Making waves

A rise in boating globally presents opportunities for the superyacht market in Australia.

19 October 2020


Around the globe, recreational boating markets are experiencing a huge surge in demand as consumers look for creative ways to endure the pandemic closer to home – a trend being seen strongly here in Australia.

Australian marine transport and customs brokerage, Aurora Global Logistics says the COVID-led global boating boom is being felt here in Australia with a definite increase in both the export and import of luxury vessels.

In the US, one of the largest boating markets worldwide, high-end motor yacht sales have boomed with the National Marine Manufacturers Association reporting a 75% increase in high-end boat sales compared with the same pre-coronavirus period in 2019.

Aurora Global Logistics Managing Director, Jason Roberts, whose company curates the movement involved with shipping marine vessels including many superyachts around the world, says there are a few key observations.

“Due in large to travel restrictions, COVID-19 has presented some interesting trends within the marine industry including a definite increase in boat acquisitions as people look for leisure opportunities closer to home.”


“We have also seen a significant increase in vessels being moved back to Australia for refit/repair or private leisure as owners are unable to travel to use their vessels for personal or commercial charter use,” Roberts said.

“We are currently importing around 30 superyachts over 26 metres in length into Australia each year, between 120 and 150 smaller yachts from UK, USA and Asia and it’s looking like our business is up over 15 percent on imports and exports this year,” he said.

“What’s interesting and notable is that the reasons for these movements are very different to what they have been in previous years and we believe that COVID is driving that changing trend.

“Australians are buying yachts offshore in larger volumes than we have seen in recent years arguably because their travel has been restricted so they have looked to a boating acquisition to fulfil leisure requirements. Boats provide the perfect avenue for isolation providing a safe and secluded recreation space for families.

“Queensland is also being seen globally as a safe haven – where owners can safely have major refit and repair work undertaken to their vessels in world class shipyards at an attractive Australian dollar exchange rate.  It makes a lot of sense for vessels to take care of this work while charter and cruising activity is hampered by travel restrictions”.

“Also exciting for the domestic marine industry is the volume of Australian vessels that we are exporting offshore as the demand for Australian made boats rapidly increases.”

Aurora’s observations are strongly echoed and supported by other marine heavyweights including Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard (GCCM) and Rivergate Marina & Shipyard.

GCCM CEO, Trenton Gay says around the globe, the marine brokerage industry is experiencing a surge in demand for boats as people respond to Covid travel restrictions and seek out new recreational opportunities while some owners of larger vessels are also using the current downturn in charter and cruising activity to advance major re-fit and repair projects.

“Like Aurora, we are noticing very similar industry patterns.  Most of our local brokerage clients are reporting an upsurge in boat sales, yacht leads and web traffic despite, or perhaps as a result of the pandemic,” Mr Gay said.

“Our shipyard has seen a lot of new vessel acquisitions in addition to an increase in enquiries from international vessels looking to capitalise on the current Australian dollar exchange rate and the quality of Australian workmanship and infrastructure offered here in Queensland not to mention our relatively low COVID case numbers,” he said.

“One of our most recent arrivals to GCCM is 43 metre superyacht, M/Y Playpen, which has been shipped from the Mediterranean, by Aurora, to GCCM.  This vessel is valued in the vicinity of $20 million and will be undertaking significant refit works over the next two years whilst it is stationed in the region”.

“Our team have also recently completed of the largest on water refit and refinish projects ever to be completed in Australia on two high profile international yachts in the midst of the lockdown.”

Rivergate Marina & Shipyard’s Director of International Business, Steve Fisher reiterates the same trend whereby he says the refit and repair schedules of superyacht vessels are being brought forward and Queensland is an appealing destination for these vessels to come to during COVID.

“Legislative change in December 2019 allowing international vessels to charter in Australian waters has been a game changer for our marine industry and then with COVID following hot on the heels of that, we are seeing lots more superyachts headed here,” Mr Fisher said.

“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 Queensland being a relatively COVID-safe state along with the world-class workmanship that our marine trades offer,” he said.

“The Queensland government has also successfully worked alongside the marine industry to develop a stringent but highly workable COVID-safe protocol so these vessels are easily able to make safe passage here, which has been very important to the appeal of Queensland to captains and crew.”





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