Christophe Ceard: Founding Member and Current Vice Chairman of APSA
APSA: When did you join APSA, and why?
Christophe: It was Spring 2011, and Colin Dawson was starting up the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association (APSA). It was an initiative to connect the yachting industry in Asia, and Colin asked me if I would be interested to join and support. At the time, I was the Owner’s Rep of m/y SALUZI - back then it was the largest yacht permanently based in the region, and the yachting scene was very different ‘back then’.
The initiative made so much sense: to have more communication between all of us in Asia - and most importantly to start to promote the Asia-Pacific region as a destination in its own right - so I didn’t think it twice about joining. Like I said, the landscape of yachting was very different then. Asia-Pacific was not on the radar as a cruising destination as it is now.
APSA: What led you to work in the Superyacht industry, and how has your business evolved in recent years?
Christopher: I was working initially in the high-speed ferry business for a Hong Kong based company with operations between HK-Macau, in the Philippines, Spain, France, and the Caribbean.
From there in 2005, I gradually moved on to work directly for the family owners of the group, starting to manage a fleet of private yachts. I was also dealing with projects in property and hospitality. I guess I started in the superyacht industry more or less by accident, coming from a background of ferry and hospitality operations.
I was in charge of the group’s marine operations for almost 15 years, moving between the Med and the Caribbean, and spending time in Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2015, I moved to yacht management for third parties, instead of strictly the family office. It is amazing to see how the business has developed and grown over the last few years, and great to see that the perception of the Asia-Pacific has changed in term of yacht operation and cruising (aside from the current Covid 19 situation of course)!
APSA: What is the focus of your work and experience in the superyacht industry?
Christopher: For the last 20 years the focus of my work has been on the operational management side of things together with new builds and large refit projects. This includes a large scope of activities, responsibilities and liabilities: from crew employment to procurement, from safety management, compliance and logistics to marina liaison, cruising and technical maintenance, and including insurance, financial management and financing. It’s a wide area of operations! I have substantial experience operating in the Asia-Pacific, whether in cruising management or dealing with shipyards. Specific knowledge and the right network and connections are essential in our field.
APSA: What area of the superyacht industry has been your speciality?
Christopher: Above all, I enjoy ‘new build’ or large refit projects. This comes from my family office background - I really enjoy the 360˚ aspect of the projects, not only in purely technical terms, but also the financial, business concept, and marketing threads, etc. In term of use of technology and innovative services, there are so many new concepts and services to be considered for yachting. The yachting industry is a permanent source of fascination, and we are working on some wonderfully vibrant projects right now… and now is a good time to change from some of our traditional business practices and become more innovative and more efficient.
The industry is becoming increasingly professional at all levels, which is both necessary and very welcome. This is what we try to deliver daily to our clients and owners as part of a commercial vessel group. There are a great many cost controls, and efficiency needs to be improved in both building and operating a yacht. Of course, Asian clients are highly receptive to cost-saving suggestions!
APSA: What interests to you have outside of the yachting industry?
Christophe: I am actually from a mountain region, so while enjoying working everyday with boats, I also enjoy my private time in the mountains, even if outdoor pursuits such as hiking and skiing are necessarily limited right now.
APSA: Where are you based now, and what do you enjoy about Hong Kong?
Christophe: I have been based in Hamburg, Germany for the past five years. I do miss the more intense connection with Asia and of course Hong Kong. However, coming back to APSA, it is great to now be able to represent APSA in Europe and assist in connecting Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Let’s hope that we will all be able to travel more easily, everywhere, soon!
APSA: What is your Business/Management style?
Christophe: I would say that my style is “straightforward and to the point”, but always with a sense of humour. This is why I did and still do enjoy working in Asia, especially with the UHNWI in Asia. The relationship is much more straightforward compared to Europe, especially in terms of communication and formalities. So, I guess that even being in Europe and being European, I have been much influenced on this style from Hong Kong, where I enjoyed the efficiency.
APSA: What is your vision for APSA?
Christophe: I have been intensively involved with APSA the last ten years, and it would be great to have another generation picking up the reins! The journey has not been easy, and is definitely not right now, but I would like to think that APSA had made a contribution towards the growth of yachting in the Asia-Pacific. My vision for APSA is that it can grow to another level, especially in term of members and being able to exert more influence in the region. Lobbying and local regulations are important, but my ultimate vision is that APSA would be a key non-profit Association in the future, keeping it real and relevant, and without too much stiff formality.
Christophe Ceard is Managing Director of Swiss Ocean, the yachting arm of Columbia Ship Management, one of largest vessel managers in the world.