International connections

Rivergate Marina & Shipyard and AIMEX held their 14th annual VIP Dinner Tuesday 22 May, a celebration of international relations and cooperation.

28 May 2024


Held once again at Ioesco Café Cucina in the Sanctuary Cove Marine Village, the Rivergate AIMEX VIP Dinner invited conference keynote speakers and panellists, as well as delegates from around the country, NZ and Asia-Pacific.

Steve Fisher, Rivergate’s Director of International Business welcomed guests to the dinner, which is held each year between the ASMEX Conference and the start of the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show.

“It’s always wonderful to catch up at ASMEX, and we especially appreciate it now after those few years of travel restrictions,” said Steve. “Our event has become a tradition, as a way of closing out the conference and heralding the boat show.”

Topics of discussion following ASMEX included the rise of the Pacific region as intriguing and well-serviced superyacht cruising grounds, tightening pollution regulations, particularly for charter and commercial vessels, electrification and alternative fuels, and innovative marketing concepts, including VR.


Jeremy Spear, AIMEX President and Managing Director of Spear Green Design said he has always enjoyed being part of the annual Rivergate AIMEX VIP event and he places great value on the symbiotic relationship between the two organisations.

“It’s always an incredible evening!” commented Jeremy. “Ioesco is the best restaurant in Sanctuary Cove, and we enjoyed a sumptuous feast. The mood was very positive and collaborative, and we took away a lot of quality, up-to-the-minute data that helps us in our businesses as well as long term in the broader superyacht industry as well.

“I enjoyed meeting Bob Hill from Rivergate, as well as discussing global issues with visiting superyacht experts, Theo Hooning, Secretary General, Superyacht Builders Association, and Kitty McGowan, President of the US Superyacht Association.

“Kitty and her 72 slides were very impressive!” Jeremy continued. “She spoke about the latest issues in the industry, including the importance of security for superyacht owners.

“With all the conflict and chaos in the world at the moment, Australia is seen as safe, uncrowded and pristine destination. The latest data showing superyachts passing through the Panama Canal indicates the superyachts are coming. The South Pacific and Australia have really struck a chord with owners and captains looking for new cruising grounds.”

David Good, CEO of AIMEX-Superyacht Australia, said it was particularly important for the international visitors to spend time getting to know the experts in our industry. At ASMEX, the data presented included the dramatic increase in the length of visitation and maintenance periods at Australian yards, which is now 116 days, a rise of 71 percent.

“All of us in the Asia-Pacific region and that includes the west coast of America, need to work together to bring the boats down under.

“The Rivergate AIMEX VIP Dinner is nice opportunity to wind down and relax after we squeezed in so much information into the ASMEX Conference. It’s a real buzz to hear all the different accents around the room.”

Melissa White, Director of South Pacific, International SeaKeepers Society, presented at ASMEX about recent projects and initiatives in the South Pacific. This was her first Rivergate AIMEX event and she was thrilled to meet people in person.

“It’s one thing to email or even Zoom with people over many months, but it’s so good to actually meet them and chat face to face.”

Melissa continued, “I met so many great people through the conference. Having the opportunity to speak opened so many more doors to meet people that I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to.

“It was great to hear the speakers talk about their efforts in making the industry more sustainable.  It was good to reconnect with Kitty McGowen as she is a big supporter of SeaKeepers in the US. Also, the last presentation by JT and Ange was so moving, and I believe there is a really good synergy to work together.”

Captain JT Bundren from ocean explorer vessel, Pangaea, which has undertaken refit work and maintenance periods at Rivergate, was pleased to have some time onshore to catch up with old friends, make new connections in the industry and deliver a moving presentation about the discovery of the wreckage of missing WWII RAAF pilots in PNG.

Owned by Dr Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest AO, Pangaea is the state-of-the-art deep-water marine research vessel that carries out the Flourishing Ocean initiative, aiming to “engage the best science and latest technologies to halt damage and support initiatives towards its recovery.”

According to JT, who attended the Rivergate AIMEX VIP dinner with his wife, Prudence, owner of Anchors & Dove crew clothing and former superyacht Stewardess, Pangaea is currently undertaking Environmental DNA sampling in the Indian Ocean, around the Abrolhos Islands, tracking biodiversity and monitoring endangered species.

“We use cell-sorter technology to detect genetic material in the water,” said JT, “which massively increases the speed and scale at which we can measure and monitor the ocean biome.”

Andrew Brown and Angela Pennefather from Melanesian Luxury Yachts and Pacific Provisions were deep in discussion with JT and Prudence, having worked with them on several assignments in the South Pacific. “We operate out of Cairns, Port Moresby and the Solomons, working with superyachts on clearance, support and logistics, local guides and provisions,” said Andrew.

“Angela has more than 20 years’ experience as an on board chef in the region, so she has a solid network of vendors suppliers.”

Rebecca McGuren and Captain John Kavanagh are another husband-and-wife team who run Pacific Maritime Lawyers & Notaries, specialist maritime lawyers covering everything from vessel sale/purchase and chartering contracts to new builds. John was among the three experts involved in the panel discussion ‘Getting your head around pollution prevention and response’, with Mark Mellinger, President, Headhunter Inc., and Chris Munster, Director, Probiotic Power.

John and Rebecca said were impressed with the depth of knowledge of speakers, and the quality content in their presentations. They were also grateful to be able to relax and socialise after an intense event, sharing experiences with fellow delegates.

From Ocean Media, Editor in Chief Hillary Buckman is a regular guest at Rivergate events and has been attending SCIBS since 2004. “Some of the people in the room I have known for nearly 20 years,” she said. “Others I have met in more recent years locally, and internationally at METS and boot Düsseldorf.

“It’s great that internationals like Theo Hooning and Petros Michelidakis have finally made it down to Australia,” Hillary continued.

“Martin Baum and the Pantaenius team are amazing, and huge supporters of our industry. It was also nice to catch up with Bob Hill, who I’ve known since Rivergate opened in 2006, and to speak with the Captains, as it’s vital to hear from them about any current issues they are facing but also the incredible work they are doing in ocean conservation.”

“Our annual dinners feel like old friends coming together,” commented Steve Fisher. “Although we’re from different backgrounds and locations, we’re from the same industry with goals and values in common. It always surprises me how relaxed and enjoyable it is. People from all over the world, entirely at ease with each other.”



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