World is No Longer Your Oyster

Up until earlier this week, the future for Oyster Marine the company that builds blue water cruising yachts, looked rather rosy. At the Dusseldorft Boat Show the company spoke proudly of its £80million-plus order book

Today mystery surrounds why the firm has closed its doors and laid off workers.

Talk of liquidation and of backers pulling the plug on the steady flow of cash are circulating and many in the yachting industry are suggesting that behind it is the loss of the Oyster 825 Polina Star III in July 2015.

No lives were lost when that yacht sank off the coast of Spain but her Russian owner was a bit miffed when the keel fell off. The hull was later recovered from the seabed and Oyster Yachts worked on it with independent experts reviewing the design and concentrating on the construction of the keel

The company said at the time ‘The objective of this work was to establish beyond doubt how and why the loss occurred, the first of its kind in Oyster’s long history. First, it is important to note that the Oyster 825 design took into account Classification Society Rules and other standards and has been independently verified. Secondly, our inspection of the other 825s (not including Polina Star III) highlighted a possible weakness in the process used to build the inner structure of those vessels. This process has not been used on any other Oyster Yacht built over the last ~40 years and will not be used again.’

Oyster Yachts had been acquired by a Dutch investment firm HTP Investments BV (HTP) three years before the incident involving Polina Star III and it has been suggested that the builders current financial problems stem from their sudden withdrawing of cash needed for the every day running of the company

Founded by Richard Matthews in 1973, the company did not initially build it’s own yachts. Matthews sold the operation to the private equity company Balmoral Capital for about £70 million in 2008. That acquisition included Oyster Marine Ltd, Oyster Brokerage Ltd and Southampton Yacht Services Ltd. Four years later Balmoral sold the group for a reported £15 million. The company now has a boat building yard at Hoveton, Norwich, with offices in Fox’s Marina Ipswich, Palma Majorca and Newport, USA

Jim Pugh, of US-based yacht design studio Reichel Pugh had reported that his firm was in discussion with Oyster Marine to create Project Alpha, a concept that would have taken Oyster into new territory on the superyacht racing circuit.

Despite what is being reported on other yachting websites the evidence is that the company is not in administration but there is clear evidence of job losses

Speaking to the BBC David Tydeman, the chief executive at Oyster Yachts said: “We’re just working with advice on all the possible options we can explore.” He confirmed, “The Company has been unable to secure financial support to enable it to continue at this time and is looking at all opportunities available.

The number of job losses at each site is yet to be confirmed, the BBC has reported that 160 staff based at Saxon Wharf, Southampton and 10 at, Ipswich, are among those facing redundancy.