Collaboration suggested as a way to grasp opportunities

A regular subject covered by the ASMEX (Australian Superyacht, Marine Exports & Commercial) conference over its nine editions has been a focus of how to attract more superyachts to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. The 2019 event has been no different, but in an intense day-and-a-half conference a number of new opportunities and initiatives have been highlighted.

Collaboration has been mentioned often through the event as a means of going forward across a number of areas and as a way of ceasing opportunities. There has been talk of formulating a long-term Pacific Project strategy to gradually build up the number of superyachts coming to Australia and the region, and also to continue the battle of awareness of what Australia and the wider region has to offer.

A major driver to push the whole campaign to attract more superyachts is a series of key events being held over the next two years. These are the Rugby World Cup and Olympics in Japan in 2020, and the 36th America’s Cup being held in Auckland in 2021.

In terms of the first two, a comprehensive presentation from Nigel Beatty from the Someya Group, which owns SYL Japan (Superyacht Logistics Japan), highlighted where the events where being held and when. “We are expecting some 20 superyachts for the Rugby World Cup and 20 to 30 currently for the Olympics,” he told the conference.

Complementing this was a detailed overview of Japan as a superyacht cruising location and the growing number of quality facilities that are becoming available. He explained that superyachts were not really understood in Japan, but that his company is lobbying for a cruising permit which he hopes will be in place for the sporting events next year. New facilities to serve the visiting yachts will be ready in Yokohama and other locations.

As to the America’s Cup, which is seen as a major event to attract more yachts to Australia and New Zealand, Aaron Young, vice commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, gave an in-depth presentation about where the event currently stands. He explained that three teams have been confirmed and that three or four others are working towards confirmation.

“In terms of visiting superyachts, we have had 120 expressions of interest from superyachts over 40m (131ft) and of those, 70 have been confirmed,” Young commented. However, he warned that in regards of superyacht berthing infrastructure, the company responsible for this as a part of the Auckland City Council has not yet appointed anyone responsible for superyachts.

Young gave a full explanation of the planned calendar of events for the America’s Cup races and the related events which begin in late 2020 was provided.

A case was also made for superyachts that cruise to the Pacific Northwest of North America, which could readily continue from Alaska across to Japan and then work their way down to the southern hemisphere to enjoy the cruising opportunities there, including those offered by Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Fiji to name a few.

Craig Norris, CEO of Victoria International Marina and associated with Superyacht Canada, is working on this. This initiative includes cooperation with the Superyacht Group on holding an event in the Pacific Northwest next year. “We are planning to hold a Pacific Northwest event next year, which will look at the opportunity that the region offers,” Martin Redmayne, editor-in-chief of the Superyacht Group, pointed out.

Regarding infrastructure development in Australia, there was said to be a shortage of marina berths for very large yachts – although at least two Gold Coast marinas are planning new berths of 80m or above. Investment by the leading refit shipyards such as Rivergate Marina & Shipyard, Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard, Boatworks and The Yard, was also highlighted. BSE Cairns Slipway has also just launched its new 1,120-tonne capacity travel lift.

Steve Fisher from Rivergate warned that if the number of superyachts visiting did not increase, then with all the refit yard investments planed there could be a danger of overcapacity.

Linked to this is a growing challenge to recruit enough skilled workers in both the refit area and boat and yacht building as a whole. Another session of the conference discussed the decline of the size of Australian superyacht crew numbers and looked at ideas to try and rebuild what has previously been a key element of the superyacht market, with Australian crew accounting for the biggest number of captains and crew.

Securing a charter licence for foreign-flagged superyachts visiting Australia was another area of address. After two previous attempts, which for various reasons failed, David Good, CEO of AIMEX and Superyacht Australia, is hopeful that the newly elected Australian government will move forward on this and successfully complete it.

Another common issue over the years has been marketing Australia and the Pacific region. The discussions highlighted that this remains a work-in-progress and that further input is needed. One positive step has been the launch, by Ocean Media, of the fourth edition of the Great Southern Route publication, which has been significantly enhanced and will be complemented by an upgraded website shortly.

Other subjects addressed were innovation and how it can be expanded; the current situation applying to the Great Barrier Reef; Tasmania as a marine market; and the building of White Rabbit Golf. Built by Echo Yachts in Western Australia, this is the largest superyacht built in Australia and was recently delivered to its owner in Singapore.