Joshua Lee

Founder and Managing Director of Phuket-based Lee Marine
A former derivatives trader, Joshua Lee speaks of how he transitioned from the world of finance to set up Lee Marine, Thailand’s most dynamic yachting company.

The first yacht I owned has an interesting pedigree. Back in 1988, you might remember the first woman, an Australian sailor, who single-handedly, non-stop and unassisted circumnavigated the world. This was Kay Cottee on ‘Blackmores First Lady’, a Cavalier 37. After this amazing achievement, Kay and her then-husband purchased the moulds for the Martzcraft 35 and starting building them in their back yard. The yacht lacked a little storage, so they extended it at the stern creating a Martzcraft 37. In 1992, I purchased this model, moved aboard for two years, eventually sailed her in 1997 from Australia to Phuket.

We currently manage over 150 meters of yachts and have relationships with all of them via our team and the owners’ teams. We run a large yacht management process different to what you may imagine.  As an example, we don’t clean and care for the yachts. The crews do that. We provide crucial administration services such as accounting, cost controls, crew payroll, and classification compliances. We only have a few yachts but they are large and cruising the world sometimes with as many as 20 crew on board.

In Hong Kong I learned to trade derivatives under a very experienced trader, and eventually passed the Hong Kong stock exchange bar exam. It taught me a great deal of things, mostly how to separate emotions from investing.

Besides a large re-investment in 2015/16 into Lee Marine in the forms of new offices, staff and resources, we also currently have over 100 meters of new superyacht construction under build in Europe. Most of this is in steel and aluminium.

Actually we decided long ago not to expand too heavily. Yacht brokerage is not what it was 10-20 years ago where traditionally a yacht brokerage and sales company had several offices placed in the various marinas working to capture foot traffic, yet with high costs. These days, being highly visible digitally with websites, and presenting interesting news is the preferred marketing tool. So we prefer to invest in people and online projects.

The company has also worked diligently to expand its Superyacht Division (LMSYD). We have extensive experience and personal relationships with the finest custom yacht builders in the world, and follow from conception to delivery. In addition, we attend overseas yachting events as a growth and learning tool.

[It’s about] having the courage to divert from the traditional path and investing in a new vision for the industry with fresh ideas.

The future is certainly bright but the industry requires a great deal more political cohesion in ASEAN waters, resulting in more yachts traveling the Asian waters. For the 20 years I’ve been operating in Asia, this political cohesion has been in discussions, yet to date hasn’t happened. Governments in Asia would do well to follow the successful models in the Caribbean and Mediterranean that allow large yachts to enter easily and safely to cruise around Southeast Asia. Then the private sector investment will follow with infrastructure, many new jobs will be created and billions will be added to the countries’ economy.

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Published 6th August 2016