Charter Broker Role During Coronavirus Crisis

In a situation that no Charter Broker could have imagined just a short time ago, the ongoing COVID-19 global health crisis has created an exceptional amount of disruption to summer travel plans for yacht charterers worldwide.

While the need for flexibility has been unavoidable, many charter brokers continue to work tirelessly to ensure that their clients feel as minimal impact as possible.

Among them, Ocean Independence a full-service superyacht brokerage company, specialising in yacht sales, charter, new build and management. 

many charter brokers continue to work tirelessly

The coronavirus is serving to highlight that now, more than ever, a dedicated and knowledgeable broker can offer an unparalleled level of support that an online or direct booking site simply cannot. From negotiating a penalty-free postponement or cancellation to offering remote support to those in the unfortunate situation of already being on board when charter plans are disrupted, a yacht broker will deliver unparalleled advice and support.

Rebecca Pattinson

At Ocean Independence Senior Charter Broker Rebecca Pattinson reports, “Although many clients had not yet booked their summer charter when the pandemic hit, she has been extremely busy helping those who had made early bookings.”  She adds, “I spoke with every single Owner and Client who had booked early and we have agreement in all cases agreed that clients can postpone their charters without penalties, if and when we realise that is what has to happen.”

Happy to rearrange

While many clients are happy to rearrange their vacations until later in the season, event charters pose an additional challenge. From private individuals and event companies to major F1 Teams, almost everyone who had booked a yacht for the Monaco Grand Prix suffered loss when the event was cancelled.

almost everyone who had booked a yacht for the Monaco Grand Prix suffered loss

“Thanks to my industry experience and the reputation of Ocean Independence, I was successful in postponing or cancelling all contracts to 2021 without penalties. This was a remarkable achievement for a unique situation and shows the strong moral foundation on which this industry is built. Every Owner and broker have been understanding of the situation and acted in such good faith to find solutions when, contractually, there was no obligation to do so.  Every client has thanked me for negotiating on their behalf and we move forwards with stronger relationships and are already looking forward to Monaco F1 2021.”

Another scenario saw charterers already on board as the number of coronavirus cases spread outside of China. “Near the beginning, I had one client who chose to return home a day early to U.S. from the Bahamas for fear he may not be allowed back in later,” says U.S. Head of Charter Daphne D’Offay, “And of course we were ready to help facilitate this change in plans.”

Booking a charter

For those contemplating booking a charter for later in the season but unsure as to when travel restrictions will be lifted and seeing the industry back running as normal, many yachts are now offering an addendum to their charter agreements offering postponement, cancellation or both. However, this does vary yacht-by-yacht and charter brokers are helping clients to navigate any negotiations that are necessary to secure their preferred yacht with reduced risk.

From an Owner’s perspective, charter managers are proving just as critical in the current climate. Most yacht owners are understanding of the exceptional circumstances that the pandemic has generated. They are communicating with charter managers to create adapted agreements that offer maximum flexibility to charter clients while minimising their own financial blow – both on future charters and those already booked.

Daphne D’Offay commented further, “It has been easy for the public to generalise that all yacht owners are unaffected by this crisis however, as with other global businesses, the impact among yacht owners has been varied. Some yachts have had to let crew go, while others have kept them on full or partial pay. Some are just harder hit than others, but whatever the situation, it is my job to ensure that an Owner’s wishes and financial needs are met as much as is currently possible.”

Nobody can say for sure what lies ahead for the summer 2020 season, but most charter broker and management companies are staying on top of all developments, in order to best advise all involved on potential locations and timings. 

Ocean Independence has the largest crewed charter fleet in the world and a team that combines more years of marine expertise than any other brokerage company globally. Founded in 2005, the company operates from 15 offices around the world, with staff speaking 24 different languages.