The 2020 Olympics in Japan and 2021 America’s Cup in New Zealand promise to be big revenue generators for their respective marine industries, especially if the number of foreign-flagged superyachts visiting those countries is as high as expected.
Peter Busfield, executive director of the New Zealand Marine Industry Association, says 150 superyachts are already signed up to visit Auckland for the America’s Cup, compared to about 50 that typically cruise the North Island that time of year. The Olympics next July could attract a similar number to Japan.
Australia, which recently passed the Special Recreational Vessel Act 2019, could see a large portion of those yachts, too, as there will be a six-month window between the two events. David Good, CEO of Superyacht Australia, says the new law will allow foreign-flagged superyachts (larger than 80 feet) into Australia for up to 126 days without custom duties. Owners previously had to pay full import duties on superyachts in order to charter them.
“This law is important in several ways,” Good says. “It could support our superyacht builders by giving people a taste of the yachting lifestyle and potentially buying a new yacht.”
More likely, Good says, the influx of superyachts will create the demand for charter crew, landside support services and refit services. Citing a 2016 economic study, Superyacht Australia says the new law could create up to 12,000 jobs and contribute $1.13 billion to the national economy by 2021.
Some shipyards have already started to expand facilities and rebuild infrastructure to prepare for visiting yachts. “Boatworks, on the Gold Coast, is expecting to hire 1,000 extra workers during the busy season, while we expect that area to hire another 4,000 workers across the local economy,” Good says. “The yards have already spent millions working toward the changes.”
The loosening of Australia’s charter laws was a long, hard-fought battle. The concept was first proposed in 2000, according to Hillary Buckman, founder of OceanLIVE, but met resistance from successive governments for almost 20 years. “This is the culmination of decades of collaboration among all levels of the marine industry,” Buckman says.
Good says that when Fiji, a popular charter destination, changed its charter rules, the number of days superyachts visited the island “went through the roof.”
Before its passage, the Australian law went to Parliament twice recently but was defeated because it was “tied up in cargo-rule changes,” Good says. “When it was presented by itself, both political parties voted for it. We were able to show the demand and the jobs would be there.” He says the bill’s authors left “superyacht” out of the title, instead referring to them as “Special Recreational Vessels.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue.