21 September 2017Last updated

Features | People

Behzad Saberi: the yacht broker

Behzad Saberi, 34, CEO and founder of Dubai-based MBC Yachts, on the superyacht lifestyle, quick trips to the Maldives and surprise percussion performances…

By Mike Peake
11 Apr 2016 | 09:49 am
  • Source:Supplied Image 1 of 3
  • Yachts today come with a high-tech cinema, four to five cabins with Fendi interiors, and a jacuzzi, says Behzad.

    Source:Supplied Image 2 of 3
  • Source:Supplied Image 3 of 3

How did you get into this, Behzad?

When I was 14 I decided I’d love to become a ship’s captain. I was living in Iran and visited a refrigerator ship there, and after I got talking to the people on board I decided to study for a naval life and went to university. When I graduated I did some sailing on big ships and came to visit Dubai about 10 years ago, where I was offered a job with a company involved in ship-building and management. I gradually became more and more interested in the luxury sector and superyachts, so I started MBC in 2013.

What’s the demand like at the moment?

It’s definitely growing. I believe Dubai is a harbour industry and there has been a lot of support from the government – it has done a good job in the Middle East to ensure that right here, right now, the UAE is the number-one location in the yachting business.

What kind of yachts are currently popular in the UAE?

The most demand is for the range of 40-70ft (12-21m) yachts, mostly flybridge because most of the year the weather is nice and people like boats with lots of outdoor space. There’s potentially a lot of interest coming up in the 30-45m as well, which is a size that is lacking a little in the UAE’s marinas. 
The biggest boats here mostly belong to VVIPs, and some of them are also the biggest superyachts in the world – although many of the big boats owned by UAE residents are not kept here in the region. For the smaller superyachts of 30-45m, we’re starting to see inquiries and potential buyers. The yachts in this category can be between US$3m (about Dh11 million) to $30m.

Usually, these superyachts have four to five incredible cabins, of which one can be in the main deck or even an upper deck, and the others at a lower deck. They mostly have a high-tech cinema facility with the best sound systems as well as a large lounge area or gym. There is an entertainment deck with indoor and outdoor dining tables, which is mostly in the main deck close to the galley or kitchen area so the crew can serve food.

Some are equipped with outdoor jacuzzis, a helipad and a balcony with a full panoramic sea view from the owner’s suite, which has interiors by Fendi.

Is there a clear definition as to what counts as a superyacht?

As a normal rule anything more than 30m can be called a superyacht.

What’s a typical day for you?

I wake around 7, go to the gym before work and then usually go to meet clients at their yachts in different marinas around the UAE. After that I go to the office to take care of communications with potential buyers and marketing and so on. There are maintenance programmes to look after, crews to find, chartering to take care of – there’s lots going on. Some days are more interesting – like when I have a chartering day and the client asks me to go with them on the journey. Why do they invite you?

When you start to do business with someone, especially in the yachting industry, you need to establish trust and tend to have a very friendly relationship. With most of the people I do business with, we start by having lunch together – then they feel comfortable enough to invite me along so I can share the experience with them.

Nice! Any especially memorable trips?

I do DJ’ing and also play percussion in my spare time, and one amazing experience I had was when one of my clients from Saudi Arabia hired a big superyacht and we were going from Dubai’s coast to Abu Dhabi’s Ghantoot Marina and beyond, and I ended up being part of the entertainment on board playing live percussion. That was a fantastic experience and I wasn’t expecting it.

Is there a guide price per metre when it comes to buying a brand-new, luxury craft?

It’s difficult to say because there are such different ship-building operations in each country. For example, a local manufacturer such as Majesty Yachts doesn’t need to pay tax, so they’ll have a different price range compared to builders in Italy or the Netherlands. Materials and equipment play a part, too – but if you’re talking about the most expensive superyachts, they’re roughly a million euros (about Dh4.18 million) per metre. Used ones can cost much less.

Is there a best country of manufacture in terms of prestige?

Each country has its own strategy and advantages – for example the superyachts in Italy are famous for their design and 
the equipment inside, while the ones from Germany tend to be famous for quality and strength and a long lifespan.

On that note, how long can a yacht last before it needs to be retired?

Again, it depends on multiple factors, the main one being the material of the boat. The lifespan is huge, but it’s even longer when a yacht is properly managed. We have boats that are more than 30 years old and after a refurbishment they can be easily used for another 20 or more.

What’s the most difficult part of brokering a deal?

The price. The seller has a certain sum in mind; the buyer comes with a certain budget. Also, there’s personal taste and specific requirements that mean finding the right boat for someone can take a long time. The longest so far was for a brand-new 30m boat – I was negotiating with a shipyard in Italy for over 10 months before it was finalised. 
I also have clients from over a year ago for whom I’m still trying to find the right yacht.

How much rivalry is there in the world of yacht ownership?

I think this is pretty normal – there will always be rivalry as everyone likes to have the biggest and the best, as you can see from the ever-changing list of the world’s top 20 biggest yachts. But usually once you actually own a large yacht, it becomes more about the lifestyle and how you can enjoy it.

Where do owners take their yachts when leaving the UAE for a little jaunt?

There are so many destinations opening up here, including the different islands of Abu Dhabi and the beach clubs you can access with yachts. When people want to go further afield there’s the Maldives or the Seychelles. That’s really a fun voyage.

What do buyers tell you is the best thing about owning a yacht?

It’s the lifestyle they get. Many owners are very successful businessmen, and I think the greatest advantage of owning a yacht is that you get to have your own private facility and still be in the middle of a beautiful, natural environment.

And the downsides?

Some people don’t have much experience of yachting and look at a boat as an investment without considering the running and management costs. To run a boat and enjoy the yachting lifestyle you need to consider the monthly and yearly fees involved. But if you don’t maintain the boat, you’ll end up having more costs in the long run.

Finally, what can we charter for $50,000 a week?

I can find something below 30m for you. 
If you want a bigger boat – let’s say a 50m superyacht – your $50,000 would probably be good for one full day.

By Mike Peake

By Mike Peake