The sight of the 126-meter Octopus belonging to Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen, and the 74-meter Ilona owned by the Westfield Group chairman Frank Lowy nestling among the City’s tower blocks at West India docks, was perhaps the most visible statement of London’s potential.
But the docklands infrastructure did not tick every box in a super-yacht owner’s list of features for an ideal location. While Octopus was moored on Thames Quay in relative privacy, the democratic nature of space allocation meant some owners were more exposed to public gaze.
The Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal cancelled his mooring reservation two weeks before the start of the Olympics when he discovered his yacht would be moored next door to HMS Belfast, a working museum.
Owners also needed to prepare for the experience of negotiating locks. But most seemed to accept it with good grace. Mr. Allen, who had paid £1,500 ($2,428) for the service, tweeted: “Getting Octopus thru London locks a tight squeeze, 1 meter clearance.”
London’s dockland administrators are confident they can make improvements to infrastructure and services for any future super-yacht mooring demand.
“If super-yacht companies thought yachts were coming here long-term, then the infrastructure will come,” said Ben Sutton of MGMT, the global yacht advisory company that provided super-yacht concierge services during the Olympics.
Plans are in place to improve infrastructure at St. Katherine’s Dock, near Tower Bridge.
Arguably better equipped to accommodate super-yachts than West India Dock, it has inbuilt security options, including a protected enclave, gated areas and 24-hour CCTV. There is also an investment plan to improve berthing and the dockside area.
William Bowman, a former consultant at the luxury yachting experts Camper & Nicholsons, has been appointed Marina director to make St Katharine’s Dock “the finest marina in the U.K.”
London’s berthing prices during the Olympics were not cheap. With a minimum booking period of 21 days, an owner of a 60-meter super-yacht paid £5,250 a day. A yacht of more than 100 meters paid £9,500 ($15,300) a day. So Octopus, for example, was paying £66,500 ($107660) a week for its berth, which did not include water and electricity. Against these prices, the notoriously expensive Venice Yacht Pier, which charges £1,580 a day for berths, looks modest by comparison.
Normally, London Docks charges £540 ($875) a week for a 30-meter yacht – which at £18 a meter a week makes it one of the world’s cheapest city marinas.
In contrast, for a yacht of the same size, New York’s Newport Marina charges £2,001 ($3240) a week, and Marina Port Vell, Barcelona, asks £2,100. These prices reflect the five-star luxury services and state-of-the art infrastructure in leading super-yacht marinas.
Beyond the facilities and pricing, a more telling question is the extent to which super-yacht owners will want to visit London in their boats.