Powering up

With the announcement of a new $200 million maintenance and refit hub by Rivergate Marina and Shipyard, the superyacht industry in Australia continues to go from strength to strength. We speak with Director Tom Hill about the booming refit industry.

04 November 2020


One of the region’s largest and most highly regarded shipyards, Rivergate Marina & Shipyard, has unveiled plans for a massive upgrade to their already award-winning refit centre.

It is anticipated that the proposed $200 million superyacht hub in Brisbane will significantly enhance the already exceptional infrastructure in Australia, leading to an increase in superyacht visitation here as well as to the wider Pacific region.

Rivergate will have the capability to service large luxury vessels over 50 metres, creating an estimated 2,000 jobs, including 1,500 marine industry positions and 500 tourism jobs.

The expansion would include the construction of a massive $35 million Syncrolift capable of lifting superyachts of up to 3,000 tonnes for vital inspections, maintenance, repairs and refits.

Other plans include a hardstand with capacity for multiple superyachts, three large refit sheds, two in-water service berths, a five-storey Trade Centre with offices, training rooms, cafe, crew accommodation, crew recreation facilities, and extensive car parking.


“We know there is substantial pent-up demand among superyacht owners to visit our region, which is currently hampered by the lack of adequate lifting, repair and refit facilities,” said Rivergate Director Tom Hill.

“The world is experiencing a superyacht building boom and the average size of these vessels is also increasing, so the expansion of Rivergate is ideally timed to accommodate this growth and make our region much more accessible for superyachts,” he said.

Rivergate is an ideal place for a superyacht hub due to its central east coast location, proximity to an international airport, deep-water access, year-round safe climate and abundant supply of skilled trades.

Interview with Tom Hill

Hillary Buckman, Managing Director at Ocean Media, spoke with Tom about this exciting new project and the boom that is occurring in the refit industry.


What will be the main size, or tonnage, of yacht that you will be targeting?

We will be targeting yachts from 50 metres to 90 metres and up to 3,000 tonnes.


Where do you believe there is a shortfall in terms of Australian refit capabilities?

There are limited facilities that can lift and service superyachts in Australia.  Vessels currently find it extremely hard to schedule a lift and major works are almost being impossible due to limited slip/yard capacity, or the difficulty in securing skilled trades.

The huge infrastructure costs required to build these facilities is the key deterrent to addressing the shortfall of refit facilities in Australia.

In addition, such facilities should be positioned where there is a large consolidation of highly skilled marine trades that have the capability to service the top end of the superyacht market. South East Queensland is well-positioned with its skilled workforce to service multiple large superyachts.


Apart from the very impressive 3000-tonne Syncrolift, you also mention many other plans for upgrades. Which one of these do you think is currently lacking in Australia?  

All elements are lacking for superyachts, however, apart from the lifting dynamic, another important facility is the accommodation and recreation facilities that will be available on-site at Rivergate for vessels’ senior crew.

The proposed development will equal the standards provided by the world’s leading superyacht yards.


With yards in Australia and New Zealand upgrading their sites to accommodate larger vessels, how do you see Rivergate competing in this market? What will give you an advantage?

Most superyacht-focused yard upgrades are at the sub-800-tonne range, with the majority being sling lift Travelift arrangements. Rivergate will provide the only superyacht-focused facility with a captain- and owner-preferred Syncrolift capable of lifting multiple yachts up to 3,000 tonnes.

Lifting is only one piece of the pie, though. With a reputation for being in the top three refit yards in the world, Rivergate has the proven project management expertise and highly skilled trade base to do the works.


In Australia, the environmental impact of marinas is very important when it comes to looking after our waterways. What does Rivergate currently have in place and what changes are you making to make sure you are following the strict guidelines in these areas?

Rivergate has incorporated in its plans the highest level of environmental design elements. The design calls on learnings from the existing facility, which recently received a commendation for environmental compliance from the environmental regulator.

The design outcomes meet or exceed the relevant guidelines for all activities that have environmental impacts.


How is the Queensland Government assisting you in making sure the Rivergate expansion becomes a reality?  

The State Government has acknowledged the jobs and economic benefits of the project and has been proactive in assigning members of their State Development Team to assist Rivergate navigate our way through the approval process. The project is supported by all levels of government.


Your family’s vision for owning one of the best shipyards in the world is nearly completed. What are you most proud of after nearly 15 years?

The evolution of the business from its humble days at Bulimba to the creation of a world-class refit precinct that has maintained the feel of a family-owned business through the employment and development of a team that is truly passionate about the industry and delivering the best possible outcomes for its clients.

Untapped opportunity

Rivergate Marina and Shipyard was established in 2006 and has serviced more than 300 vessels over the past 14 years, with recent visitors including M/Y Amatasia, M/Y Promise, M/Y Ramble on Rose, M/Y Ningaloo and M/Y No Comment.

Research commissioned by Rivergate suggests the shipyard’s increased capabilities would generate $459.4 million a year for the local economy, including around $167.3 million in direct revenue from 60 superyachts undertaking repair and refit works. The regional tourism and provisioning benefits could be up to $525 million, making a total of about $984 million.

“Australia, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia have some of the most exciting superyacht cruising grounds in the world, including the Great Barrier Reef on the Queensland coast and many spectacular tropical islands and secluded escapes on Rivergate’s doorstep,” said Hill.

“Under our plans, Rivergate will provide superyacht owners and captains with the assurance of knowing that a conveniently located, world-class ship lift, hardstand and refit centre is available during their visits to this untapped region.”

Rivergate’s expansion coincides with the Queensland Government’s Superyacht Strategy, which recognises the tremendous opportunity the superyacht industry provides.

Plans for the expansion are at an advanced stage with a Development Application lodged and construction ready to commence in 2021.



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