Gavin King

TropicNow editor

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Superyacht boom for the tropics

Local businesses are benefiting from increased superyacht visits to Cairns and Port Douglas, but more could be done to boost the sector even further.


Superyacht visits to Cairns have doubled since 2014, with a new push underway to establish the tropical north as a southern hemisphere service hub for the luxury boats.

Local fuel suppliers, shipyards and caterers are all benefiting from notable superyachts berthing at Marlin Marina in recent times, including the Aquamarina, Dragonfly, Equanimity and many others.

Port Douglas is also getting increased attention from superyacht owners, with tourism entrepreneur Chris Morris recently moving his 33.5m charter yacht Flying Fish from Townsville to its new base at The Reef Marina.

SuperYachtGroup Great Barrier Reef manager Joanne Drake said the combination of a lower Australian dollar and earlier marketing campaigns was now paying dividends.

"The industry outlook is very positive right now," she told Tropic Now.

"Superyachts are staying in Cairns longer, getting more work done here and allowing crew to spend a couple of extra days here.

"The number of days they are berthed in Cairns has more than doubled compared to the previous year and we're getting more repeat customers because they love it so much.

"There are huge economic flow-ons for Cairns in terms of tradespeople, the shipyards, florists, fuel suppliers, even tourism operators are benefiting becaues the crew always get out and enjoy the places they stay in.

"We get excellent reports from the captains after their stay in Cairns, they love the facilities and the infrastructure we've got because it's all here in one spot close to Marlin Marina."

Two of the most luxurious superyachts ever to visit Cairns arrived in recent months.

The Dragonfly is the length of one and a half Olympic sized swimming pools, cost around $90 million and is owned by the co-founder of Google.

It's available for a week-long charter for $770,000, and was most recently in Cairns back in December 2015 for a four-day visit.

Described as the world's fastest, most fuel-efficient long range superyacht, the Dragonfly is the latest in a steadily increasingly number of luxury mega-vessels stopping here for maintenance, refurbishment, refuelling and restocking.

The even more impressive - and expensive Equanimity was berthed in Cairns in March this year, with the $165 million vessel in the city for maintenance work at BSE Maritime Solutions dockyard.

The superyacht, believed to be owned by Asian real estate tycoon Jho Low, is a remarkable 91.5m long and can accommodate 26 guests who can enjoy onboard facilitie such as a beauty salon, gym, sauna, a Turkish bath and a large pool, among other luxurious features.

Despite the increasing number of superyacht visits, the future could be even brighter if red tape at a Federal Government was cut to attract even more vessels to the region.

According to Ms Drake, superyacht owners often lease out their vessels in between visits to recoup some of the huge operating costs. But under the current system, foreign-flagged superyachts face a mountain of red tape and huge costs to do so.

The industry hoped the Coalition Government would change the regulations to make Australia a more attractive destination for superyachts, but legislation to cut the red tape has so far failed to make it through the Senate because of its impacts on other marine sectors.

"New Zealand have made this type of legislative change and streamlined the process for superyachts, and and they're seeing the massive economic benefits," Ms Drake said.

"We need the politicians and bureaucrats to consider the importance economic contribution of the superyacht industry to cities like Cairns and streamline the process to make it even more attractive than it currently is for superyachts to visit."

Take a look inside the Dragonfly