It has long been recognised that Australia is an ideal superyacht location, however, until relatively recently the island nation was hampered by out-dated regulations. However, with the Special Recreational Vessels Act (SRV) having been passed in 2019 and foreign-flagged vessels now able to charter in Australia, the one key piece of the puzzle that was missing was the development of large-superyacht infrastructure. SuperyachtNews speaks with the Rivergate Marina and Shipyard team about its new large-superyacht facility and the various benefits of Australia during the COVID era and beyond.
“When the Australian government passed the SRV in December 2019, it became possible for international vessels to charter in Australia seamlessly and the feedback from this development has been incredible,” starts Tom Hill, director at Rivergate. “Unfortunately, COVID started shortly after the SRV was announced, but the response has still been positive as we have seen a number of foreign superyachts chartering in Australia, including an 85m Lürssen that Rivergate has worked closely with."
The implementation of the SRV itself was, on paper, perfectly timed as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was scheduled to take place shortly thereafter and the 2021 Americas Cup in New Zealand was to follow, with Australia primed to welcome a number of the vessels attending these events. Unfortunately, however, like most major sporting events in 2020, the Olympics were postponed and with it so to were some of the superyacht trips scheduled in Australia.
“If we look at the two large events that were supposed to be happening in our the region, the good thing is that the Olympics are still going ahead in 2021 and the America's Cup is still going ahead,” continues Hill. “There are, as a result, still a large number of superyachts confirmed to be visiting Australia, so it is still an upbeat story. Furthermore, throughout 2020 most of the shipyards in Australia have been busy and, by all accounts, the introduction has of the SRV has been a success story despite COVID.
“Our domestic and international level in terms of refits has been incredible. Clients quite rightly see Australia as a safe place to be during these times. We’ve had boats coming from Mexico trying to find a safe spot. This year for many has been a pause on life, but for those who have retained the financial means, it has presented to perfect opportunity to complete work that may otherwise have been put on pause.”
Australia, for most, has always seemed like an obvious nation to benefit from a booming superyacht economy. Indeed, the riches of the nation's culture and nature are widely regarded to be some of the most enjoyable and diverse. And yet, for the large superyacht market, even with the introduction of the SRV, the Australian picture was not complete. However, in 2021, Rivergate will be opening up its new refit facility, dedicated to the refit and maintenance of large superyacht projects. For the first time, Australia will be able to effectively cater to the majority of the global superyacht fleet.
“The new site is coming online in 2021. The end value of the investment in the site is around AUD 200million and upon completion, it will cater to vessels up to 3000t and around 90m,” explains Hill. “There will be facilities for in water service berths, space to accommodate 10 vessels on hard standing, three state of the art refit sheds and, for the first time in Australia, dedicated space for crew facilities and a trade centre on-site. When this facility comes online, we will be able to tap into an entirely new market and, the best thing is, it helps everyone.”
A rendering of Rivergate Marina and Shipyard's new facility
As Hill correctly highlights, the development of large superyacht maintenance infrastructure will not only benefit Rivergate (although it certainly will) it will also benefit a variety of other businesses across the whole spectrum of sectors encompassing product and service provision to superyachts, as well as also benefitting Rivergate’s competitors. For a superyacht market to thrive, there must be a complete set of services available to the vessels and without large infrastructure currently online, Australias has undoubtedly suffered in its inability to attract large superyachts.
“While the new facility does not come online until 2021, in the last three months alone we have had to turn down AUD40million of work because our 3000t syncro-lift is not yet operational,” says Hill. “Nevertheless, the level of enquiry clearly supports the development of this facility. Once the facility is online Australia will have all the necessary parts in place for growth. There are extremely low cases numbers of COVID in Australia, as well as an excellent health care system. And if you are looking for isolation and adventure, come to Australia!”
When various nations will be free of COVID-19 and when certain nationalities can visit certain regions remains unclear as the world recovers from the impact of the pandemic at various speeds. However, when the new Rivergate project comes online, Australia seemingly has the makings of the perfect superyacht destination.
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