With 125 Vessels and 9 Bareboat Charters registered and operating in the Maldives, Gulf Craft has consistently catered to the majority of the market with absolutely no compromise on Quality, Standard and Safety. As the UAE's pioneering shipyard set up in 1982, Gulf Craft continues to enthral the world with the finest luxury yachts and leisure boats for touring, passenger and multipurpose transportation vessels. We spoke about the core principles and the success behind the company with the General Manager of Gulf Craft Maldives, Terry Stamatakos, who has been working directly with the stakeholders of the Maldives and the UAE Gulf Craft Team since 2013.
1. You starting off your career as the Project Manager at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the US, until you moved to the fibre division at Drago Boats in Greece, after which you worked as a Project Manager at Al Shaali Marine, and now you are the General Manager at Gulf Craft Maldives. What inspired you to become a part of the Boating Industry?
I have always loved the sea; it gives you a sense of creation and freedom like it does in the Maldives. In my native country Greece, we were born by the sea. The boats always fascinated me from a very young age.
2. What is your principle role as the General Manager of Gulf Craft Maldives? Please tell us a little bit about the story behind your move to the Maldives.
My principal role is to lead the local company so it performs to its full potential. This covers key aspects such as maximisation of productivity while adhering to Health & Safety, as well as to boat design and boat-building quality standards in addition to keeping the cost affordable to the local market. I am also very keen on increasing the market potential through effective sales, tailoring innovation to reflect the local market conditions and to produce the right product for the right use, and of course, offering great customer service. I seek to ensure that Gulf Craft actively contributes to the local community as a key partner in Maldives, and I always try to inspire my team through setting the example.
Now, back in 2013 His Excellency Mohammed Hussain Al Shaali, the Chairman of Gulf Craft, invited me and he suggested that I “temporarily” move to the Maldives to create a new production system and to restart the company afresh. I did not hesitate to accept; after 7 years of “temporary” stay, I have not regretted it for even a single minute!
3. What are the major challenges you have faced throughout your time with Gulf Craft? How did you overcome them and what are the lessons learned?
What I basically encountered was the difference in mentality and market conditions compared to other places and people. It didn’t take long to understand the difference and uniqueness at all levels. The tactics we needed to follow had to be unique. When I first arrived here, our customers were mostly the resorts and large companies. However, my daily life brought me much closer to ordinary people with dreams, creativity and willingness to succeed – not just the wealthy.
Therefore, along with the administration, we made the decision to open our doors to all ordinary people; to give them the opportunity to setup their own business, and thus, prove to them that a boat is not just a dream, but well within reach of ordinary people. I strongly believe that our success story to date in the Maldives has greatly depended on this very move - building trust between us and our customers is the key to success for both our customers as well as for Gulf Craft. To this day, even in these difficult months of COVID-19, we support, standby, work and move forward together with our customers smoothly and without problems.
I really want to thank our customers from the bottom of my heart for the way they treat not only myself, but also Gulf Craft and our entire team. I also wish to add that we all live in a rather small place and as such, we are all like one big family. I am proud to be greeted on the streets by customer and friends, I am proud to see them growing and expanding their businesses, and really, the image of seeing Gulf Craft boats everywhere in the country fills you with pride. I truly thank them all!
4. What are the key areas that need to be focused on before designing and building a brand-new yacht or boat?
I will only answer on behalf of Gulf Craft Maldives because in Dubai there is a whole team comprising of the CEO, Operations Manager, Naval Architects, Draughtsmen etc. that provide input to design and creation of a yacht.
As far as the Maldives is concerned, I can say that our individual customers, resorts, and even the army and the navy work closely with us to develop and create models that fulfil their exact requirements and answer their needs, whatever they may be - we have ferry designs, as well as VIP designs as per the needs of every resort for luxury transportation.
This approach of catering for the exact needs of key customers resulted in the legacy models developed specially for MNDF, the Coast Guard and the Police. All of which were created through close co-operation and synergy between Gulf Craft and each of the above institutions.
It’s not that easy to design a boat; one needs to know exactly what the market wants, what the customer wants and to never underestimate or ignore the individual sea and weather conditions that the desired boat will operate into. In general, there are many factors that need to be considered to successfully design a boat – the above mentioned are just a few.
