Brace for superyacht boom

A new Bill is currently under review by the Australian Federal Parliament that will pave the way for the approval of charter licenses for foreign-flagged superyachts.

Photography by Australian Superyachts - SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef

29 November 2019


The Morrison Government has proposed a Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019 that will allow foreign owned superyachts to charter in Australia.

Permitting these vessels to charter will unlock an estimated 11,800 jobs and $1.64 billion in revenue to the Australian economy by 2021.

Charter vessels make up more than half of the world’s superyacht fleet. There are currently more than 5,000 superyachts in the world, growing each year by an additional 150 new yachts.

Currently these vessels cannot operate commercially in Australia unless owners fully import their vessels, which has always been a major deterrent to foreign superyacht owners considering cruising Australian waters.

Over the years there have been multiple attempts to introduce similar proposals, but they have stalled in the Senate.

The history of the industry’s lobbying spans back to 2000, and the need to accommodate a single superyacht chartered for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.


Captain Richard Morris, who at that time was working with NSW Maritime ahead of the Games, explained “We secured a one-time moratorium for the 56-metre Perini Navi sailing superyacht Liberty which was chartered for the Games.”

“The Sydney Superyacht Marina, which was built in time for the Games, and I lobbied Customs for special dispensation. That then spurred us on to increase the charter industry in Australia.

“I founded my business, Australian Superyachts and worked with Superyacht Australia, Barry Jenkins and MaryAnne Edwards, to lobby all parts of Government to consider the huge potential to the economy of opening up the superyacht market. I was armed with that original letter from Customs granting special dispensation for Liberty – that was our ammunition.

“Then in 2012, I presented a speech at ASMEX in the presence of many government representatives and that was the start of the momentum.”

Referring to the current Bill in the Senate, Morris observed “Timing is everything”.

“We have played the long game. It has been in play for 20 years since the Sydney Olympics, but now it’s close to happening, it’s very satisfying.

“As an industry, we have stayed on message promoting the benefits to the economy, employment, tourism, trades, refit and service facilities. Everybody wins.”

David Good, CEO of Superyacht Australia, emphasised the importance of this new Bill to the superyacht industry in Australia.

“Huge events in the Asia-Pacific over the next 18 months will mean large numbers of superyachts will be in our region.

“The Tokyo Olympics in July 2020 and the America’s Cup in Auckland 2021 are expected to bring around 160 superyachts to our region – which is on the radar for superyacht owners for the marvellous cruising grounds and world-class service facilities Australia offers.”

Also on the regional calendar are SailGP in Sydney in February 2020, the Australian Superyacht Rendezvous in October hosted by Coral Sea Marina Resort in the Whitsundays and the Dubai 2020 Expo in October.

If the Bill passes, this legislation will allow Australia to catch up to neighbouring countries who have booming superyacht economies. New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti enjoy thriving marine industries, dominated by charter vessels.

The main industries that will benefit will be small businesses in the marine industry, and the local communities which host these massive vessels. It is proven that each vessel spends 10 to 12 percent of the vessel’s value each year in maintenance, service and repairs.

“These changes will also benefit the local superyacht charter market,” continued Mr Good. “Regions that have a high level of charter activity receive increased international marketing exposure which then encourages further investment in locally based vessels, infrastructure and repair facilities.”

According to the independent AEC report into the superyacht industry “Foreign vessels will likely open new and higher value charter markets in Australia as they will not directly compete with local product in those price brackets.”

Australians dominate the superyacht industry with over a quarter of the world’s Captains and crew hailing from ‘downunder’. Their word-of-mouth referral to owners and colleagues of the attractions of the Australian coastline and islands, from the Kimberly in WA to King Island in Tasmania will prove invaluable to luring owners to our shores.

Joanne Drake, Manager of the SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef welcomed the new Bill.

“If this bill is passed it is likely we could see a doubling of the visitation to the Great Barrier Reef region with not only a higher number of vessels, but a longer duration of stay,” she said.

“These low-impact, eco-friendly vessels with philanthropic billionaire owners are the perfect high-value-traveller that our region seeks. With the news of this possibility breaking internationally, I’ve been inundated with inquiries today from Captains asking if new regulations are in place yet.

“We are also currently in communication with a very large superyacht wanting to book a charter before Christmas out of Cairns with four large superyachts already interested in visiting for charter purposes next year.”

SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef Chairperson and experienced superyacht agent Carrie Carter said “We have the support of all of our regional stakeholders and Queensland Superyacht Champion, the Hon. Michael Healy MP, which is fantastic as this fits perfectly with the State Government’s Superyacht Strategy and initiatives to make Queensland a superyacht hub of the Asia Pacific region. Big boats equal big jobs and this is a winning situation for everybody.”

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning added his support saying “We are one of the most visited ports in Australia for superyachts, with vessels staying on average for 46 days, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.”

“The superyacht industry in Cairns contributes $83 million to the local economy and supports more than 240 jobs; this figure will grow significantly should the bill be passed.

“As well as boasting an unparalleled variety of visitor experiences, Cairns has significant capacity to service the superyacht industry with a dedicated marina along with world-class refit and maintenance facilities.

“This is a significant industry that continues to enjoy growth and we support the Government’s bill which will increase superyacht visitation to our region. It is quite simple, the more superyachts visiting our shores and the longer they stay, the greater the benefits for our economy.”





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