The Secret World of Superyachts: A Peek Behind the Floating Luxury in Malta

Written by Albert Fenech
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“The Luxurious, Extravagant and Secret World of Superyachts – A Peek Behind the Luxury in the Superyacht Capital of Europe.”

Valletta’s magnificent Grand Harbour in Malta is not just one of the world’s largest natural harbours, it’s also impressive to look at for its dramatic fortress vibes and for the eye-popping Superyachts that dock here.

Malta’s geographical position slap-bang in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea made Grand Harbour and Malta attractive to foreign invaders for the last 1,500 years too.

Its highly important location at a time when the Mediterranean Sea was the hub of all evolving activities, luxurious mooring locales, the temperate climate, and the highly negligible military resources of the inhabitants left the doors open to invaders, and there were many.  Malta and its sister island of Gozo were dotted with smaller safe ports affording easy mooring and all-in-all made them easy to defend, as well as an essential Central Mediterranean link.

The ‘Eclipse’ worth $1billion and owned by Ramon Abramovich

The Situation Today

Malta and Gozo have become an ideal marine locality for the hiring of charter boats for mere mortals like us – particularly during spring and summer — and happens to have the highest international register of Superyachts in the world, with dozens of registered luxury vessels owned by some of the world’s richest people.  No wonder Malta has earned the moniker:  the Superyacht Capital of Europe.

With more than 300 annual days of sunshine as well as extensive Superyacht refit and repair facilities and infrastructure,  Malta is a Superyacht paradise.

So, what exactly defines a Superyacht?  This might be like asking what makes a good wine. Typically, Superyachts  are custom-built floating pieces of engineering art that represent the pinnacle craftsmanship, luxury, and ingenuity.

Of course, the more toys the better.  Is there a minimum price tag, length, or other luxury criteria that separates “super” yachts from your run of the mill “yachts”?  Does a Superyacht require its own helicopter? Swimming pool? Champagne fountains? Submarines?

The answers (usually yes) can be as varied and quirky as the whims of the boat owners. One thing is unanimously true, however: Superyachts are large and luxurious, professionally decorated and crewed, and range anywhere from from 24 meters (79 feet)  to more than 180 meters (590 feet) in length. The will also cost anywhere from €100 million to more than €500 million and the occasional billions to build.

Boating has become a popular pastime throughout the world and is particularly active in the Mediterranean Sea. And Superyachts are often available for charter, including in Malta, with a staff that caters to guests at a high standard of luxury and comfort.  Malta and Valletta’s Grand Harbour are not just a possibility but a MUST! If not on a Superyacht, at least on a scenic Grand Harbour cruise —a great way to admire Malta’s rich history (and rich boat owners).

But rest assured, you don’t need a Superyacht to chug into  Grand Harbour. I can motor in on my small and most moderate family cruise boat, and end up being docking between the billionaire yachts of Russians Andrey Melnichenko and Roman Abramovich, two of the world’s richest men.

Ideal and tranquil moorings in Valletta’s Grand Harbour 

Rubbing Shoulders with the Elite

And where does this all lead to? Roman Abramovich may peer down from his billionaire on-board luxury swimming pool onto my little peanut boat but the regulations applied to one, apply to all! We have to abide by the same rules! Positively, shielding under the Maltese maritime flag, Malta has the largest number of such registered yachts throughout the world, together with the largest shipping fleets.

But times have changed for these mega-rich and their mega-ships. Since Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, the sedate world of luxury Super-yachting in Malta and elsewhere has been turned upside down and shrouded in mystery, cloak-and-dagger movements, and general criminality.

The Russian Element

Why? Because a substantial number of owners are Russian oligarchs who made good while Putin’s sun shone over Russia but are now all under criminal investigation by the UN/EU as well as by many other national governments. These are the latest in absolute luxury, multi-decked, the ultimate in luxury and providing luxury accommodation for hundreds of guests.

Their Russian owners as far as can be ascertained are:

Roman Abramovic

ROMAN ABRAMOVIC

Yacht name “Eclipse” – worth $1 billion

Yacht name “Solaris” – worth $600 million

Yacht name “Tango” – worth $120 million

ANDREY MELINCHENKO

Yacht name: “The Maltese Falcon” – worth $600 million

Another mystery superyacht – also worth $600 million

VALDIMIR PUTIN

Yacht name “Rahi” worth $65 million

ALISHER USMANOV

Yacht name “Dilbar” – worth $100 million

Yacht name “Graceful” – worth $100 million

ARKADY ROTENBERG

Yacht name “Madame Gu” – worth $150 million

VIKTOR VEKELBERG

Yacht name “Amore Vore” – worth $120 million

IGOR SECHIN

Yacht name “Nord” – worth $500 million

Where Are They Now?

Some of these luxury vessels  have been seized by different authorities, while others have been more clandestine,  dodging  authorities from port to port (including  Valetta in Malta), in an attempt to evade seizure.

Boats aren’t the only seized Oligarch assets either. 

Many are heading for The Maldives and a number of other ports that do not have formal extradition agreements with the US and the EU.

***

BeSeeingYou In: Valletta, Malta

Good To Know: Valletta has a neat grid street system so it’s extremely easy to find your way around

WOW Factor: Despite its tiny size, Valletta has around 320 monuments, all within walking distance of each other

TIP: Don’t miss a chance to ride the Valletta ferry from the Grand Harbour, ideally over to the lovely Three Cities (the small towns of Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea).

 

Author bio: Albert Fenech

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

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