Queensland-based Rivergate Marina & Shipyard has long been one of Australia's most popular refit yards. According to Steve Fisher the yard has enjoyed a particularly busy season, welcoming new and regular clients back to the yard for refit and maintenance work. Visitors in the final quarter of 2013 have included 73.3m Dragonfly, built by Hanseatic Marine, 48m Dorothea III, built by Cheoy Lee and 63.4m SuRi, built by Halter Marine, all of which are now spending time cruising around the South Pacific. Still in the yard is 66.75m Golden Shadow, built by Campbell Shipyards, and 31m Whistler, built by Norman R. Wright.

Dorothea III at the Rivergate yard

While the Australian new build sector has shrunk to just one active yard – Hanseatic Marine – Australian refit yards remain busy. Fisher believes that the quality of work being undertaken is what makes Australian refit yards an attractive prospect for yachts, as the overall value of the work is high. "The standard reply we get from yachts is that although pricing looks expensive in Australia, compared with the USA, the productivity levels are higher as we always have qualified tradesmen working on the boat, with no minimum wage workers working on the boat," he said. "As a result we regularly get captains who say ‘you looked expensive on paper but it’s actually been a cost effective job because we got far more done than we expected to do. Refit yards in Australia, and probably NZ too, have established themselves as competitive by offering good quality work of a high standard that doesn’t have to be redone. A lot of cheaper yards don't work out to be that cheap as the work has to be redone."

The Rivergate facility

If the 2013 season has been anything to go by, numbers of yachts choosing to undergo refit work in Australia, and around the wider South Pacific, is on the rise. “The season has definitely been busier than 2012, " said Fisher, who believes that this is due to the changing cruising habits of yachts. He explained that when the superyacht fleet first started to come 'Down Under' boats were all coming for just three or four months and would leave feeling they hadn’t seen enough. "Now all the big boats who come down here all programme to be in the South Pacific for at least a year and many are even starting to look at two or three seasons down here." Australia, and the South Pacific in general, has been growing in popularity as a destination and part of the appeal is the high quality of refit support in the region, which inspires confidence to travel for longer periods. With that translating directly to refit orders, this has proved to be excellent news for the Australian refit yards.

SuRi will spend time cruising round New Zealand before returning to Rivergate for more refit work in January 2014

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