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World's fleet of private mega yachts growing

The world’s fleet of private mega yachts — think 75-footers or bigger — has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. CNBC’s Jane Wells reports on who’s building and buying them.
/ Source: CNBC

Today, the rich are living the simple life aboard yachts of titanic proportions.

Charlie Dana has watched the mega-yacht industry grow from his perch at the Newport shipyard in Newport, R.I.

"When we bought this place there was not one yacht here," he said.

Now, there are lots of yachts. The mega yacht fleet — ships at least 75-feet long — has nearly doubled globally in 10 years. There are more than 2,000 yachts in the world measuring a hundred feet, but if you want to make a real impression, your yacht needs to measure at least 200 feet. Still this would be less than half the size of yachts for the uber-wealthy.

Larry Ellison may race one yacht, but he relaxes in another measuring 453-feet long. Paul Allen's Octopus measures 414 feet complete with recording studio, submarine and a couple of helicopters.

"When Paul Allen builds a 400-foot motor yacht, everybody that's in the market says well I don't want to own a 300-foot motor yacht there is a 400 foot," Dirk Johnson, a broker with Churchill Yacht Partners in Newport.

Some mega yachts have gotten too big for traditional builders providing new work for larger commercial yards used to building ships for the U.S. Navy.

"There is one-upsmanship," said Dana. "The boats have gotten too big for people unless they want to have a party, and often some these people who are terribly successful, tend to be bit of loners."

Loners with a couple hundred million lying around to buy one, and $20-30 million a year to keep it crewed and maintained. And while most mega yacht owners are American or European emerging markets are creating new multi-millionaires wanting to join the yachting set and creating waiting lists.

"Nowadays if you were to place an order for a big yacht, let's say 60-70 meters, its unlikely you'd have it delivered before 2010," said Jamie Edmiston, president of Edmiston, USA, a London-based yacht brokerage.

Most in the business remain buoyant about the future because barring a global recession big will keep getting bigger.

"We're not really talking about yachts in some cases, we're talking about very luxurious cruise ships," said Johnson.

Whatever floats your boat.