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 Boats Interviews


Firas Khalife
"Bluepoint Yachting Lebanon"

7
th of May 2010

Swinging between SEARAY and AZIMUT, BluePoint Yachting juggles actively to subside to the fantasies of passionate boatlovers…….

It is in the elegance and warmth of his office in Dbayeh, that BatoAutoMoto had the pleasure to meet Mr. Firas Khalife, G.M BluePoint Yachting Lebanon. Totally transported to the sea world with Mr. Khalife, we had the impression of sailing among the valuable as well as variable information we were offered. From the sober “allure” of high quality American SEARAY boats to the more fashionable “avant-garde” design of Italian Azimut boats, Mr. Khalife passionately conversed with BatoAutoMoto and here is what he had to share.

 

-When was your company established in Lebanon?

Actually, BluePoint Yachting is a Cypriot-Lebanese company. In Cyprus, the main partners in the company have been operating for twenty years now. BluePoint started operating in Lebanon a year and a half ago.

-Where are your showrooms located?

Our office is right here in Dbaye and we are establishing a new showroom located near the office which will be operating in three or four week’s time. The showroom will exhibit small size, new as well as used boats whereas bigger boats could be seen directly in the water.

-Did the love of boats bring you to the business or did the business bring you to the boats?

Definitely the love of boats and the sea got me here. I came back to Lebanon from London in 2001 where I spent twenty two years. I purchased a boat which got me into boating. So it all started out as a hobby then it became a passion which grew out to be a business. I have to say that my educational background in business administration made an adequate melt with my passion for boats in business management.

-How can you introduce SEARAY and what models does it offer to boat lovers?

Searay is the #1 boat builder in America from quality as well as sales point of view. Searay offers meticulously fabricated excellent quality boats which are not more expensive than similar manufacturers in the states. I have to say that in Lebanon, we have had no warranty issues with Searay boats sold so far which reflects the high quality of manufacturing.

Searays are fun, solid and innovative boats offering a big variety of models ranging from 6m to 20m. They don’t manufacture bigger sizes [yet].

-Can we say that the homeland producer naturally has the biggest share of sales of Searay boats in the world?

Up to few years ago, America contributed for 70% of the sales in the world and the 30% left were covered by the rest of the importing countries. This is no longer true today. Several sale points can be found in Europe. There are hubs in Holland for distribution and after sales for the rest of the world.

-Are Searay boats exclusively manufactured in America?

Not anymore. Searay is starting to establish European factories. We can find one in Poland now which offers the same high quality manufacturing as in America. and they manufacture

4 models there.

-Can we talk of any technical or mechanical innovation for Searays?

Searay boats are optionally equipped with two systems: ZEUS and AXIUS. These two systems are found on petrol as well as diesel models and allow you to control the boat with a joystick. You have the feeling of playing a kid’s game. It’s a full proof way to drive the boat and park it easily. We say “even your grandmother can drive this boat”. This is an optional availability on the boat but it does make boating life much easier. In addition, Searays have smartcraft technology, which is a computer that gives full computerized readout from the engines and all the mechanics. The new generation functions are all touch screen. You can find a hydraulic platform at the back of the boat. And the driver enjoys an air-conditioned cockpit even in an open space.

-What about Azimut boats? How can you introduce them?

Azimut are Italian made boats with an “avant –garde”design. Italian in nature, Azimut boats are passionately nicely designed. You can notice the warm Burgundy color in lots of its models. Azimut manufactures big boats and they have been leaders in terms of their length. Azimut boats range from a 12m (flybridge) up to 40m.

-Does Azimut offer any Innovation in any aspect?

As I said the innovation in Azimut is fashion married to technology.

A leading example is the 72S with its sporty flybridge and Starship like command center.

 

-How frequent do we see new models born for Azimut? What is the latest? And what can we wait for?

In 2009 and 2010 Azimut brought out 8 new models with new technologies. In 2009, they have started a brand new model called “Magellan”. It is a new concept for Azimut. It is a semi -displacement boat. It can go for slow or high speed. They created this model for the purpose of fuel economy and long range. Most of pleasure boats have a range of 300-350 miles; semi-displacement boats have a range of 1100 miles. The Magellano is luxurious and expeditor in character.

As to what is coming, we can expect the largest in the Grande fleet, a brand new 126 ft trideck for Azimut to be operational in 2012.

-Can you explain to us what is Benetti and how does it relate to Azimut?

Actually Azimut-Benetti is one company owned by Azimut. It manufactures custom-made mega yachts. The customer has the chance to go to the factory and choose in person all the variables of the design (walls, rooms…..colors…. etc.). Benetti boats range from 30m up to 80 or 90 m. In their conception, the sky is the limit.

-Are all Azimut models available on the Lebanese Market? And how do you see the potential of Lebanon with regards to Azimut boat sales?

Yes any model can be purchased in Lebanon. As to the sales in Lebanon I can tell you that I have been following the Azimut brand for five years now and I cannot see anything but a rapidly growing market.

-Your company’s orientation is titled “SUPPORT WITHOUT LIMIT”. How is this slogan translated practically on the field?

We, at BluePoint Yachting like to be involved first-hand with any problem that might occur. We do have our after sales teams which make sure to support the client in every possible way but to push things forward most of the times the dealer in person goes to the boat to assess the problem and offer the quickest most efficient solution. We give full support in Lebanon as well as in Cyprus where we have a considerable set-up. In some cases the team comes from Cyprus for maintenance, all this to say that BluePoint Yachting is trying to keep a high standard of service.

-Do you offer support and services for clients while boating abroad?

Yes, we have dealers in several countries and we cooperate to offer the client the best after sales support possible.

 

-Any plans for the future?

I would like to say that BluePoint Yachting is starting to encourage sailing. In a few years with the energy crisis, more people will be looking for alternative fuels or cheaper ways of transportation. The alternative would be a sailing boat with which you can tour the world for free. At the moment in Europe, there is a higher percentage (60-70%) of sailing boats sold. In Lebanon the idea is still low (15%) despite the availability of wind on the Mediterranean Sea. A sailing boat is economical, it produces less pollution, it has no engine sounds thus more relaxing, and it is cheaper in price too due to the absence of engines. A sailing boat is Practical and beneficial in many different aspects. Then again, to some boaters, only twin diesel engines will do...So, we will never know which way the trend will really go.That is why , we’re here to serve all tastes, and advise in the best possible way.

-Is a sailing boat as safe as a motor boat?

All boats are as safe as the crew sailing them.

-All this said, would we hope to see sailing yachts in BluePoint Yachting showroom soon?

Sure. We think that the world of yachting would be going in this orientation and BluePoint Yachting is proactive in this view. We will talk about it in details soon.

-Finally, what advise can you offer a person looking for a used boat?

I would suggest doing a full homework on the desired boat. A market study has to be done on the price demanded in order to make sure that it will undergo acceptable depreciation in the future. And when you buy a boat just keep in mind that this is not the end of the story. A boat costs money, it needs proper maintenance. In Europe you have to budget 10% of the total price to run and maintain the boat, in Lebanon it is 5 %. You might want to run a small investigation on the paperwork to make sure all is legal too.

-Finally, What is your opinion of BatoAutoMoto?

I love this magazine. I love Bato….I love Auto….and I love Moto….. All three are my hobbies. This is the first magazine in Lebanon to focus exclusively on these issues. I wish you all the luck in the future.

 

       
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