West Bay struggles to keep itself afloat

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The British Columbia builder is reorganizingafter filing for protection from creditors

The British Columbia builder is reorganizingafter filing for protection from creditors

West Bay SonShip yachts is changing the way it does business after filing for protection from creditors last year. Wes Vermeulen, president of the Delta, British Columbia, semicustom yacht builder, has been working on a “plan of reorganization” ordered by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

West Bay filed an application for protection from creditors in December, after experiencing financial difficulties it says were due to the appreciation of the Canadian dollar. “The main cause was the almost 30-percent swing in the exchange rate in a two-year period — as we sell most of our product in U.S. dollars — and the slowing economy in the U.S.,” says Vermeulen, who is 42, in an e-mail. He declined to say how much West Bay owes its creditors.

As part of the reorganization, West Bay executives have been renegotiating contracts with customers who ordered boats that are still under construction, says Vermeulen. “We are also looking for potential investors and other ways to create a long-term plan,” he says.

The decision to file for protection was voluntary, Vermeulen says, and was made so the company could protect its stakeholders. “I feel this was the right decision. … Our family wanted to preserve the West Bay name and limit the size of the claims to our customers and suppliers,” he says.

West Bay says the court in February approved its plan to complete and deliver five yachts that were in various stages of construction before it filed for protection. West Bay also is developing a plan that will allow it to take additional orders and service work, as long it doesn’t interfere with current projects.

West Bay founder and chairman, Ben Vermeulen (Wes Vermeulen’s father), says he’s confident that the West Bay brand will become profitable again. “With the assistance of the court, our customers, employees and creditors, we believe that the present short-term plan will permit us to complete our production vessels and lay the foundation for security for our future customers,” he says in a release.

Ben Vermeulen founded West Bay SonShip

(www.westbay.com) in 1967, and the company now offers seven SonShip Pilothouse yachts from 50 to 110 feet. Base prices range from $1.1 million to $9.5 million (U.S.).

Although Wes Vermeulen isn’t sure how long it will take West Bay to pay back its creditors, he, like his father, is sure the company will be successful again. “West Bay has tremendous support from our boat owners and suppliers,” he says. “Our family has been building boats for almost 40 years. If there is a will, there’s a way. Only time will tell.”