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Luxury order boost

WA’S Henderson shipbuilding region is rivalling leading motor yacht building nations like Holland, Germany and the United States for contracts from billionaire buyers.

A steady stream of orders for Austal Company, Oceanfast Limited promises to offset the global downturn in the car ferry sector and inject new life in to the Henderson shipbuilding strip.

Austal Ships executive chairman John Rothwell said Oceanfast was effectively competing with leading builders such as Feadship, Oceanco and Amels of Holland for contracts in this highly specialised field.

He was speaking to Business News after the official opening of $10 million state-of-the-art yacht building facilities where golfing celebrity Greg Norman’s $60 million plus 69.5 metre (228ft) expedition yacht, Aussie Rules is under construction.

Norman, who appeared with Premier Richard Court to open the facilities, chose Oceanfast above yards in Holland, Germany and the United States.

The super yacht with 12 guest bedrooms and space for 14 crew will come with a gymnasium, a decompression chamber and a 13m game fishing boat.

Almost two years after Austal’s May 1999 acquisition of the then financially embattled Oceanfast and a year after recovering from a fire which ravaged a $40 million vessel, the motor yacht builder is consistently winning contracts over tough international comp-etition.

Mr Rothwell said current orders for four vessels would earn around $100 million annually and within months an Oceanfast furniture company would start manufacturing items for luxury motor yachts and exclusive homes.

“The build times on these vessels are longer than ferries - sometimes up to two years - so while we probably have around $200 million in orders our annual revenue for this company would be just $100 million at present,” Mr Rothwell said.

The endorsement of the American-based Norman provides a great tool for seducing the United States market which is expected to provide Oceanfast’s greatest source of buyers.

A Fort Lauderdale office is now offering sales and technical support for Oceanfast vessels plying waters off this region.

In mid-January Oceanfast announced a contract for a 53 metre luxury motor yacht for another United States based private buyer and there are at least two more orders in the pipeline.

It is understood one of these orders will be sourced from a European buyer who would have traditionally used the German yard, Lurssen or one of the Dutch yards located close to him.

“No I can’t say any more about this contract just yet,” Mr Rothwell said.

“But I’m very optimistic about the outlook for Oceanfast.

“I’d say competition in the luxury motor yacht sector is greater than the ferry market, but we are making some great progress.”

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