TBY What have been some of Yachtley’s signature projects since the company’s inception in 2005?
ALİ FATİH BEDİR We’ve finished the biggest mega-yacht ever built in Turkey, the 65-meter Nourah of Riyadh, designed for a Saudi prince. It was handed over by Minister Kürşad Tüzmen on April 2009. At the owner’s request, the 65-meter Nourah of Riyadh was refitted to 70 meters in 2011. This refit work started in September 2010 and was finished on May 10, 2011. Now, the 70-meter Nourah of Riyadh is at berth in its home port of Cannes. In addition to this project we have carried out a 40-meter refit work for a Middle Eastern owner in 2010, and now we’re building a 76-meter mega yacht for another Middle Eastern owner. Our mother company Fal Holding, based in Saudi Arabia, includes close to 100 companies, diversified in energy, technology, logistics, health care, real estate, agriculture, travel, and other production business sectors around the world. Here in Turkey, in addition to the construction and furniture businesses, we mainly work on commercial ship construction, military projects, refit jobs, and mega-yacht building, all of which require a high level of expertise. Our quality, safety, and environmental policies are certified by Lloyd’s and we follow international quality standards. Since most of our top personnel have international expertise and experience in management, our company’s decision process and its success percentage is higher than other companies in Turkey. Since the crisis, the ship building industry in Turkey went through a process of introspection. Decision processes, marketing approaches, production vision, and most of all crisis management are some of the factors that the shipbuilding industry has been trying to understand lately. It is changing fast after the crisis and better standards are being adopted by Turkish shipyards to increase their competitiveness.
We had some advantages during these times because of the vision and experience that we managed to draw from the diversity of our holding group. We mainly focused on our organization level and the crucial steps that we need to take to be ready for any event and to take advantages of any occasion. These steps led us to develop the biggest floating dock in Turkey for refit projects. In addition, we started a joint venture company in painting to take advantage of international refit work by having the most valuable and well-known painting company in Europe on our side. We boast a software joint venture as well that helps us streamline and professionalize our production process, and we’re hoping to sell it to other countries.
Why did Fal Holding choose Turkey?
Turkey is always adapting and changing and improving conditions for foreign investment and business. Everyone has seen the change over the last 10 years, and it’s been remarkable. The government has especially sought to entice Middle Eastern investors. Having found a mega-yacht customer, we decided to open up the company in Turkey and use the Kocaeli Free Zone, which is advantageous in terms of tax and costs. It was all built in five years. We’ve almost finished two yachts, and completely finished two refit projects. The other reason for making such an investment in Turkey is that it is emerging as a hub in the region and it’s profitable to be here. We work in many segments and we have a high degree of trust from the government, and so Turkey is a good place to base the business.
What is the size of your production facilities?
We have a 102,800-meter-square facility, making us the biggest in the Kocaeli Free Zone. We have the biggest covered shed area for yachts—over 26,000 square meters—and the biggest covered production hangar, which is 120 meters by 30 meters and is 32 meters height. For us to step up to this level is very important. We have been analyzing the market and the industry for over five years, and we have a team of specialists who can evaluate what is coming and how we can be ready for it. Through this analysis, we decided to offer what is not being offered to be able to increase our market share. Such services include a covered shed for refit work and painting for safety and environmental issues as well as high quality levels. Our steel and aluminum cutting techniques represent the highest level of technological investment. We also continue to grow. We’re investing an additional €1 million in our furniture department. That’s very important for drawing customers, because they place a great deal of importance in our professionalism.
Is the furniture department for the local market or for the international market?
It’s for the international market. We started off making furniture for our mega-yachts, but are now also producing for special projects in the Middle East. Some of the projects we are working on are in the construction segment. Spreading investments has good potential advantages for branching out into other projects.
What is Turkey’s potential for becoming a major player in yacht building?
We have a big potential, but compared to countries like the Netherlands, Germany, or Italy, where companies have over 30 years experience with mega-yachts, Turkey has only begun being spoken about since 2000. Now the mega-yacht sector here is of the utmost professionalism and quality, and is a viable competitor. Government regulations have changed. Companies have stepped up to the plate. Quality is key here, and also trust. A person willing to spend millions of euros on a luxury yacht is not going to take any chances or seek to cut any corners. So you have to offer the best there is to offer at the best cost possible. That being said, cost has become a factor in the past three or four years, and so Turkey, where production costs are cheaper, has stood out and gained more of the share in the global mega-yacht business.
What’s your expectation for the mega-yacht market in general?
The 2008 crisis had an effect on the market, but the effect didn’t last too long and now things are picking up. In 2008-2009 there would’ve been only 20 yachts built in Europe. Now there are big orders being made in Europe and Turkey for 2012. For that reason, I’m very optimistic. Being from a finance background, I’m very rarely optimistic. I am optimistic about our marketing approaches, and the results of our tactical investment steps. We will start our third yacht at the end of 2011 and then another one in 2012.
What’s your long-term vision?
It’s limitless due to our holding company. We are the only company in Turkey that didn’t experience the ill effects of the financial crisis. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to generate profit—we do have to—and we do generate profit. But we have that security behind us.
We hope to become a top five player with our financial strength in the next five to eight years, and we also plan to be on the stock market in that same period. Our investments in quality also have this stock market goal in mind. Our other goal is to be a key player in military projects as well. We will also acquire more land in the Free Zone, and we also have 206,000 square meters of land in Yalova. The extra capacity should cover more military projects as well as mega-yachts, refits, and also commercial ships.
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