Created by the founders of Superyacht Tenders & Toys, Shipyard Supply Co. (SSCo.) is a new venture set up to meet growing demand for quality superyacht deck equipment. Sharing the same award-winning ethos of innovation and unparalleled customer service, we met up with commercial manager Luke Porter to discuss his ambitions for the future of the company.
OnboardOnline: Tell us about your background and how you first got into the yachting industry?
Luke Porter: I was born in Nottingham, which is about as land-locked as you can get in the UK. Still, my father taught my brother and I to sail in a wooden mirror dinghy when we were kids. Larger boats always appealed to all three of us, so in my teenage years we progressed to cruising yachts. In my early 20s I moved to Antibes and joined the hundreds of other dock walkers looking for their first crew job on a superyacht. Mine was a deckhand position on an 83ft Ferretti.
OO: When did you finish crewing and what was your first role ashore?
LP: My last position was as bosun on MY Utopia at the end of 2012. Like many yachties I came to a crossroads and chose a career ashore as opposed to pushing on to an officer position. The first thing my girlfriend (now wife) and I did was to trek to Everest base camp for a bit of ‘down-time’. Upon our return, I managed to get a job working for a small yacht broker, and then I was offered a job at Oyster Yachts.
OO: What was your role at Oyster Yachts?
LP: I was a project manager with Oyster, and the great thing about that role was that I sat between the client and the production teams, so I was able to build up strong relationships with both. I learnt a lot about people management and managing expectations!
OO: The situation at Oyster was well documented in the press but what was your own experience and what are your thoughts on the positive turnaround?
LP: Monday 5th February 2018 will live long in my memory! It’s never nice to be told that you’re being made redundant, but when an entire organisation and all its people go under… suffice to say, it was a very strange day. I was so pleased to hear that Richard Hadida had bought the assets and was resurrecting the brand. He’s put a strong management team in place, so the future looks bright.
OO: So how did Shipyard Supply Co. come about?
LP: SSCo. was founded by the directors of Superyacht Tenders and Toys as a natural progression from what they were starting to do under the SYTT banner. Having already started to manufacture tender whips, jet ski trolleys, carbon pillar fenders and a host of custom fabrications, they felt the time was right to setup a company that could handle all of these enquiries and more. SSCo. provides the platform for future growth and expansion into new markets.
OO: How did you come to be involved with SSCo.?
LP: I first touched base with the directors, Josh and Claire, 18 months prior to joining but at that stage it was just to register an interest in working with them. Fast forward 18 months and they called me in to tell me about a new venture they were starting and to ask whether I’d be interested in heading it up so that they could concentrate on Superyacht Tenders and Toys. The rest, as they say, is history...
OO: Superyacht Tenders & Toys is very established, which has its advantages, but will SSCo. operate as a totally separate business?
LP: Absolutely. One of my key aims is to establish SSCo. as a strong brand in its own right. In a lot of ways, SSCo. has an even larger scope than SYTT, which is an awesome opportunity to build on existing relationships as well as establish new ones.
OO: What prompted the decision to manufacture your own deck products?
LP: Lots of different reasons. Demand mainly, but also seeing gaps in the market where either a product didn’t exist or wasn’t marketed very well. It can also be very frustrating working with suppliers that have poor quality products, long lead times, high prices and poor communication. In those instances, the only logical thing to do is start a company that manufactures the products and provides a level of service that eliminates those supply chain issues.
OO: What are your core products?
LP: Anything deck related at present. Tender whips, fendering systems, jet ski trolleys and lifting kits make up a large percentage of sales but there’s also real growth in tender chocks, spreader bars, games decks, deck awnings and safety gear. As the company grows we intend to expand the offering by setting up a procurement service where new builds and operational vessels are able to source engineering and deck spares from us.
OO: Will you also design and manufacture custom deck equipment?
LP: It’s a big area for us, particularly in the new build space where we can offer the shipyards an alternative avenue for producing ancillary equipment. Especially towards the end of a build when production schedules are getting squeezed! We also get a lot of enquiries from new build crew who are looking for owner supplied equipment designed and manufactured.
OO: Does this affect your ability to supply other brands?
LP: Not at all. Strong relationships within our supply chain allow us to work with some of the best names in the industry whilst providing the best value to the customer.
OO: What’s your target market?
LP: We sell everything from a tender whip to a 24m sailing yacht right up to much larger orders on the biggest motor yachts in build. Whether it’s a new build or an operational vessel, we aim to give the same level of service across the board.
OO: Are you launching first in Europe or is SSCo. global from the outset?
LP: It’s fair to say that northern Europe is our key market with the big builders being based in Germany and Holland but ultimately our reach is global.
OO: What’s the vision for SSCo. and where do you want the business to be in five years?
LP: If we have a strong brand with a reputation for quality products and excellent service in five years I will be very happy. A Queen’s Award to match the one that SYTT have would be a nice addition as well!
OO: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
LP: Honesty is the best policy. If something out of your control (or even within your control for that matter!) goes wrong and causes an issue or delay, be honest about it from the outset. The longer it goes unsaid the worse it gets.
Luke in the Galapagos
OO: Who do you most admire in the world of business or yachting, who has inspired or influenced you?
LP: Richard Branson is a hero of mine. I love his attitude to business and the way he has diversified the Virgin brand into so many different markets.
OO: Which is your favourite yacht and why?
LP: That would have to be MY Rev. Although she isn’t finished yet, she is going to be an awesome vessel once launched. Not only is she a cool looking explorer yacht, the idea is that she’ll be used to help save the planet’s oceans, which I too feel passionate about.
OO: Which is your favourite yachting destination?
LP: As a nature lover, I’d have to say the Galapagos. I was lucky enough to go when I was crewing and it was incredible. The scuba diving is out of this world.
OO: Which three objects would you take to your desert island?
LP: Mask, snorkel and a Clive Cussler novel.
OO: What’s your motto?
LP: Life’s too short to take yourself too seriously.