It’s getting mighty crowded on the high seas, with “over 2,300 mega-yachts” cruising world waters. So to beat the rush-hour traffic, the world’s rich and playful are taking to the underwater world instead.
If talk is true that Paul Allen, one of Microsoft’s co-founders, is buying his very own “luxury personal submarine”, 20,000 leagues under may soon become the latest style statement. The billionaire, an avid scuba diver, already owns a yacht, the Charade. Last heard, Giorgio Armani was hosting his bash for the cast and crew of Gangs of New York on the liner, with Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Jack Nicholson in attendance.
With yacht rental bills running up to $300,000 for two weeks, and price tags weighing as much as $150 million, the personal sub is quite a bargain, coming for between $5 and $20 million. The sub, which can run on the surface with diesel engines, is “very much like a yacht” according to the makers, till it dives for “extended periods on battery power”.
While Allen’s 10-passenger-sub-order is reportedly being filled by Olympic Submarine Technologies, US Submarines has been in the personal sub business since 1993. The names on the client list, stresses the company, have one thing in common: wealth. Scuba divers and ocean aficionados also have opted for the new toy, while some buyers have never bought a yacht before, but “are fascinated with the idea of travelling beneath the surface of the world’s oceans”. From “wealthy Arab sheikhs, to world leaders and hi-tech mega-millionaires”, the company deals with them all, but “insists on confidentiality”.
It is still unclear whether there is a personal sub floating Indian waters, but the marketing machine could do well to point their torpedoes at booze baron Vijay Mallya. The high-flying racing enthusiast does, after all, own a yacht that once belonged to Richard Burton. Lakshmi Mittal, in a more laid-back mood, too, could be sold the concept. The tycoon now prefers a private jet, as he proved when he flew in from the United States to London to watch Bombay Dreams.
Or maybe Bollywood could be a buyer. With James Bond’s cars that turn into submarines as “inspiration”, and the recent Humraaz already plugging the above-board cruising action, the deep blue depths couldn’t be too far behind. They would leave behind, in tech terms, Private, a “high-class pornographic film company”, which has only its own yacht, El Harem, at the moment.
There is another plus: an in-built safety feature. In 1992, the late Princess Diana disappeared, while on a yacht with Charles and guests. The fear that she had jumped overboard was dispelled only when she was found sobbing in the lower decks with the lifeboats for company according to a recent expose. No such fear on a sub, no prying eyes either. The Queen of England had to pension off the Royal Yacht Britannia five years ago, which cost too much to maintain, and can now be hired for corporate dos.