New Zealand waits on maritime border opening
Ben Osborne, director of 37South, looks ahead to the next cruising season for the New Zealand charter market…
New Zealand is a yachting country. Auckland's moniker of ‘the city of sails’ may be a little cheesy, but it's hard not to see where it came from when you drive the harbour bridge on a sunny Saturday morning and see the numbers of boats out on the water. Parts of New Zealand are perfectly suited to cruising. Isolated beaches, sheltered coves and Island reserves set the country apart. It is no wonder that superyacht charters are also becoming more popular. Thanks to a lot of hard work from local organisations, such as NZ Marine, New Zealand has a relatively conducive regulatory framework for visiting yachts to operate and charter within.
Just as the country was set to showcase its evolution into a South Pacific superyacht hub, with the 2020 America’s Cup, COVID curtailed everything. Since the start of the Pandemic, the New Zealand Maritime sector has calculated that it has lost $500 million NZD in superyacht related spend. Now, as the sun sets on the 2021/22 season, and the maritime border opening announcement appears close, it is a great time to catch up with Ben Osborne, Director of 37South.
Ben Osborne, Director of 37 South
Part of a younger generation of the former crew, Osborne became a director of, what remains, the longest-running superyacht support company in the Southern Hemisphere, in 2018. After a turbulent few years for the sector, he is honest in his recollections; “We were really lucky, the bulk of our yachts ended up coming down for The America’s Cup,” starts Osborne. “Many were associated with the various syndicates and could get the necessary visas. As a business owner, that was pleasing, but it was still very disappointing to watch so many others not be able to come to New Zealand.”
After an outlying few years, Osborne and his team are looking ahead to the next season. Pre-pandemic figures analysed by The Superyacht Agency found that New Zealand attracted around 1.7% of the global 30m+ fleet between 2015 and 2019. This was set for a huge boost over The America’s Cup, but, as Osborne suggests, there is still a lot of interest from yachts to come down. “We actually sent one of our guys to the St Barth's Bucket this year to meet with captains and crew, and the view to New Zealand was pretty positive. There are plenty of yachts heading through the canal, and the general feeling is that owners and charter guests will be able to fly in and join without any issues by next summer.”
There are strong rumours of an announcement in the coming weeks that New Zealand will set a date for its marine border opening. “Without a set date, there is still a level of hesitancy,” continues Osborne, “If it is to be October, as rumoured, that is somewhat challenging. That is the time that yachts are looking to come down from places like Fiji and Tahiti, and the planning stages are well underway.”
Once boats come through The Panama Canal, there is a diverse network of South Pacific infrastructure vying for their business. The Pacific superyacht industry has collectively championed the idea of working together to bring yachts to the region and create multi-year cruising and refit schedules that explore the entire region. It is encouraging to hear Osborne speak about growth in this direction. “We are speaking with increasing numbers of European owners and European based boats that are talking about coming down and basing themselves out of New Zealand, and creating long term plans.”
For foreign flagged yachts, as with other Pacific nations, chartering regulations are now much more conducive to superyacht visitation. As Osborne highlights, as long as a yacht is commercially registered, and in class, it should encounter no issues regarding chartering in New Zealand waters. One of the key issues, Osborne highlights is the relatively low level of yachts in New Zealand to offer. "I am sure with a higher stock of boats here, we could grow the chartering market. There are some large yachts wanting to come down, and this interest from guests is high."
Connecting the New Zealand charter market to the wider Pacific is a key topic in the lead up to The Superyacht Forum - Pacific Tour.
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