A new 900 short ton mobile boat hoist allows this shipyard to lift heavier yachts and accommodate more vessels on shore. The company has equipped itself for the future, reports David Soyka.
The current recession has created challenges, particularly for an industry that services a luxury segment such as mega-yachts. While Derecktor Shipyards, which now operates in two locations, has navigated some economic tempests in recent years, the Florida yard has always been a highly successful repair and refit facility.
ON THE WATERFRONT
This enterprise has come a long way for a family owned company that started as a small New York waterfront shop in 1947. Consider recent dollars spent on technology. “We have invested in a 900-ton mobile hoist for the Florida shipyard,” reports James Brewer, the company’s director of business development. “This will significantly expand capacity to allow lifting of larger yachts and more than double operational capability to service and repair more boats on shore simultaneously.”
Derecktor of Florida has been located on the Dania Cutoff Canal, one mile from the entrance to Port Everglades since 1967. The company continues to be one of the most successful East Coast repair and refit yards. “Success ties into location,” attributes Brewer. “We’re within two miles of Fort Lauderdale, a destination of choice for mega-yachts from around the world.”
Further, the company is situated within minutes of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Fort Lauderdale is the home base for many of the world’s most respected new construction suppliers and marine repair subcontractors. “The yard’s proximity to Fort Lauderdale enhances our ability to quickly and efficiently get the right people on site to perform a repair, which results in a faster turnaround,” notes Brewer. “Yacht owners want to be cruising, and not waiting in a shipyard, even if it is ours. We are a high-performing shipyard, dedicated to the highest quality and the most rapid and efficient execution. Our service offerings are broad, and we return vessels to service promptly.
That’s what Derecktor of Florida has done for more than 45 years. “We’ve established close working relationships with experienced and trusted sub-contractors,” adds Brewer. “The partnerships we’ve established have garnered us a global reputation for world-class workmanship and service.”
The yard employs 80 to 90 billable personnel, with an additional 20 staff members performing administrative functions.
Derecktor of Florida is located on more than 17 acres, and it encompasses 26 covered slips, 23 uncovered slips and 46 storage garages, in addition to the working yard. Total dockage runs 4,000 linear feet and the yard can currently accommodate vessels up to 185 feet in length. The existing 500-ton marine elevator and linear rail transfer system that have been in place since 1967 are no longer sufficient to accommodate the longer and heavier vessels that are becoming increasingly popular in the mega-yacht category. The new hoist recently received from Italian manufacturer Cimolai Technology Spa is the largest mobile boat hoist in Florida and the tallest in the world, and it will allow the company to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging market.
Brewer takes a look back: “In the past, we serviced yachts starting at 50 feet in length, running up to 140 feet.”
He attaches the observation to the present: “Today, that’s trended upward to where most of our work is on vessels of 100 to 180 feet.”
And he looks to the future: “We expect the trend towards longer and heavier vessels to continue.”
Despite these capabilities, nothing comes easy. Indeed, Derecktor Shipyards recently delivered the largest (by volume) motor yacht ever produced in the United States, the 281-foot, six deck, 2998 gross ton Cakewalk V, designed by Tim Heywood Designs with naval architecture by Azure Naval Architects and interior design by Dalton Designs, Inc.
The successful project posed substantial challenges – and part of that involved the recession. “The Cakewalk project helped us weather the first part of the recession that began in 2008,” Brewer explains. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t book other work while we were focusing on that project. After we delivered the yacht in late 2010, there wasn’t much new work available on which to bid. This lack of new construction work, coupled with the depressed economy, has pressured the New York yard.”
But don’t underestimate the “New York state of mind” – survival of the fittest: the Yankees, the Mets, Billy Joel (for whom the yard built a boat), and Derecktor.
“Derecktor New York continues to provide winter storage, refit and service offerings to both yachts and commercial clients and is actively seeking new construction opportunities,” says Brewer.
Looking south, he says, “Derecktor of Florida is a separate entity and is unaffected by the challenges in the New York market. In fact, Derecktor of Florida continued to be profitable throughout the recession, maintaining its position as a leading member of the south Florida marine industry.”
The company reported strong growth in yacht repair and refit revenues in 2011, up almost 50 percent from the prior year. “While a lot of yacht owners held off on upgrades and maybe delayed some routine non-essential maintenance – like painting – it remains a fact that a yacht represents a significant investment. If one doesn’t properly maintain that investment, one is going to lose money. The economy notwithstanding, yacht owners still need to perform the necessary repairs and maintenance required to protect their investment. Derecktor of Florida is the ideal facility with the proven capabilities to do exactly what’s needed to ensure everything remains shipshape.”
INCREASED CAPABILITIES AND EFFICIENCY
Seeking to enlarge and improve those capabilities, the company embarked upon an upgrade of its crew amenities and infrastructure in 2012. However, the desire for further expansion to accommodate more boats butted up against the physical limits and age of the existing equipment, which was at capacity. The solution: a new hoist.
“In addition to being able to lift larger mega-yachts, the new hoist significantly increases the number of vessels that we can work on simultaneously,” Brewer explains. “Our hauling capability had been limited to only three vessels out of the water at one time. Now, with the new mobile hoist, we can transfer a minimum of eight. That’s a huge increase in capacity. Now that it looks as if we’re finally moving out the recession, we’re going to need that capacity to accommodate all the projects that yacht owners have been postponing until the economy stabilized.”
While Derecktor of Florida originally focused on cruising and racing sailing yachts, the makeup of sailing versus power craft has shifted dramatically over the years. It used to be a 50/50 split between sail and power. “Now, about 90 percent of our business is motor yachts,” observes Brewer.
He adds: “Markets change. One has to be aware of trends, in order to effectively address them. Right now, while location constrains length, the average displacement of a typical client’s vessel continues to increase. Again, because the existing lift was no longer sufficient, the new hoist gives us the ability to address current market needs well within the constraints of our physical space and existing infrastructure.”
COMPLETE MARINE REPAIR FOCUS
Derecktor Florida will continue to invest to address the evolving needs of yacht owners, says Brewer, and it will remain focused on repairs and major refits.
“In Florida, there are several types of marine facility,” he reports. “One is a kind of do-it-yourself marina, where one basically has a place to dock the yacht. The vessel is just buying space, and the owner is arranging for services and repairs on his own. At the other extreme, reflecting the recent trend towards the marina as a resort, the owner is able to dock his yacht and have the marina arrange for the repairs. Meanwhile, there are some nice restaurants on site, along with hotel accommodations and amenities for guests and crew. This is the marina-as-adestination concept. Of course, the destination comes with additional costs.”
It comes down to that old saying: different strokes for different folks. “Different solutions appeal to different people with different needs,” says Brewer. “But there’s room for everyone. At Derecktor of Florida, our focus remains on providing the most complete marine repair and refit facility in south Florida. We are a full-service facility offering a more complete range of in-house trades than anyone in the area. And if you need to vacation while your yacht is getting worked on, you couldn’t find a better spot than Fort Lauderdale, which is right down the road from us.”
Indeed, you can’t separate Derecktor of Florida from the surrounding maritime industry and the local economy, says Brewer. “We are a respected employer of maritime workers and contribute significantly to the local community. We’re looking to continue to be a major participant in that community, to mutual benefit.”
For the finest craftsmanship, attention to detail and dedication to service, Derecktor of Florida is a preferred port of call.