Weak U.S. dollar buoys sales at yacht-builder

Sun Aug 9, 2009 8:23pm EDT
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By Kathy Finn

GULFPORT, Mississippi (Reuters) - Recession has shaken nearly every corner of the U.S. economy but Trinity Yachts is still turning out custom-built luxury boats, thanks in part to a sagging U.S. dollar.

Trinity, the largest U.S. mega-yacht builder, will deliver eight sumptuously outfitted boats this year from its shipyards in Gulfport, Mississippi and New Orleans.

The yachts ooze indulgence, with interiors laden with fine millwork, marble flooring, wine cellars, high-end home theaters and onboard submarines designed for underwater sightseeing. Prices range from $25 million to $80 million.

While Trinity weathers the global recessions, other global yacht-builders struggled.

Ferretti SpA, an Italian luxury shipbuilder, that owns the Riva and Pershing yacht brands, was seized by creditors for missing loan payments, and Genmar Holdings Inc., a big U.S. boat-maker, filed for bankruptcy protection in June.

A weak U.S. dollar has helped keep Trinity afloat by making yachts more affordable to wealthy overseas clients, said chief executive John Dane. Of the last seven yachts Trinity sold, three went to Russians, three to Middle Eastern buyers and one to a Mexican.

To set itself apart from the competition, Trinity is building bigger, faster boats, including a 167-foot (51-meter), 11,000-horsepower yacht that can make over 30 knots.

And with a subcontract to build 10 patrol boats for the U.S. Navy. Trinity is diversifying. "That's the equivalent of two-and-a-half mega-yachts," Dane said.   Continued...

<p>The 164-foot (50-meter) "Destination Fox Harb'r Too" is seen in this handout photo taken off the Nova Scotia coast in summer 2008. REUTERS/Shaw McCutcheon/Handout</p>