Russian clients seeking new builds, previously owned yachts and charters, are a key part of the superyacht industry as wealthy Russians have a reputation for high spending on yachts and the breadth of services available to owners and guests, including helicopters, fine wine, entertainment and equipment. Although firm data on the number of Russians who own yachts or contract for charters are not available because of non-disclosure agreements, industry experts generally agree that the Russians are an important segment in the market.
Deteriorating relations between western countries and Russia over the unrest in the Ukraine could impact the superyacht industry if clients find themselves hampered by financial and travel restrictions.
Those involved in the European superyacht market seem to be having differing experiences with Russian clients, with some claiming that the downing of MH17 and economic sanctions have already affected the market, while others claim they see no difference. One trend that could be underway is large yacht owners canceling charters in Europe and the United States and moving their charters to Asian waters. Consultants have noted that although some privately owned Russian business jets have been grounded, that fact has had little effect on superyacht business.
Some within the industry, however, have expressed concern over the long-term impact of the sanctions on the superyacht industry, theorizing that there will be fewer potential clients from Russian and Ukraine in the next three to five years as some superyacht projects have already stopped.
John Leonida, superyacht specialist partner with London law firm Clyde and Co. indicates that although he nor his clients have seen impact from the sanctions, the overall mood is cautious.
The current geopolitical situation with Russia has most likely further strained the commercial environment that began with the 2013 financial collapse in Cyprus, a major banking center for Russians. Cash flow issues could begin to show themselves in the form of unexpected yacht sales and extended delivery schedules for the largest projects already underway. The prevailing feeling among those who have Russian clients is that this situation will not dissipate soon.