Mohammed Alshaali on Gulf Craft’s big ambitions
As co-founder and Chairman of Gulf Craft, Alshaali has steadily developed the UAE shipyard into a global brand, yet by 2025 he wants it to be among the world’s top five superyacht builders, he reveals in an exclusive interview with Yacht Style.
Mohammed Alshaali co-founded Gulf Craft in 1982
With Gulf Craft turning 40 in 2022, how do you feel the company is positioned today?
In the past 40 years, we have carried the UAE flag all over the world, proudly displaying and selling our vessels as ‘Made in the UAE’. We have reached a stage where we see every marina in the world displaying a Gulf Craft boat.
We have started planning our 40th-anniversary celebrations and are looking forward to an exciting year. Our sights are set on further expansion of our product range and international presence, with an aim to be one of the top five superyacht builders by 2025.
How has the company evolved from humble beginnings to appearing regularly in the top 10 and top 20 of the Global Order Book for superyachts in recent years?
When we launched Gulf Craft in 1982, there was no marine infrastructure or skilled labour force available in the UAE. We were not able to turn to local suppliers for support.
Majesty Yachts is Gulf Craft’s flagship brand
Our shipyard is vertically integrated, which means that we manufacture almost all components of our products in-house, except for major machinery. This was borne out of necessity but became one of our greatest assets as it has allowed us to control each level of our manufacturing process and assure an optimum level of quality.
How has Covid-19 affected your business and operations?
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many challenges as well as opportunities for us. At one point, the global supply chain had ceased completely, making it very difficult to receive materials from overseas.
Reduced manpower due to social distancing continues to be a challenge, but our operations team worked tirelessly to keep the shipyard up and running throughout the year and successfully delivered two superyachts at the height of the pandemic.
The new Majesty 175 is Gulf Craft’s biggest-ever yacht
Towards the end of 2020, we started to see demand pick up for boats and yachts of all sizes, with many people choosing boating as an ideal way to escape the confines of a lockdown. What better way to socially distance safely with your family than out on the water!
And despite the challenges of the pandemic, in late 2020 Gulf Craft proudly launched and sea-trialled our flagship Majesty 175, the world’s largest composite yacht in production today.
Which are Gulf Craft’s major regional markets?
While the Gulf remains our home and core market, over the last 10 years we have been focused heavily on our global expansion. Gulf Craft products are now proudly displayed around the world in all major markets, including Australia, Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean.
The Majesty 140 was displayed at the Fort Lauderdale show in 2019
In 2019, we began to push heavily into the United States and were honoured with the award for ‘Best in Show’ for our Majesty 140 during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
How does Asia fit into Gulf Craft’s target markets?
Gulf Craft sees Hong Kong and Southeast Asia as key markets in our global expansion strategy. We recognise a lot of growth opportunities in the region and the appointments of Farfalla Marine in Hong Kong and several Southeast Asian markets as well as B Yachts in Singapore mark important steps towards that goal.
Alongside your role as Chairman, Gulf Craft has had several changes of CEO since the departure of Erwin Bamps, from Gregory Yeakle to your daughter Abeer as Acting CEO and
now Talal Abdin Nasralla. What are the new CEO’s strengths and what are the biggest changes you hope he can implement?
Talal Abdin Nasralla, who joined the company late last year as Chief Strategy Officer, now has the mandate to implement the company’s new global growth strategy with a focus on strengthening its continued development and capabilities. He had previously been director of private banking at Barclays PLC and worked as director at Credit Suisse AG. He was also director of the Executive Office at Shuaa Capital.
Talal Nasralla, CEO of Gulf Craft
Abeer Alshaali will assume the role of Deputy Managing Director. She will extend guidance to the executive management team and oversee the expansion of the company’s network in the US, Europe and other key markets.
How do you enjoy working with your daughter, now Deputy Managing Director?
While our strategy is to continue to expand operations, move into new markets and broaden our range to fill the needs of all boaters, Gulf Craft is a family business at its core. Many members of our team have been with us for over 25 years and are instrumental in our continued growth and development.
Abeer Alshaali is now Deputy Managing Director
Abeer has been a part of the Gulf Craft family since her childhood. Boating is in her blood and she is fully prepared to fulfil my vision for the company’s future. She will also oversee the expansion of the company’s network in the US, Europe and other key markets.
How does it feel to finally launch the flagship Majesty 175?
We started building the Majesty 175 four years ago. We continued our commitment to build and produce high-quality, world-class yachts and received a great response from buyers from various regions.
Gulf Craft premieres Majesty 175
The UAE builder showed the world’s largest composite production superyacht in public for the first time at Dubai Harbour.
At 780GT, the Majesty 175 is the world’s largest composite production yacht and redefines the industry’s expectations on what can be achieved using advanced composite materials. This yacht cements Gulf Craft’s position as an industry leader in innovation and technology. We look forward to delivering the Majesty 175 to her owner, a prominent Emirati businessman, later this year.
What led Gulf Craft to focus on all-electrical systems – apart from the engines and generators – on the first Majesty 120, which was recently delivered to its owner?
At Gulf Craft we focus heavily on product development and innovation. We are committed to the environment and focusing on the future and sustainability, so we continue to introduce new technologies such as solar energy and electric propulsion.
The first Majesty 120 passes the new Ain Dubai observation wheel
Moreover, we have introduced advanced materials in our production including adding materials such as Kevlar and carbon-fibre to our building process.
Aside from your flagship brand Majesty, which of Gulf Craft’s ranges do you think has the most potential to grow in Asia?
With five brands in the portfolio building products ranging from 31-175ft, Gulf Craft manufactures yachts and boats that appeal to a wide audience such as Touring passenger vessels, Silvercraft family day boats, Oryx Sport Cruisers, Nomad explorer yachts and the flagship Majesty Yachts.
The Nomad 95 is the flagship of the Nomad range
With the diversity in Asia, there is a market for each of our products in certain regions, but I particularly see growth opportunities for the Nomad range, since they offer comfortable long-range cruising, which is ideal for exploring the region.
How do you believe the UAE has handled Covid and do you think the country is able to bounce back in the industry with the Dubai International Boat Show and Expo 2021, whenever these events can be held?
All sectors around the world have been affected by the pandemic. However, the United Arab Emirates is considered one of the top countries in terms of addressing the crisis. Considering these unprecedented circumstances, acting quickly helped support the local economy. The UAE has set an example in how to manage a crisis of global proportions.
Gulf Craft’s Oryx 379
Amid the pandemic, our main goal has been the safety of our personnel and preparing the company for future growth and development. While we always have new projects underway, much of our energy is focused on showcasing the Majesty 175. This yacht cements Gulf Craft’s position as an industry leader in innovation and technology.
Expo 2021 (currently scheduled for October 1, 2021-March 31, 2022) is a great opportunity for us to showcase Dubai, while bringing together the international community to promote innovations in sustainability and mobility. Highlighting the UAE industry and ‘Made in UAE’ products during the event will solidify the country as a frontrunner in technology and commerce.
Alshaali is Chairman of Gulf Craft, which he co-founded in 1982 and developed into the Middle East’s most prolific yacht and superyacht builder. He has held many international roles including UAE’s ambassador to the USA, ambassador to the Security Council, representative at the UN European Office in Geneva, and finally Minister of State for Foreign Affairs before retiring in 2008 and dedicating himself to Gulf Craft. Its dealers in Asia include Farfalla Marine (Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), B Yachts (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia) and Go Boating Thailand (for Silvercraft and Utility Series).
Note: The original article appeared in Yacht Style Issue 59 (May-Jun 2021)
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