Profile: Hong Seh Marine shining in Singapore
Singapore’s Hong Seh Marine represents Ferretti Yachts, Riva, Pershing and Custom Line, plus Boston Whaler, with new yacht sales balanced by thriving brokerage and yacht management divisions.
Hong Seh Marine’s Edward Tan and Della Rugdee on a Ferretti Yachts 780
When Edward Tan and his Hong Seh Marine team settled down for a photo shoot on a Ferretti Yachts 780 in ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, it was a fitting setting. That’s because two units of the newly styled 780 – both sold by Hong Seh Marine last year – are scheduled to arrive in Singapore in August and September, one for an owner upgrading to his third Ferretti Yachts model.
“It’s just a perfect boat for Singapore,” says Tan, who founded Hong Seh Marine in 2008 as a division of the Hong Seh Group, his family’s business that dates back over eight decades in Singapore. “The number of Ferrettis have definitely increased in Singapore in recent years. It’s really become a player in the market – and the size of the yachts have been increasing.”
Hong Seh Marine at the Singapore Yacht Show
Quickly entrenched as one of Singapore’s leading yacht dealers, Hong Seh Marine recently expanded its office at ONE°15 Marina, where the company and Ferretti Group exhibited an impressive display of models during the annual Singapore Yacht Show in the years prior to Covid.
Even before Hong Seh Marine was founded, the Hong Seh Group had a partnership with Riva from the 1990s. But the Tan family’s boating business origins started long before that, in 1936, when Tan’s great-grandfather and grandfather started a ship chandlery on Beach Road.
That company evolved to trade in chemicals, paints and plastics, with Tan’s father Alfred – currently Managing Director of Hong Seh Group – joining in 1966.
Hong Seh Marine’s Riva sales in recent years include a 110’ Dolcevita (above) and a 100’ Corsaro
The luxury lifestyle focus soon emerged after Alfred Tan created Hong Seh Motors in 1982. Initially focused on car rentals and leasing, he soon acquired the Ferrari dealership and added Maserati in 1999, although Hong Seh Motors is now focused on electric vehicles, importing Tesla into Singapore.
Edward joined the family business in 1997, having graduated from the University of Denver. He recalls being sent to learn the trade at the Ferrari dealership in Mill Valley outside San Francisco.
“I went to understand what it’s like to work at a dealership, to get a different perspective away from the family business, and bring that type of operation back to Singapore,” Tan recalls.
In the meantime, Hong Seh had begun a partnership with Riva and famously sold a 70ft Corsaro 20 to the King of Malaysia in the late 1990s. Tan remembers the sale, having joined His Majesty on a trip soon after the boat was delivered.
The balcony of Hong Seh Marine’s office at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove
“It was a fantastic yacht,” Tan says. “I went on the Riva with His Majesty when he was delivering supplies to villagers up a long river. We were fortunate enough to join his entourage on this yacht, deliver the supplies and then head back to Kuala Lumpur.”
MOVING INTO MARINE
After a decade working in the automobile industry, Tan saw an opportunity to add another arm to the family business and founded Hong Seh Marine in 2008 when it became the official dealer for Riva, which had been part of the fast-expanding Ferretti Group since 2000.
“My father always had a passion for cars – performance cars and specialty cars, and I had always thought about what else I could bring into the business,” Tan says. “We’d been used to seeing the luxury lifestyle and large sums of money transacted while selling Ferrari and Maserati. We saw people enjoying the better things in life and being able to afford it.
Hong Seh Marine sold two units of the newly styled Ferretti Yachts 780 last year
“So, after a few years working in the automotive industry, I realised yachting might be interesting to look into because the clientele is similar and we’re always looking for ways for people to enjoy life.”
For Tan, it was a natural move as he’d always been comfortable in water – “I could swim better than I could run” – and had grown up enjoying the sea and watersports.
“Since I was a kid, I’d always liked being in the water, whether swimming, diving, yachting. That led to me wanting to bring that type of lifestyle to our existing customers and a new group of people that could enjoy it.”
Due to his family’s business ties, Tan says Hong Seh Marine has benefited from “a regular bank of clients”, but says he had to learn the yachting industry from scratch to understand what boat owners require and what it takes to retain them as clients.
Edward Tan founded Hong Seh Marine in 2008
“Our thought has always been to provide our customers with the best possible service at any time. No matter where or when, if you need us, we’ll be there,” he says.
“When we started the marine business, I had to learn how to pilot the boat, maintain a boat, get crew, washing, anti-fouling, ship chandling and so on. At that time, we were cleaning our own boats; now, we provide captain and crew. We started from zero, so I know what first-time boaters go through.
“We want people to enjoy yachting, so we see things from the perspective of an end user, which we also are. We want owners to enjoy yachting as an experience. We provide the full infrastructure, so they don’t have to lift a finger.”
Hong Seh Marine made a major move by adding the Ferretti Yachts and Pershing brands to its portfolio in 2013, as Ferretti Group was expanding its presence in the region by opening an Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong.
Pershing sales have included a 74 and the 9X (above), the 92ft X line flagship
“We had been selling Riva for four or five years and felt we wanted to do a little bit more. With Riva, your clients are limited, so we asked Ferretti Group if they’d consider letting us handle other brands,” Tan says.
