Splash the cash: Super-yachts back in fashion as manufacturers look to Middle East

(CNN)Small and sleek or long and lavish.

Investing in floating real estate has long represented the epitome of luxury spending.
Now, after a few languid years following the global financial crisis, the sea-borne toys of the super-rich are back in fashion.
    This fact was illustrated by more than 26,000 local and international visitors attending the international boat show in Dubai this year.
    One man who was there with the intention of grabbing a slice of the rebounding market was Greg Stinner of Art Marine, a UAE-based yacht-broker and marina management company.
    "We are targeting $35 million (sales) in 2015 being humble, but if we do manage with one of our brands we can easily double that," Stinner said.
    "It's not about numbers (of sales) but size and value of a particular yacht," he added.
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    Beasts of the ocean

    That looks like a smart strategy when a 20-meter Italian luxury speed-boat can go for as much as $5 million.
    But while such a costly price tag will remain unattainable for most, it represents a mere drop in the ocean when compared to some of the mega-yachts sailing the high seas these days.
    The 180-meter long, Azzam, currently holds the title for the world's biggest yacht. It was completed in 2013 for an estimated $600 million and was reportedly sold to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE.
    Most of the top ten super-yachts in the world are known or rumored to be owned by rich but discreet Gulf sheiks.
    This is one of the reasons that Blohm & Voss, makers of Roman Abramovich's super-yacht Eclipse, see lots of potential in the Middle East.
    "If you look at the number of people who can afford a boat the size that we build we haven't even scratched the surface," said Patrick Coote, sales and marketing director at Blohm & Voss.
    "There are approximately 6,000 to 7,000 yachts over 25 meters in the world and when you look at the total group of millionaires (and) billionaires in the world especially here in this region the potential is vast," he added.
    Yet while buying a mega-boat is all well and good if you're a wealthy native of the Middle East, finding the square meters to park them in the Gulf is still tricky.
    The UAE's construction of new marinas and waterfront developments is all part of a bid to tempt more people on to the water.
    "One of the restrictions in this region is simply there are no facilities," Coote said.
    "The yachts we build could not physically come into this marina," he added, pointing out to the Dubai harbor from where he was speaking.
    As a result, Coote describes the UAE as a staging post for large vessels as they make their way to the Mediterranean from Asia.

    Shipbuilding in the Gulf

    One of the regional players out to change all that is Gulf Craft.
    Based in the small northern emirate of Umm al Quwain, it's currently ranked number 11 among the global ship-building companies.
    Gulf Craft employs roughly 1,200 people and builds about 400 semi-customised super-yachts each year ranging from eight meters to 47 meters across four shipyards in the UAE and one in the Maldives.
    According to the company's CEO, Erwin Bamps, the region has an increasingly healthy reputation for building luxury vessels.
    "We have seen a continuous 5% to 10% growth over the last ten years," Bamps said.
    "This is a result not only of local growth but international growth for our products thriving on the Gulf expansion, but also building a product range that is attractive to Asian clients."
    Perhaps it is also more evidence of an industry prepared to move where the money is.