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On Wednesday this week, the Morrison Government introduced the Special Recreational Vessels Bill 2019 at the House of Representatives that if passed, will allow foreign owned superyachts to charter in Australia.

The ability for these vessels to charter will unlock an estimated 11,800 jobs and $1.64 billion in revenue to the Australian economy by 2021.

“If this bill is passed it is likely we could see a doubling of the visitation to the Great Barrier Reef region with not only a higher number of vessels, but a longer duration of stay.  These low-impact, eco-friendly vessels with philanthropic billionaire owners are the perfect high-value-traveller that our region seeks” said Joanne Drake, Manager of the SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef.  “With the news of this possibility breaking internationally, I’ve been inundated with inquiries today from captains asking if new regulations are in place yet.  We are also currently in communication with a very large superyacht wanting to book a charter before Christmas out of Cairns with four large super and mega-yachts already interested in visiting for charter purposes next year!”

“We are not talking large volumes of visitors descending onto the reef either, it’s actually a very small total number for the year, which would equate to less than what one of our reef boats caters to in one day – with the added benefit of these vessels offering their assistance for future reef preservation and research efforts!”  said Drake.

Charter vessels make up more than half of the world’s superyacht fleet. There are currently more than 5,000 superyachts in the world, growing each year by an additional 150 new yachts.

Previously these vessels could not operate commercially in Australia unless they fully imported the vessel, which was a major deterrent to foreign superyacht owners considering cruising Australian waters.

Our ideal tropical lifestyle, geographical location, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and authentic ancient culture accompanied by all the required infrastructure, refit and maintenance facilities ensures that vessels have everything at their fingertips.  The customs clearance port of Cairns and the entire Great Barrier Reef region stands to gain so much.  Cairns Marlin Marina boasts the largest capability of all Australian superyacht marinas able to accommodate vessels up to 140m within a two-minute walk to the vibrant CBD, and a 10-minute drive to shipyards and the Cairns International Airport.  Nearby extended cruising opportunities exist with our SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef marinas in Port Douglas and the Whitsunday’s offering additional diversity and beauty with world-class island resorts up and down the large area of the outstanding Great Barrier Reef.

David Good, CEO of Superyacht Australia welcomed the news of the Bill moving through Parliament.

“Now is the critical time to act. We commend the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Michael McCormack for introducing this Bill. Huge events in the Pacific over the next 18 months will mean large numbers of superyachts will be in our region. The Tokyo Olympics in July 2020 and the Americas Cup in Auckland 2021 are expected to bring around 160 superyachts to our region – which is on the radar for superyacht owners for the marvellous cruising grounds and world-class service facilities Australia offers.” 

The SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef have been in support of and working toward charter legislation with Superyacht Australia for over 10 years now, and the steps began in 2009 when the 488 Crew Visa was created with the help of the SuperYacht Group Great Barrier Reef Chairperson, and experienced superyacht agent Carrie Carter.   “We have the support of all of our regional stakeholders and Qld Superyacht Champion, the Hon. Michael Healy MP, which is fantastic as this fits perfectly with the State Governments Superyacht Strategy and initiatives to make Queensland a superyacht hub of the Asia Pacific region” said Carrie Carter.  “Big boats = big jobs and this is a winning situation for everybody!”

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said “We are one of the most visited ports in Australia for superyachts, with vessels staying on average for 46 days, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy. The superyacht industry in Cairns contributes $83 million to the local economy and supports more than 240 jobs; this figure will grow significantly should the bill be passed. As well as boasting an unparalleled variety of visitor experiences, Cairns has significant capacity to service the superyacht industry with a dedicated marina along with world-class refit and maintenance facilities. This is a significant industry that continues to enjoy growth and we support the Government’s bill which will increase superyacht visitation to our region. It is quite simple, the more superyachts visiting our shores and the longer they stay, the greater the benefits for our economy.”

Advance Cairns CEO Nick Trompf welcomed the new Bill.  “We’ve been working closely with the superyacht industry and the Deputy Prime Minister’s office on this for several years,” Mr Trompf said.  “We have further meetings with senior Department officials this week and we now call on the ALP to support this in the Senate as it will unlock thousands of jobs in our region in coming years.”

Australians dominate the superyacht industry with over a quarter of the world’s Captains and crew hailing from ‘downunder’. The government supporting superyacht charter in Australia means supporting over 14,000 crew: Australia’s new age and highly skilled seafarers.

The main industries that will benefit will be tradespeople and small businesses. It is proven that each vessel spends 10 to 12% of the vessel’s value each year in maintenance, service and repairs, which benefits predominantly small, family-owned businesses and their communities.

The more vessels that visit Australia, and the longer that they stay, the greater the broader economic benefits.

 These changes will also benefit the local superyacht charter market,” continued Mr Good. “Regions that have a high level of charter activity receive increased international marketing exposure which then encourages further investment in locally based vessels, infrastructure and repair facilities.”

This likely change to Legislation will allow Australia to catch up to our neighbours who all have booming superyacht economies. NZ, Fiji and Tahiti enjoy thriving marine industries, dominated by charter vessels.

“With this change introduced by the Morrison government, Australia will enjoy a similar boost to our local industry and the thousands of skilled trade jobs and economic benefits that come with it. We congratulate the Morrison government for their foresight in supporting the Australian marine industry.”




Joanne Drake
Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef
Ph: +61 458 794 001

Carrie Carter
Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef
Ph: +61 429 391 046

David Good
SuperYacht Australia, Australian International Marine Export Group AIMEX
Ph:+61 2 9956 8906

The Super Yacht Group Great Barrier is a non-profit, industry consortium, proactive internationally in promoting the GBR region as the perfect home port for superyachts. It attends major boat shows around the world, such as The Monaco Yacht Show, Ft Lauderdale Boat Show, The Singapore Yacht Show and Rendezvous in Tahiti and Fiji.  With the assistance of the Cairns Regional Council and Ports North the group also hosts numerous inbound familiarisation tours.