“Each one has its own characteristic. Riva is the Rolls-Royce of production yachts. Pershing is the ultimate sports car of the seas – high speed, luxurious, a little bit zen. Ferretti Yachts is perfect for bringing friends and family on board to spend quality time. And almost all Ferretti Group boats are Class A certified so we’re not worried when clients travel offshore.”
Hong Seh Marine then underlined its new ambition by opening an office at ONE°15 Marina in 2014. Sales included the Riva 88’ Domino in 2016, while the following year’s sales included Riva’s then flagship 110’ Dolcevita as well as Ferretti Yachts 850, 700, 550 and 450 models.
Hong Seh Marine has expanded its team in recent years
With several of the new owners wanting full-time captains and crew, Hong Seh Marine created a yacht management division in 2017. Crew receive STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) training, and superyacht crew are certified at the Galileo Maritime Academy in Phuket.
The yacht-management department has continued to grow over the years as sales rise, with Tan now defining models between 65-100ft as the stable core of the new-yacht sales division. At the same time, brokerage became increasingly significant as owners frequently looked to upgrade, typically within the Ferretti Group portfolio, explains Della Rugdee, Senior Yacht Broker.
“Owners who buy a Ferretti, for example, will typically upgrade within the brand or even within the Group, such as to a Riva or a Custom Line. This is the power of the Group and what they can provide to our clients,” says Rugdee, who joined Hong Seh Marine in 2016.
Senior Yacht Broker Della Rugdee joined Hong Seh Marine in 2016
“It helps a lot having a Ferretti Group office in Asia because we get real-time responses, so we’re not waiting seven-eight hours for Europe. Many have been with Ferretti Group for many years and based in Asia for a long time. Several speak Mandarin, which helps with a lot of our local clients. Overall, our clients feel they’re being well taken care of not just by the dealer but by the shipyard itself, which is why we have so many repeat clients.”
Tan says the Ferretti Group’s international presence is also key for clients, who may have business interests or residences around the globe.
“Our clients are often Singaporean, residing here or with links to Singapore, although some may be in Malaysia, around Asia or in Europe,” he says.
Custom Line sales have included a Navetta 28, a model succeeded by the new Navetta 30 (pictured)
“They might want to keep a boat in Singapore, the south of France, South Africa, Taiwan or Hong Kong, for example, and because we have a relationship, we assist them. And because we’re a representative of the Ferretti Group, we’re able to link our clients with a wide network as the Group has offices all around the globe.”
Hong Seh Marine’s clients also enjoy attending the Ferretti Group’s famously lavish parties including the annual Private Preview in Monaco, where Elton John, Duran Duran, Sting and Lionel Richie have led the entertainment in recent years.
Along with new model launches and premieres around the world, several clients also attended Ferretti Yachts’ spectacular 50th anniversary in Venice in 2018, featuring an air show by the Italian Air Force.
Hong Seh Marine clients have attended the Ferretti Group Private Preview in Monaco where Lionel Richie performed in 2019
Hong Seh Marine also regularly entertained clients by organising convoy trips to the likes of Indonesia or Malaysia every few months, although that has been curtailed during Covid.
The company even expanded its ONE°15 Marina office in 2019, an overall reflection of the steady growth in staff, crew, business divisions and yacht sales. Even during Covid, demand for new yachts has been solid, although sales in Singapore have been limited by stock, with Hong Seh Marine already ordering units for 2022.
However, with residents confined to Singapore, a new generation of boat buyers has emerged, which has bolstered the brokerage market and introduced more clients to the dealer. Before Covid, the revenue split between new and pre-owned sales was 50/50, but now brokerage is dominant, Rugdee says, with the company even selling boats to other parts of Asia and Europe.
Hong Seh Marine has represented Ferretti Yachts since 2013 and last year sold a new 670
“Brokerage is big-volume sales for us. People want to buy a boat and use it right now,” she says. “A lot of new local owners have just got their licence while repeat clients are upgrading with us and some have even expanded their fleet. People buying 30-40-footers are buying from the existing market and the sellers are moving up to 40-50ft.
“We’ve seen younger-generation parents wanting to bring boating and the watersports culture to their kids at a young age and families engage with us because we can take them out on small 20-30ft boats.”
It has been 13 years since Tan founded Hong Seh Marine and Covid has seen his clientele further diversify from solely the owners of the ‘Rolls-Royce of production yachts’, while the recent acquisition of a charter boat, Partybus (see below), is further evidence of a company prepared to evolve.
Hong Seh Marine is Singapore’s leading home-grown yacht dealer
“The Covid period has been good for the yachting industry overall,” he says. “Previously, yachting was seen as more exclusive. Now, you have everybody trying a boat, with people seeing if this lifestyle interests them. I think it has been an eye-opening experience for the people who have never tried it before. They’ve dipped their toes in the water, so in that sense it has been good.”
Note: Hong Seh Marine recently acquired its first charter boat, Partybus. For details, see Issue 60’s special feature on charter – the Singapore chapter will soon be published online.
Two units of the restyled Ferretti Yachts 780 are scheduled to arrive in Singapore through Hong Seh Marine.