BY Ryan Swift on 23 May 2023

Sunreef founder and CEO Francis Lapp on the role of the new Ras al Khaimah shipyard for his production and expansion plans in the Pacific

Sunreef has recently announced a raft of news highlighting its plans to re-enter the Asia-Pacific yacht market. In an exclusive interview with Asia-Pacific Boating, CEO and Founder Francis Lapp pointed the new facility in Ras al Khaimah as the steppingstone for the brand to make waves in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The new yard will ultimately build Sunreef’s smaller models.

We opened this office in Dubai and the factory in September in Ras al Khaimah to be closer to Asia. We are making a new dealership in China and Singapore, and in the Philippines. We will manage (these things) from Dubai,” said Lapp. “I’m living in Dubai now, full time, to be closer to the Middle East market and also the Asian and Australian markets.”

Starting in 2009, Sunreef Yachts made its first attempt to crack the Asia-Pacific market, with dealership appointments and an office in Shanghai.

Lapp now says that Sunreef may have been “too early in the market” in China. But the recent move to Ras al Khaimah is part of more permanent shift eastward for the Polish builder. In addition to the new production facility, Sunreef has been busy appointing a new group of dealers to manage the Asia-Pacific.

Sunreef Yachts Founder and CEO Francis Lapp: “I’m living in Dubai now, full time, to be closer to the Middle East market and also the Asian and Australian markets.”

Overseeing the new dealer network in Asia and Australia is Sunreef Sales Director Simon Turner, a veteran yacht broker with a decade of experience in the Asia yacht market. Turner says that the Asia-Pacific region has become much more important for Sunreef, and that the yard’s long-range models and energy efficient Eco line are well suited to the expanses of the Pacific.

“We are aggressively increasing our presence in the region and are part way through appointing five or six well-established dealers who have existing contacts in the region and the ability to service local customers and provide fast after sales support,” says Turner.

In Thailand, venerable yacht name Lee Marine will now oversee Sunreef there. In Singapore, there is Hong Seh Marine. Ray White Marine oversees Australia. Lapp says that a new dealership is to open in the Philippines, while a dealership in Hong Kong will be announced soon.

The Ras al Khaimah shipyard will be more than just a support yard; Lapp says that Sunreef will focus production of superyachts on its Polish yard while the UAE yard, located in a tax-free zone, will manage production of smaller yachts.

“I think we will concentrate on Poland for the yachts and superyachts of 80 to 100 feet and bigger – all the smaller boats, and also the new line, Ultima, will be built in Dubai.”

Lapp says Sunreef currently employs about 2300 people in Poland, with another 100 in Ras Al Khaimah. That will expand to between 300 and 400 people by the end of the year. Eventually, he expects that between 800 and 1000 people will be employed at the new UAE facility. The market is good for catamarans he says, noting that a lot of major brands and yards are introducing their own luxury catamarans.

The new Sunreef Ultima will be built at Ras al Khaimah facility in the UAE

Lapp also confirmed the continuing commitment of Sunreef to its Eco-line of yachts. He noted that Sunreef has just launched a new hydrogen-enabled yacht, the 80 Hydrogen, which will be launched at the end of next year. This follows on from developments such as a patented system of embedding photovoltaic cells into a fiberglass production, allowing for a more PV cells and greater solar electric production.

Lapp says that he sees a shift in customer attitudes, with less focus on achieving speeds of 40 knots and more on doing 10-14 knots with fewer carbon emissions.

After an earlier effort to get the company entrenched in Asia, the yard has embarked on a new, more ambitious plan to reach the Asia-Pacific.

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