Feature: A Major Force in Megayachts

Monday, June 09, 2003

There are a few top executives in the marine industry who "know when to hold them and when to fold them." Their insightfulness is legendary … always seeming to know the exact time to make a move professionally or personally. One of those people is John Dane III, president of Trinity Yachts LLC of New Orleans. Dane has a long and storied background in the marine industry, first as a engineer with Halter Marine, later as owner of Moss Point Marine, which was sold to Halter at which time Dane became president. When rig maker Friede Goldman purchased Halter, Dane became president but instinctively knew this was going to be a rough road. He weighed his options and somehow knew that the only piece of this marriage that was worth saving was one of the smaller pieces….Trinity Yachts, a company that, to date, had a minimal amount of success building luxury motorboats.

Dane left Friede Goldman Halter and set up shop in the old Equitable Halter Shipyard that built boats in World War II. Located on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, the 38-acre shipyard had 10 acres under roof, giving plentiful space to build megayachts of any size.

Dane bought Trinity Yachts for $5 million, and under his guidance and that of "Billy" Smith, the vice president charged with day to day operations, the company has grown in the past five years to become a major megayacht builder with an international reputation.

"It has become apparent to us," said Smith, "that the demands of the contemporary U.S. luxury yacht clients have exceeded the capabilities of traditional yacht builders."

Smith added, "With our experience in building everything from military patrol boats to offshore oil exploration vessels, we have ability to blend seaworthiness, performance, quality construction and luxury in one package."

The luxury yacht market (80 ft. and up) is international in scope with Italy the leading producer by country and the U.S. a distant second, according to the 2002-2003 Global Build Report from Yachts International magazine. By far the largest segment of the market are vessels from 80 to 120 ft.…334 of the 520 yachts build were in this size range.

Trinity mostly builds 150-ft. vessels, although a few recent deliveries were smaller and one larger. Currently Trinity has three vessels in final outfitting for 2003 deliveries…the 142-ft. Chevy Toy, the 142-ft. Burna and the 150-ft. Mia Elise.

Behind that Trinity has a pair of 155-ft. megayachts in the fabrication sheds and a huge 180-ft. steel-hulled vessel, also named the Mia Elise. The two 155 ft. vessels will be delivered in early 2004 with the 180-ft. vessel completed in late 2004. Prospects for new contracts coming in this year are solid.

Trinity builds exclusively tri-deck motor yachts and raised pilothouse yachts. The former has an additional deck of space.

Earlier this year Trinity completed a 150-ft. Mia Elise, but the vessel was sold before delivery as the Skyhawk. The owner of the Skyhawk had taken delivery of a 177-ft. tri-deck yacht, but sold it three months after completion to an owner who renamed her the Katherine.

These frequent name changes underscore an important factor in the market. Billy Smith explains it this way. "The owners of these vessels have everything but time." Smith continues," Many don't want to wait the 18-24 months it may take to build one of these yachts from contract signing to delivery, so they buy one of our recently completed vessels or about to be completed vessels at a considerable premium."

Smith explains that most of these sellers simply sign up for another yacht and go to the end of the line from a production standpoint and make out very well financially in the transaction. . "That was the case with the Seahawk owner," Smith said. "He had a brand new 177-ft. tri-deck yacht that some one else simply had to have, so the owner sold it and immediately bought the slightly smaller 150-ft. vessel Mia Elise and renamed it Seahawk. The Mia Elise owner has another 150-ft. vessel that will be delivered this summer and waiting in the wings for late 2004 delivery is the 180-ft. Mia Elise. The owner of the Mia Elise to be delivered this summer will probably sell it when taking delivery of the 180-ft. vessel later next year.

Although the admission price into the world of the megayachts starts around $10-12 million, that is just the beginning. A crew of 6-10 plus maintenance cost adds up very quickly. Some owners charter these vessels when they are not using them to help offset the annual cost, while others are dedicated yachtsmen sailing them all over the world year around.

Late last year Trinity Yachts delivered the 124-ft. Anjilis, a raised cockpit motor yacht. The vessel typifies the emotion that seems to go into many of the vessels the company is now building.

"Too many large yachts are beautiful but impersonal with a sterile interior. …we wanted a romantic little cruise ship," said the wife of the owner. (Like most megayacht owners, the husband and wife of the Anjilis would permit neither last names, nor pictures during the interview. The owners are involved in the construction business somewhere in the U.S.).

"Anjilis is a small, big yacht, with all of the sophisticated systems of our larger yachts" Smith said. The vessel is built to full ABS class and is easily capable of transoceanic crossings on her own bottom.

"We left nothing undone," said the husband " For example, Trinity would offer us several ways of installing a certain system, so we were aware of all of the alternatives and costs."

"As a result of a thorough examination of all aspects of the construction of this yacht, the owners got a yacht with no compromises whatsoever, Smith added.

The Anjilis is 124 ft. long by 26 ft. wide with a draft of only 6.3 ft., allowing the vessel to enter marinas and harbors over the world.

The vessel can travel ay 21 knots powered by a pair of 1,850 hp MTU engines. An 80 hp Quantum bow thruster allows the vessel maneuverability in docking and moving through tight quarters such as marinas. A pair of 55 kW generators supplies ship's power.

Guest accommodations are 11 people in five cabins. There are three cabins for six crew.

Extensive sound deadening systems insure a very quiet vessel….40 dB in the master stateroom when engines and generators are running.

Trinity Yachts has several expansion plans in the near future. A fourth outfitting bay is planned for larger yachts such as the 180-ft. vessel now being fabricated. Additional launch space is also planned.

Trinity can now fabricate the most lavish and fancy woodwork demanded by the owners of these yachts on site. "We can now build anything our suppliers can," Smith said. "We cannot build in the volume they can, but if we need an extra door or additional trim above the contract amount we can fabricate that ourselves rather than delay the job waiting on a supplier," Smith added.

With 10 acres under roof and a total of 38 acres on the site, Trinity has plenty of room for expansion. "We hope we need it," Smith said with a smile.

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