What Happens When A Superyacht Goes Up In Flames

Your burning questions, answered.

85ft vessel at Princess Pier in Torquay, Devon, goes up in flames.

Image Credit: The Independent

Have you ever wondered what happens to a superyacht after it dies? What’s the process in the aftermath of a fire? DMARGE spoke to a luxury yacht manager to get the lowdown.


Fires are now rare on boats. This is thanks to the sophisticated alarm systems that now exist (which mean that fires don’t end up getting out of control as often as they once did). For this reason, fires come in at number 10 on Yachting & Boating world’s list of the most common boat insurance claims (behind more frequent issues like theft, collision with underwater object, collision with another vessel and sinking).

However, although boat fires are rare, when they happen they can totally anihilate a boat (or superyacht). A boat fire can occur due to myriad reasons. Electrical faults, explosions, a billionaire passing out on the helipad with a cigar in hand after a 48 hour Mykonos bender, you name it…

Fires can cause enormous damage to a vessel – and particularly when it comes to superyachts, the costs can be immense to put the boat right (or it could even result in a write-off, depending on how bad the damage has been, and where the fire takes place).

Various superyachts have been burnt to the water this past year, making headlines all over the world. The beautiful multi-million dollar 27 metre Sanlorenzo SX88, for instance, was turned into ‘crispy paella’ in Valencia in April after a blaze reportedly began due to a fault from the lithium batteries.

The yacht, which was carrying about 8,000 litres of fuel, and which weighed about 82 tonnes, was left semi-sunk by the destruction caused by the blaze (fire fighters came to put out the fire, but in the end were unable to stop it, settling instead for preventing it from spreading elsewhere in the marina, containing it to the doomed yacht).

In January, too, there was a harrowing incident for anyone fond of superyachts. A fire at Ferretti Shipyard in Cattolica destroyed what appeared to be the Ferretti Yachts 1000, with as many as five fire brigades being called to the scene.

But what happens to these yachts in the aftermath? What is the lifecyle of a destroyed-by-fire yacht? As the news cycle moves on, leaving these magnificent beasts half sunk in the water, we were left wondering what happens to them next? Is it straight to the scapyard? To the back garden of some yacht-curious millionaire’s house? Or are they restored?

These burning questions in mind, we got on the phone with founder of BLC Yachts, Candas Balci. Candas, who has previously worked as a marina manager and a luxury yacht manager, told DMARGE exclusively there are “long procedures and trainings to avoid fires breaking out on board, but at the end of the day all yachts are highly flammable.”

He continued, explaining the protocol in the case of a fire: “If it is fire you can put out in 3-5 minutes, it is always better to move the boat outside of [the] marina, far from other yachts and people, and continue your fire fighting somewhere safe.”

75 metre sailing yacht Phocea, which sank in February 2021 after catching fire off the coast. Image Credit: BOAT International

“Generally, this ends up with the yacht sinking, due to all the water pressured to the yacht to put down the fire. After the yacht is capsized, insurance companies come and check if it will be covered. Generally they do, and lift out the burnt yacht in some dry dock to investigate the fire.”

“But they have some items on their policies to not pay the coverage, therefore everything on your yacht must be legal, starting from the flag registry, manning on board and crew certificates. Otherwise, there will be hard days for the owner to get his money from insurance.”

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There you have it: fire-ravaged superyachts are not left half sunk in the water. They are pulled out onto the dock and pawed over by insurance companies like it’s an episode of CSI… From there whatever can be salvaged or sold is taken back to a work station or storage facility, and whatever can’t be is off to the skip.

That’s unless the owner (or insurance company) is willing to pay to restore the yacht, naturally.

As for the lifecycle of a yacht, it really comes down to the wishes of the owner. As this Quora thread explains, if a superyacht is maintained well, and its health is invested in, it can go on sailing indefinitely. But if it is neglected, it can quickly fall into disrepair. So it all comes down to the owner.

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