|Simpson Marine celebrates 30 years on the water|
Simpson Marine has a team of more than 100 staff and provides a wide range of yacht services throughout Asia being the exclusive dealer for many of the world's leading yacht brands in the region. The company also offers awardwinning after-sales service and maintenance across the Asian region. But how did the company get started? Mike Simpson graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in 1964 and served until 1971, resigning with the rank of captain, whereupon he took a decade-long sailing and mountaineering sabbatical through Africa and the Americas.
The humble beginnings of Simpson Marine started with Mike building his own boat in Taiwan and setting sail for new adventures. Soon after he was given an offer he could not refuse to purchase that boat and the pattern continued until Mike realized there was a business to be made in boat building. He started as an operator of a yacht charter company (Charterboats Ltd) and a distributor for two Taiwanese shipyards, delivering boats to customers in Singapore and Hong Kong. He then took steps to secure a few name brands when no one in Europe was even thinking about Asia.
Mike formally established Simpson Marine Ltd in Hong Kong in 1984. In 1986, Beneteau became the first production boat Simpson Marine distributed, and Simpson had a lot of early success with the Beneteau monohulls; then in 1987 the company took on motor yachts forming a significant tie-up with the Azimut/Benetti group, the world's leading luxury motoryacht company. Subsequently, Simpson signed deals with Sea Ray (USA), Lagoon (France) and Nautors Swan (Finland).
"Mike didn't set out to conquer Asia, he just wanted to be the best and the business just grew organically; he kept meeting people, and first he branched out into Malaysia, selling yachts to influential people during the 80s and 90s," Paul Whelan explains. "In 1995, Kuala Lumpur became the second office Simpson opened outside of Hong Kong. Now we have offices in 7 countries (Singapore opened in 2000, Thailand in 2003, Taiwan in 2004, China in 2008, and Jakarta in 2011 and Bali in 2012)."
Paul is Simpson Marine's regional GM for Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hailing from Sydney, he grew up with small boats and a Hobie Cat that Paul learned to sail on. He always had boats in his backyard and always wanted to be in the marine industry.
Paul brings 27 years of marine industry experience to Simpson. He has hands-on experience in virtually all aspects of the industry, starting as a shipwright's apprentice for timber boats and classics, eventually doing wooden boat restoration in Sydney. He then spent nine years in the superyacht industry where he met his wife, who was also crewing on a superyacht. When the couple decided to marry, they realized they couldn't raise a family while crewing on separate superyachts, so Paul and his new wife moved back to Australia where for a decade he ran his own leisure marine and supply business. Today, the couple has three children including young twins.
A qualified Master Class IV Captain, Paul has logged extensive sea miles with multiple Transatlantic and Indian Ocean crossings, Mediterranean and Caribbean cruising and periods in Asia onboard 60m+ yachts. After the successful sale of his business in Australia, Paul was looking for a fresh challenge when he was referred to Simpson Marine. He says he is "very excited to be part of such a respected company and to play an integral role in its ongoing success." Having firsthand experience in the yachting hubs of Florida, the south of France and Sydney, Paul can see the huge growth potential and attraction of the pristine cruising grounds available in Asia and the growing desire of Asians to live the boating lifestyle.
"When we go into a market we do so for the long term," Paul says. "We make a point to start a local company, we employ locals, we set up a service department and help build recreational yachting in that market—we are not briefcase brokers. Mike's vision has always been to introduce more people to yachting and to become the best full-service provider in Asia. We are very focused on Asia, we know our strengths are here and we are not thinking of spreading beyond Asia (though the company did have an office in Monaco from 2000-2006.)
"Southeast Asia is a good, steady market with Singapore being the keystone. Hong Kong and Singapore are our core areas, as in terms of Asia, they are mature markets. We do see steady sales in both markets despite a shortage of berths, which is becoming an issue. The markets that surround Singapore (Malaysia and Indonesia) are growth markets. Thailand is a relatively mature market too; there's excellent infrastructure, good marinas, contractors, service providers, and competition, of course, it's all there. There's also good growth and increased interest in yachting from Thais.
"We now see significant amounts of Russians in Thailand; we are probably the first leisure marine company in Thailand to invest in the Russian market as we now have Russian-speaking staff and brokers to cater to that market. We've seen a bit of a shift in the market in Thailand, traditionally it has been a strong expat market with Europeans or Australians who kept houses there. Now, we are seeing less Europeans (particularly Scandinavians and Germans) and seeing instead an increasing number of regional expats, Asians, who may have their principle residence in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or even China, but they now have a house and a yacht in Thailand. "Last year, we had our best year ever in Thailand in terms of the number of boats sold. Lagoon catamarans, in particular, are a great crossover brand and a perfect boat for this region because of their volume, space, length, ease of sailing, and they are economical to run. If you want to charter them, the return on your investment is quite good."
Simpson Marine has set up a separate stand-alone charter company in Thailand – Simpson Yacht Charter, employing an experienced French charter manager. The charter base is at Ao Po Marina with Lagoon Catamarans in the charter fleet, ranging from 40ft to 62ft. It has three boats registered for Thai charter and another three for international charter.
"We've recently made a decision to take on Monte Carlo Yachts in South East Asia," Paul says. "This is an Italian company, owned by Beneteau Group, based in Monfalcone, Italy and with Italian management and craftsmanship, which when combined with Beneteau, the largest production boatbuilder in the world, makes for a great partnership. Monte Carlo Yachts have created a highly efficient way of building a boat saving both time and money with a much better use of space. We are very excited to be introducing this brand to Thailand and South East Asia, it fits very well with our portfolio, and our 25-year partnership with the Beneteau Group."
Monte Carlo Yachts range includes a Monte Carlo Yachts 65 (launched Sept 2011), a Monte Carlo Yachts 70 (launched in Sept 2012), a Monte Carlo Yachts 76 (launched in Sept 2012) and an Monte Carlo Yachts 86, which was launched at the Cannes Yacht Show last year.
With this Monte Carlo Yachts acquisition Simpson Marine continues to grow, prosper and diversify its dealership three decades on. www.simpsonmarine.com