Here at Gulf Craft, we have both the required depth and width of experience, as well as the operational capability to design vessels in accordance with the needs of each market.
5. How would you describe the success behind Gulf Craft?
If you look at the Gulf Craft website, you will see that our boats are recognised worldwide and have been awarded many times with top recognition for their design and shipbuilding standards. I don’t need to add more as our awards speak for our boats, and as I have mentioned earlier, a great team of highly talented professionals is leading this effort and is already planning and designing the next generation of boats.
6. Gulf Craft builds ocean-going crafts ranging from 31 to 175 feet in length at the company’s state-of-the art shipyards in the UAE and is backed by a strong global network spanning Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. What is the strength of Gulf Craft in the global market?
It’s true that Gulf Craft is supported worldwide by a network of professional partners; our Head Office in Dubai is doing a great job and Gulf Craft today is among the top ten boat and yacht companies in the world, with aspirations to climb even higher.
This is where the Maldives plays a key role due to their strategic positioning on the world map. Our presence here gives us the opportunity to expand and to grow our business worldwide. You will soon hear about our ambitious plans that will benefit both the Maldives, and also our customers. Please be patient as His Excellency Mohammed Hussain Al Shaali, Chairman of Gulf Craft, and the dynamic and creative CEO Abeer Al Shaali are working on this direction – official announcements will be made soon
I also wish to stress that another key innovation beyond the technically innovative design of our boats is the appointment of Madam Abeer Al Shaali as CEO of the company, a brilliant mind for the future of our company.
7. What’s the difference between the Majesty Yachts, Nomad Yachts, Oryx Yachts, Silvercraft and Utility Series? Which models are most suitable for the Maldives’ shores, and what are the main challenges you face in the Maldivian market?
Each boat is designed to addresses different needs and uses. Majesty and Nomad are mainly yachts for pleasure and VIP transportation, whereas the models Oryx, Silvercraft and Utility were designed to perform exceptionally in a variety of activities, such as fishing, diving, transportation, entertainment, taxi and more. They are truly boats for all tastes and purposes.
The most common boats in use in the Maldives are ferries and VIP ferries. However, we are opening the market soon for yachts and for bigger boats, plus as I have already mentioned, we will soon announce our plans for the future and our new models.
8. In your opinion, what is the most effective marine or boating event in terms of networking, exposure and return, which you believe boat owners and industry professionals should definitely not miss out on?
The Boat Show of course. Although any event associated with the sea and tourism is also related to the boating industry, thus, together we must promote and support all these exhibitions as they are directly connected to our work. I must point-out however that a well-organised boat show in a Marina not only facilitates exposure and networking, but it also promotes other services related to the Maritime industry, as well as the host country.
I believe a local but very well organised Boat Show here in the Maldives would positively reflect everything great that the country has to offer. It would boost not only local boat-building, but also Maldivian Tourism, Supply Chain, Maritime Maintenance Support, etc. – in other words, a whole range of services that work in tandem with the Maritime industry.
Last but not least, it would ultimately raise the profile of Maldives worldwide even more as a maritime hub in the Indian Ocean.
9. With your extensive background and experience in the field, working with many industry giants and professionals, does it help and has it influenced your sales strategies?
I dare to say that everything I knew before coming to the Maldives has been almost useless here! As I have mentioned earlier, the uniqueness of the market and of our local people and customers pushed us to new tactics. I can admit that I have learned a lot in the 7 years that I have been here, and I have given my best to offer our customers better and safer boats, with more options.
I believe we have succeeded thus far, and continue to do so. We still have a long way to go for what we are yet to present in the future.
10. What advice do you have for the new generation looking to start a career in boat building or as boat operators?
My advice to our new generation is to be patient and to work with specific goals in mind. They will be achieved through time consistently when working with a plan in mind and with resilience.
We at Gulf Craft have suggested to the government and it has been accepted to establish a school in the Maldives that will train Maldivians as boat builders, mechanics, electricians – everything that has to do with the manufacturing of boats. This is another great offer of Gulf Craft to the country that hosts us and that we love. We also love and support the community, and giving local people with dreams the ability to make them a reality is our greatest satisfaction.
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