CRUISE CONTROL

Turkey 2011 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mehmet Karabeyoğlu, Partner at Proteksan Turquoise Yachts, about the future of luxury yacht building in Turkey.

Mehmet Karabeyoğlu
BIOGRAPHY
Mehmet Karabeyoğlu was educated in England as a Mechanical Engineer and founded Turquoise Yachts in the early 1990s. The company later merged with Proteksan to create Proteksan Turquoise yachts. He has been interested in sailboat racing since a young age, and owns the World Super Yacht Awards nominated 32.8-meter sloop JAZZ Jr.

Could you tell us about the origins of Proteksan Turquoise Yachts?

The company is a joint venture between two companies: Proteksan and Turquoise. Turquoise was my company and Proteksan was my partner's company. My partner's father started building yachts in the 1970s and he built several yachts for the European market. I started building yachts in 1990 and delivered the first boat to an American owner. Thirteen years ago we joined forces and formed one company. Since then we have produced about 13 boats together, and we also have some six under construction. The average size has been around 55 meters. Our companies were similar in nature and the combined force of the new company has improved our order book considerably compared to our European competitors. During the last few years it has been established that our quality is higher than companies in Europe, and this has promoted our sales tremendously.

Turkey is one of the largest producers of mega yachts in the world, what is behind the success?

Turkey is now a major player in yacht construction for the simple reason that there is a tradition of building boats here. According to Showboats International, Turkey is number three in the world after Italy and the US. Since even before the Ottoman period, vessels have been built in these lands and this tradition has continued on from generation to generation. This has afforded us ample craftsmanship; coupled with lower labor costs and good entrepreneurial skills, these make Turkey a leader in quality yacht building. We maintain our position in defiance of the low cost of labor in the Far East as we are much closer to our markets. Therefore, we have more orders and have developed our skills much further than others.

Who are Proteksan Turquoise Yacht's main competitors?

We haven't traditionally targeted the Turkish market, and so our competitors are international. Our main competition lies in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and the US. There are lots of wealthy people in Turkey, yet many of them are not looking to buy yachts. When they do, Turkish buyers prefer to go for foreign products. We find our buyers in the British market as well as in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. We have clients from Israel, Kazakhstan, England, Italy, Switzerland, and the US.

How developed are marina facilities in Turkey?

Turkey's marinas are superior to facilities in Europe. Their quality outdoes all facilities around the Mediterranean because they are newer and more modern. We have a high capacity, and the government is working on providing even more land for marinas.

When you take an order, how closely do you work with the client on the design of a yacht?

This varies entirely depending on the client. Some owners buy an existing design from us so they can then tweak the interior. Some will come with their own design. Sometimes, they will accept our platform to build on, but they will have their own designs to modify it according to their own wishes. Some of the boats that we have under construction have been designed totally in house by our dedicated design team. We also often outsource the design to offices around Turkey. We are committed to our clients and accommodate their needs entirely.

You are currently working on a 74-meter boat designed by Andrew Winch. How is this project progressing?

The design stage is finished and we will build the hull until the superstructure. It has been on the market for the last few months and we are receiving serious enquiries. Before the hull is finished it will most probably be sold. We will wait to build the superstructure until we have an owner so they have the chance to modify it if they wish to do so. It is a beautiful design and an exciting project for the company.

How did you see the global economic crisis affect the industry?

The industry in general has been very adversely affected. Some shipyards went out of business due to a lack of clients. In the years preceding the crisis there was big demand and not enough supply. Many new shipyards came into the picture and obtained business. Unfortunately, this is not sustainable as those clients are just not there anymore. People would order boats and the shipyard would speculatively sell on for those who did not want to remain four to five years on a waiting list. Shipyards around the world now have the capacity to begin building immediately. It was a builder's market and now it is a client's market. Buyers now have more choices and can search for the best price. However, we have not suffered. I attribute this to our fantastic reputation and superb quality.

Proteksan Turquoise Yachts' Pendik facility is supported by subsidiary Çelik Yat, which constructs hulls and superstructures. How are you utilizing the expanded capacity that this brings?

Proteksan Turquoise Yachts' facility in Istanbul's Pendik has a capacity of four yachts up to 80 meters in length. Presently Çelik Yat, located in Gölcük, works to produce hulls and superstructures for Proteksan Turquoise Yachts only. This allows us an even greater production capacity. However, we are seeking European builders so that we can supply them partly completed yachts from that facility. This will allow us to fully utilize our extended capacity and also help to bring down our partner's costs.

Is there any demand for more traditional Turkish wooden ships?

There is more and more demand as they are very comfortable, and are built and maintained easily. They are also less expensive. I see them increasingly in European marinas. However we do not construct that kind of boat, rather we focus on metal, steel, and aluminum superstructures. We are aiming to compete with the best mega-yacht yards around the world. Of course, if a client wants a Turkish feel to a boat, we are more than happy to give the interior design a little Oriental touch.

What has been your personal favorite yacht?

We produced a smallish 42-meter yacht for a Turkish client; it was then sold to Johnny Depp. That yacht was very different from the others as it had an Edwardian 1920s style. It's now called Vajoliroja.

Have you had any other famous clients?

Yes, we produced two boats for Formula One boss Bernie Eccleston. After we built him the first boat we became very well acquainted. This led him to bring Formula One to Turkey. He has done great things for us and we are very grateful. We built another boat for an associate of his. We believe the prestige he has brought our company has helped us to gain more clients. He speaks highly of us and of Turkey.