won’t be there this summer.
Have you managed to add additional pickups and discharge points to accommodate yachts stuck in certain areas?
As a group, we have tried to assist wherever possible. Rotating the vessels is not as simple as it might seem, but we have done everything possible to accommodate our clients in light of the logistical limitations, including immigration issues for crew, availability of flights, anchorages and marina restrictions.
Are you aware of many yachts being stuck in the Caribbean unable to move before the hurricane season?
Well, many yachts are still in the Caribbean and will want to get out before the hurricane season, but there are different reasons why a boat is stuck there. It may be that the crew is not able to reach the yacht from where they are, or there’s no bunkering en route. In any case, the islands are not all closed. Local authorities have been restricting movement of people to limit spread of the virus, but most of the time yachts can leave. Of course, once out, they can’t come back so this has to be taken into account.
Crew often accompany a yacht in transit – have you suddenly been overwhelmed by demand and is it still possible in the current situation?
Yes, definitely. As you can imagine, people saw riding a yacht in transit as a way to escape and get to their final destination. We had dozens of requests for entire crew to ride along with their boats during crossing. At the beginning, we stopped accepting riders for safety reasons and to diminish the risk of contagion at sea. It also wasn’t clear whether the country of arrival would allow them to disembark. When things became clear, little by little, we activated a protocol to follow aboard the ship and allowed riders again. However, even in normal circumstances we wouldn’t have been able to accept all crew as our vessels are classified as cargo ships, not passenger vessels, which are subject to different rules.
In respect of COVID-19, what measures have you had to put in place for the safety of both the ship’s crew and those in transit?
First and foremost we followed the rules on hygiene and distancing to ensure a safe environment for the ship’s crew. Meanwhile life for the riders was characterized by self-isolation, but this was seen as a form of pre-quarantine by immigration officers on arrival in port.
How has the experience been with personnel on the ground?
I have to say, everyone we have worked with in these past weeks has done a great job faced with a delicate and critical situation, it has been a huge joint effort looking after the needs of clients. As I said before, authorities have shown a great spirit of cooperation in spite of the difficulties of these times.
What are your thoughts on the likelihood of a Med season this year?
I think it all depends on the overall level of contagion, imaging that emergency status will be different from one country to the other. I hope I’m not a dreamer when I say that I expect a late season this year. Thinking about charters, I guess there will be new procedures to follow, but skipping the summer entirely is not an option for countries that get serious income from tourism.
DYT usually has a good presence at the Monaco Yacht Show - do you think it will go ahead this year, with adaptation?
We all hope so, it would signal that we are heading back to normality. At this stage, it remains a tough challenge for organizers with so many questions yet to be answered, from how to keep safe distances, logistics, the flow of people in and out as well as yachts attending. With a smaller crowd, exhibitors may be reluctant to attend if they don’t think they will get sufficient visibility or sales leads, and visitors may not be willing to travel if the quality of the event is poorer than usual. But Monaco has a powerful charm, so I’m confident it won’t lose its appeal even if MYS doesn’t take place this year.
What’s your view on virtual boat shows – would this format work for your business?
I do appreciate and respect how brokers and stakeholders in yachting are struggling to keep people motivated and keep the market alive, but I see it as it is, just a temporary deviation. In the bottom of our hearts, we all know real boat shows are treasures. It’s all about touching things, networking and handshaking. We can’t delete that part of our business. You make me remember one of the very first thing I was told by an old colleague when I joined DYT, “No matter how hard you try, you can’t do business just remaining sat at your desk, get out and meet people!
Has the experience of lockdown caused a rethink at DYT, and is it likely to change the way you do business in future?
Resilience is a key word today and history tells us that whoever is not able to adapt to changes remains behind. At DYT, we don’t pretend to rule the industry but to offer the industry a reliable partner for its activities. Only time will tell us how this pandemic will shape yachting – our aim is to maintain the high standards that our clientele is used to.
Understandably, many people are getting fed up with the same topic of conversation, but what are some of the positives you foresee as a consequence of the pandemic?
During an interview last year, I was asked what I consider to be valuable advice for the industry to succeed in future. I answered with my deepest hope which still stands today: It would be great if we could find ourselves capable again of listening and to appreciate the importance of time, not falling prey to hectic rhythms we cannot escape.
And for something positive to look forward to, DYT is running a teaser campaign about its new ship currently in build at CIMC Raffles yard in China. What can you tell us so far?
We are very much looking forward to welcoming our new yacht carrier to the fleet. It’s a remarkable investment, and the result of considerable project and teamwork. The ship will enter in service next Spring and complies with all required parameters in terms of her carbon footprint. She is designed for optimal stabilization and fuel efficiency and with a LOA of 213m and a beam of 46m she will be the largest of the semi-submersible vessels in the fleet. I invite people to take a glance at our website here to discover more about her.
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