Superyacht Australia CEO on Doubling the Industry

By George Bains

During a weekend of Australia Day celebrations David Good, CEO of Superyacht Australia, met with to discuss a watershed moment that carries the potential to double the size of the Australian superyacht industry. The passing of a new Special Recreational Vessels Bill has opened the country up to charter for foreign flagged vessels, marking the end of a long struggle to break free from shackles which had impeded the industry from reaching its full potential. The impact of this cannot be overstated, and a renewed air of optimism is sweeping across all corners of the industry here in Australia.

A man with a strong military background, David Good is no stranger to responsibility and leadership.  By the age of just 28 he had worked his way to becoming a Tactics Instructor in the army, taking a lead in security operations before he made his foray into the world of superyachts with Ports North in Cairns. Nowadays, David is widely heralded as the man who pushed this much needed superyacht legislation over the line.

During his time managing port and marina operations, David soon came to understand the importance of charter regulations and the wider economic impact it has on the country. “I quickly developed a sense of what was really important in the industry,” reflects David. “From an early time, everyone mentioned the fact that foreign vessels couldn’t charter in Australia and that’s more than half of the world’s fleet. We sat there and thought if we can change this piece of legislation, we could at least double the industry overnight, and in Cairns double the occupancy.”

Determined to make sure Australia reaped the benefits of its unrivalled natural beauty and advanced infrastructure, David increased his involvement with Superyacht Australia, forming part of a concerted effort which including leading brokers and marina managers committed to lobbying the government for change. However, this was a struggle that had existed long before David Good’s involvement, and it was to take three gruelling campaigns to finally pass the bill through the senate.

The wave of interest that lifted the superyacht industry in Australia before the 2000 Olympics had died down by 2003 after the end of the Americas Cup in New Zealand, and was further hindered by the global financial crisis. The mission to reignite the optimism of the turn of the century encountered several political stumbling blocks, the most crucial of all being a need to separate superyachts from cargo vessels in legislation. Superyachts had previously been caught up in the Coastal Trading Act, which imposed damaging restrictions making commercial activity on yachts unmanageable. After two campaigns in 2015 and 2017 that fell just short of passing new legislation, a separate bill was finally passed at the end of last year.

After working on it personally for about 9 years, and for the industry to have been working on it for 20 years, everyone was in a state of shock,” said David. “The Act is very clever in regard to the three changes we needed made to the Coastal Trading Act. It references all other parts of the Trading Act, and then for the three things that we needed changed it gives us our own legislation just for those things.”

Asked what he expects to see happen in the coming years as a result of the change, David used examples of countries in the region who have taken similar measures in recent years. “The lazy 2-second answer is that we can double the industry. When we looked at what happened in Fiji, their average length of stay was about 21 days. That’s the kind of numbers I used to see up in Cairns. When they brought in charter laws several years ago, that went up to 136 days, which blew me away that that’s their average length of stay! When you look at it and think the vessel is parking itself for a full season, and if they pick up 2 or 3 charters in that 136 days then they’re happy.”

Yet, David is confident that Australia can go even further. “We looked at what we’ve got here in Australia and we thought we’re a year-round destination. You can do 4-6 months up in the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley in the North during winter, and then come South for the summer. So, the potential here is for us to change that to in excess of 200 days.” For the wider industry, this presents huge opportunities ranging from a retail boost, fuelled by crew spending, and more activity in shipyards through maintenance and refit works.  

The shipyards, which is where the expensive infrastructure is, have either already invested or they’ve got the approval ready to go,” responded David when probed as to whether the infrastructure is ready to meet a proliferation of superyachts in the country. Queensland-based shipyard Boat Works is to open a new A$120m redevelopment aimed at attracting larger yachts, while neighbours Gold Coast City Marina are lining up a A$106m investment. Elsewhere, Rivergate – an award-winning shipyard famed for refit projects on superyachts such as 74m Aurora – is believed to be ready to give the green light to a large investment on the back of the new legislation.

There are, however, some areas where work does need to be done. “It’s the in-water infrastructure that we need to catch up on,” David admits; however, such work won’t cause much of a burden. “Putting floating pontoons and the like together is not that expensive. Southport Yacht Club has just pulled the trigger on a 163m berth. Sydney Harbour is well protected so it’s quite easy to anchor, but we are going to have to improve the in-water infrastructure here. But that’s an easier thing to do than the full infrastructure.”

An exciting time lies ahead for Australia, and David expects a different superyacht clientele to soon flock to his country. “It’s more the explorer yachts that are going to want to come here,” he says. “At the moment there’s two jewels in the crown that the boats come to which is the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour, but there’s so many different spots that Captains who are in the know are itching to take people to.

“Tasmania should be on everybody’s bucket list, it’s just an amazing spot to do by water, there’s places that you can’t get to any other way. The Kimberleys is an amazing place and really the only decent way to see it is by sea.” Luxury experiences in the country are already well established thanks to a thriving private jet industry, and the connection to superyachts has started. “All those things are already in place,” says David of luxury facilities. “It has matured because of the fly-in market, so having superyachts is just going to make them more attractive as you can go on an alternative itinerary.”

Over the coming months, will provide you with a closer look at the unspoilt and untouched destinations within Australia. With the Tokyo Olympics and America’s Cup soon approaching, now is the best time to uncover a country that offers everything a superyacht owner could wish for.

"We looked at what we’ve got here in Australia and we thought we’re a year-round destination. You can do 4-6 months up in the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley in the North during winter, and then come South for the summer."

David Good, CEO Superyacht Australia


"We looked at what we’ve got here in Australia and we thought we’re a year-round destination. You can do 4-6 months up in the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley in the North during winter, and then come South for the summer."

David Good, CEO Superyacht Australia
By George Bains
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