Captains, Charter & A Superyacht Service: Down Under

By George Bains

“Everybody wants a superyacht in front of the Opera House!” claims Clemens Overdijk, Marina Manager of Sydney Superyacht Marina. We explore exactly why, and his optimism about the future for Sydney...

His marina is already yielding positive results from the upcoming 36th America’s Cup and the recent pivotal legislation opening up charter in Australia. Yet, amid the tidal wave of optimism and opportunity elevating the industry Down Under, Clemens adamantly stresses one thing. That quality of service is paramount to any success in this luxury business. 

Clemens Overdijk arrived in Sydney from his native Holland in 1999 and has amassed over 20 years of marina experience since starting at D’Albora, Australia’s largest group of marinas. Coming from a hospitality background, he applied a service-oriented approach from early on.

At that time in 1999, marinas were more a perfect place to park your vessel. There was a lot of scope in terms of adding hospitality to it, applying those hospitality principles and making marinas a place where people are welcome.”

Now at the helm of Sydney’s premiere destination for visiting superyachts, Clemens’ philosophy remains untouched. “It’s a very personalised service,” he says when analysing why his marina generally has longer lead times. “During that time, you need to quickly establish a relationship with the Captain, because they are often the deciding factor in whether a yacht comes in or goes elsewhere.”

When engaging with Captains, honesty and transparency are the cornerstone of building any relationship. “I have a very direct approach,” explains Clemens. “I assess what is important for Captains. I am forthright in confirming what we have and what we don’t have as Captains need to be aware of what they can and cannot do.

It is hard to imagine that transparency is a particularly difficult thing to manage, considering the incredible strategic advantages of the location. The Sydney Superyacht Marina boasts sheltered, deep-water facilities just 10 minutes from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. For such a central location to have 20 superyacht berths, some up to 74 metres, is already a major benefit for owners. With new legislation permitting charter of foreign-flagged vessels for the first time, Clemens anticipates that the city will welcome many more superyachts. 

“We expect that more high-net-worth-individuals will come to Sydney and have that initial charter experience. Whether it be people that would like to own a superyacht and are just testing the market, or the older generation that don’t necessarily want to own a superyacht but still have the experience. That’s where Sydney and the Sydney-based fleet will benefit.”

For superyachts and their guests, Sydney a unique experience. “It’s Australia’s hotspot,” says Clemens. “There are many destinations within Australia, but everybody wants to see Sydney. It might not be the location where you holiday for long, we don’t have the diving sites, but everybody wants to have a superyacht in front of the Opera House! Everybody wants to visit the Opera House and the fine dining that we offer.”

Good news for the local charter market, but Clemens is quick to revert back to the importance of service, especially in a situation where growth is expected. “The charter fleet will need to offer a higher level of service and there’s a good number of new charter vessels already in the 40m range offering that super service. There are some older charter boats that will need to step up, and they’ll need to reimagine themselves as delivering that higher level of service because the competition is increasing.”

The impacts of greater competition are not refined to experiences onboard superyachts. Though developing an industry is not an overnight process and should be expected to take some years still, there are much wider benefits that will filter down. “We first need to see an increase in the charter fleet here in Sydney, but that will become a bigger market in terms of mechanical and maintenance service and also in terms of the fresh roots supply chain.”

One region that Clemens mentions is more prepared in this respect is Queensland. The Sunshine State hosts some of the East Coast’s most important infrastructure, including Gold Coast City Marina, The Yard Brisbane, Boatworks and the world renowned Rivergate Marina & Shipyard. The Queensland government even has a plan in place to become APAC’s superyacht hub by 2023, and Clemens hopes Sydney will harness similar ambitions. “Over the next 5 years the government will better understand the opportunities that we can create as an industry and how it can benefit from that. Infrastructure will have to change here at Sydney Harbour.”

Competition between the foreshore and real estate development in the city means that, for marinas, this is likely to be more a case of re-development rather than new development. With an increase in yacht migration towards Sydney expected over the coming years, Clemens assures that The Sydney Superyacht Marina is in safe hands to provide world-class service. “We are in a very fortunate position. We have a good owner behind us who sees those trends and is willing to see how we can improve our facilities in the long term.”

So, when can we expect to see images of larger superyachts sailing proudly past the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House? According to Clemens, there has been some immediate effect already, however he believes it will progress in stages. “I’ve already had three enquiries for 74m vessels, with one confirmed booking. Sydney will see an influx of superyachts between 40-55m initially, and I think the 65-70m drive will come in the next five to six years.”

A city that offers such a variety of experiences, from the surfing-haven of Bondi Beach to top class museums and the Botanic Gardens, Sydney is an unmissable stop for any superyacht itinerary in the South Pacific.

"Sydney is Australia's hotspot. Everybody wants to have a superyacht in front of the Opera House!"

Clemens Overdijk, Marina Manager of Sydney Superyacht Marina

"Sydney is Australia's hotspot. Everybody wants to have a superyacht in front of the Opera House!"

Clemens Overdijk, Marina Manager of Sydney Superyacht Marina
By George Bains