Ipswich: Boat firm headquarters moves south

Oyster Yachts' new 825 model. Oyster Yachts' new 825 model.

Thursday, August 7, 2014
9:00 AM

A boat firm is moving its headquarters from Ipswich to its boat-building yard in Southampton as it expands its operations.

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Chief executive of Oyster Boats, David Tydeman, on an Oyster 575 at the London Boat Show 2012. Picture: Denise BradleyChief executive of Oyster Boats, David Tydeman, on an Oyster 575 at the London Boat Show 2012. Picture: Denise Bradley

EADT/EDP Top 100 firm Oyster Yachts is halving its 30-strong workforce at Ipswich, but will retain brokerage and commissioning functions at smaller premises at Foxes Marina. Headquarters operations, such as marketing, finance and sales support, will move south.

However, its East Anglian operations are expanding overall. Its boatbuilding plant at Wroxham, in Norfolk, has taken on about 70 staff in addition to the 250 staff it employed about 18 months ago.

Around five Ipswich staff will lose their jobs, but some are set to take on freelance contracts with the firm. Other workers will be redeployed to Wroxham and Southampton.

“It’s always sad to lose friends,” said the firm’s chief executive David Tydeman. “Overall, we are significantly employing and expanding.”

Around five years ago, the Ipswich centre employed about 50 staff, but this has reduced over time. After the company took the decision to bring all its boatbuilding in-house, it decided on a restructure.

“There’s no longer a logic for having a separate head office,” he said. “Sadly, some will depart as they find relocation impossible for family reasons. I thank them, particularly, for helping out during the transition.”

But he added: “Norfolk is the bigger of the two (boatbuilding operations), so we are keeping a very strong East Anglian heritage. The activity always was elsewhere for boatbuilding.”

The company employs 350 staff, 160 of which are based in Norfolk, 150 in Southampton and smaller workforces in Ipswich, Newport in the United States and Palma in the Mediterrean. Mr Tydeman, who is from Suffolk and was based in the Ipswich area, is moving down to Southampton.

During the 1980s and 90s, the business used sub contractors to build the boats, which it marketed and developed in Ipswich. In 1998, it acquired a 50% stake in one of its sub-contractors, Southampton Yacht Services, and later purchased the other 50%.

“For the last 10 years we have been operating as a hybrid with some in-house and some contractors,” said Mr Tydeman.

The company decided it should either do one or the other, and an opportunity arose when new shareholders became involved in 2012, he said.

“Their support has been fantastic and, by 2015, we will have gently moved the structure that was appropriate for the pre-recession boom years into a stable platform that can steadily support the company for years to come.”

In June 2012, the business took over Landamores in Wroxham, following the retirement of its founder, Anthony Landamore, who had worked in partnership with Oyster for 40 years. Oyster took over its lease, 70-strong workforce and stock. The client build management team moved from Ipswich to Wroxham last year, where a customer service operation is also based. A customer service team supporting the larger yachts is based in Southampton. New product development, superyachts and most of the design and engineering teams relocated to Southampton last year.

By late 2015, Oyster, which has already expanded the Wroxham business, plans to increase the 150-strong workforce there to 200, and further expand the facility to provide 12 build bays from which it will be able to produce up to 20 yachts a year.

Turnover on core business on Oyster yachts went from £27million in 2010 to £37m in 2013.

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