How yacht company Aquamare Marine conquered America


Plymouth-based company Aquamare Marine began as a service business for luxury yacht builders in Plymouth and across Europe before expanding into Florida and building boats itself.

Company director, Mike Sommerfeld says: “Before we went to America, we had teams of guys that flew around the world constantly. We would get a phone call in the evening, saying, ‘Tomorrow I need someone in Croatia, France, Spain or wherever’.

“Sometimes we would just send people driving up the M5 towards an airport and we would figure out the flight and where they were going while they drove.”

Aquamare Marine had the opportunity to expand into America to service British and Italian yacht brands.

“There was a real culture of people taking someone’s engine apart and then saying, ‘You’ve got to pay me $3,000 or I won’t put it back together,’” says Sommerfeld. “It was unbelievable: their view was that there was always another customer around the corner.”

Reliable service: Aquamare Marine’s reputation for trustworthiness led to interest from suppliers in Florida

Credit: Gareth Iwan Jones

The company opened an office in Florida due to interest from suppliers in having reliable services in the USA.

Sommerfeld said, “It was an opportunity for us, because we pride ourselves on the fact that if you ask us to do something, we will handle it.”

The company initially struggled in the US due to local regulations, which made it hard for foreign-owned companies to get financing and even operate in the area.

The team turned to UK Export Finance and the General Export Facility to secure financing in the US via their bank, Santander. In the General Export Facility, UKEF provides a guarantee of up to 80 per cent of a facility limit, which means that banks can offer larger lending facilities. 

Sommerfeld said: “UK Export Finance guarantee got us a credit facility in the United States, which then allowed us to expand that business further and take on more people.”

Thanks to the lending facility, the company was able to move to the Fort Lauderdale marine centre and expand into offices, workshops and a large hangar space. The facility offered the company a crucial boost as the marine industry grew rapidly during the pandemic. 

Mike Sommerfeld and Jason Burdett looking at a monitor while at a desk

Broadening horizons: the company vastly increased its revenue and is now expanding into boat building

Credit: Gareth Iwan Jones

Burdett says: “The marine industry boomed during Covid, because you couldn’t go on holiday, but you could go on your boat, and you could be away from everybody. So suddenly, everybody wanted a boat.”

Thanks to the new facilities, the company tripled its revenue, then doubled it again, expanding its workforce from 20 to 140 people. 

Aquamare Marine is now starting a boat building business on top of the existing service business. 

Burdett says: “We are just delivering our first 56ft yacht to a customer in America.”

The company now hopes to build more boats in different sizes and also hopes to expand into new markets such as Dubai and Asia where Aquamare Marine’s reputation for reliability will also be in demand.

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