Jobs boom as superyachts sail into Queensland

 

The super-rich and their yachts are flocking to Queensland waters as their usual international playgrounds prove too risky during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In what is expected to be a job-creation boom for the local boat building industry, the Gold Coast Marina is reporting a solid order book as yachts are booked in for major refits prior to departing for cruises to popular spots like the Whitsundays.

"Australia is considered COVID safe and yacht movements are not as limited as they would be in a place like the Mediterranean," said Gold Coast Marina and Shipyard chief executive Trenton Gay. "So instead of going on a skiing holiday, families are investing in a boat or chartering a boat."

Gold Coast set to become a mecca for superyacht outfitting as the superrich seek safe harbour during the pandemic. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Gold Coast set to become a mecca for superyacht outfitting as the superrich seek safe harbour during the pandemic. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

Mr Gay said the shipyard had four, and possibly five, boats booked in for refurbishments over the next couple of months including the 43m motor yacht M/Y Playpen.

Ship yards are working with health authorities to ensure crew and yacht owners receive the appropriate approvals and quarantine before coming into Queensland.

Queensland rich lister Ian Malouf and property magnate Mark Simonds are among the cashed-up class who have already brought their super yachts to Queensland.

Mr Gay said up to 200 people would be working on the Playpen refit at anyone time providing crucial employment for the Gold Coast during the pandemic shutdown.

He said health authorities were becoming stricter around arrivals but as long as boats and crew were quarantined the issue could be handled.

Gold Coast set to become a mecca for superyacht outfitting as the super rich used the downturn from COVID to upgrade their palaces on water.
Aurora Global Logistics boss Jason Roberts in front of superyacht M/Y Playpen.
Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Gold Coast set to become a mecca for superyacht outfitting as the super rich used the downturn from COVID to upgrade their palaces on water. Aurora Global Logistics boss Jason Roberts in front of superyacht M/Y Playpen. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

Playpen captain Peter Cook had just docked his boat in Tenerife in the Canary Islands when the pandemic shut down global travel. Mr Cook declined to name Playpen's owners.

"We decided to bring the boat half way around the world on the back of a ship to Australia," said Mr Cook. "This is an opportunity for Australia because it is considered a safe part of the world and there are lot of exciting places to explore."

Mr Cook, who did a boat building apprenticeship at Bulimba before becoming a captain, said Playpen would undergo a two-year multimillion-dollar refit on the Gold Coast.

Aurora Global Logistics managing director Jason Roberts said his Brisbane-based business was seeing a surge in the importation of boats during the pandemic. "People can't get on a plane to travel, so they are bringing in boats from Europe and the US," said Mr Roberts.

Mr Roberts said his company was currently importing about 30 superyachts over 26m into Australia each year and between 120 and 150 smaller yachts.

"Queensland is seen globally as a safe haven where owners can safely have a major refit and repair work undertaken to their vessels in world class shipyards at an attractive Australian dollar exchange rate," he said.

Rivergate Marina and Shipyard director of international business Steve Fisher said the boost from COVID-19 came on the heels of legislative changes that allowed international vessels to charter in Australian waters.

"The world's superyacht fleet is loving the fact that Queensland is open for business with more superyachts bringing maintenance programs forward to take advantage of the state being a relatively COVID-safe place," said Mr Fisher.

Originally published as Jobs boom as superyachts sail into Queensland