14/05/2008 - 22:00

A new level in boating luxury

14/05/2008 - 22:00

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IT’S an exclusive industry reserved for the super-rich, and Western Australia is right in the thick of the action as a supplier of some of the world’s best super-yachts.

A new level in boating luxury

IT'S an exclusive industry reserved for the super-rich (and often famous), and Western Australia is right in the thick of the action as a supplier of some of the world's best super-yachts.

And while there's plenty of wealth being generated in WA as a result of the resources boom, the clientele for WA-made luxury yachts is based mainly in Europe and North America.

Hanseatic Marine and Evolution Yachts is a relative newcomer to the business, having operated from its Henderson base for about five years.

In comparison, the established European super-yacht builders have been servicing the market's top end for decades.

Working to Hanseatic Marine's advantage is the experience and knowledge spilled over from the state's former super-yacht stalwart, Oceanfast, before it was acquired by Austal Ltd in 1999.

By definition, a super-yacht is a vessel over 25 metres long, finished to absolute perfection inside and out, and is seen as an extension of the owner's personality, which is ironic considering the lengths to which the yacht builders will go to protect the owners' identities.

However, some super-yacht owners have found it difficult to maintain their anonymity.

Take for instance Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's monster yacht, Octopus, a 127m vessel complete with 60 permanent crew, two helicopters and a 10-man submarine, all costing more than $200 million.

Closer to home is the 69m Aussie Rules, built for golfer/businessman Greg Norman, who chose Austal Ltd-owned operation, Oceanfast, to construct the vessel with Fremantlebased Sam Sorgiovanni Designs styling the interior and exterior of the yacht.

Evolution Yachts managing director Kevin Altera, formerly with Oceanfast, said Mr Norman's choice of a WA super yacht builder really gave the industry a kick.

"People didn't realise that Oceanfast had been around for 20 years before Greg Norman built his boat; Aussie Rules was his second boat built by Oceanfast, the first boat was a 25-metre sports fisherman," Mr Altera said.

Evolution has already launched two super-yachts, the 34m Salacia and the 25m Crystal Blue, since it was first formed in 2003, and is currently working on its third vessel.

The company, which is said to have orders worth $350 million on its books, employs 140 people and relies on the close relationship with past customers to market itself on the international stage.

Mr Altera said the company was currently speaking to a number of European clients.

"We've got a number of projects we're bidding on at the moment and that's all we can say about that," he said.

Production in the super-yacht industry has tripled during the past decade, with 700 super-yachts over 30m in length on order to join the $59 billion in vessels currently sailing the world's oceans.

Hanseatic Marine is currently building the sister ship to its first super yacht, the 73m long Silver, which launched last year and was, at the time, the world's longest private aluminium yacht.

The company's director, Clive Peers, said while its point of difference in the global market was its aluminium hull technology, it was the interior that distinguished the vessel.

"That's what people feel and touch...

people don't touch the aluminium, they touch the paint finish, the toilet fixtures, they touch the bedrooms, that's where they're going to notice whether its going to be a top quality vessel or not," Mr Peers said.

But for those wanting upmarket style without splurging on a superyacht, where the general rule is $1 million for every metre in length, new company Australia Yachts offers other options.

Founder Michael Antalec, who also co-founded Hanseatic Marine, says the company is an "exclusive luxury boat builder" and is planning to launch the first of its Secret Habour range, a 14m motor yacht, by year's end.

The range will retail from $1.3 million to $1.5 million, and Mr Antalec said while he hoped to sell a few boats in WA, in the long-term the company was looking to export to either America or Europe.

"We have the second product line that's fully designed and ready to go, and we plan on having 48 boats a year going out within three years, so we're ramping up very quickly," Mr Antalec said.

In the meantime, WA will soon be home to another super-yacht builder, Avenger Yachts - a wholly owned subsidiary of aluminium shipbuilder Strategic Marine.

It's a lucrative market, according to marketing manager Jamie Anderson, with a lot of clients coming from the oil and gas sector.

"It's still at a conceptual design stage, we're still planning; it's a new baby that will take a couple of years," he said of the new venture.

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