BY Ryan Swift on 14 Jun 2023

The director and owner of Rivergate Marina and Shipyard says the conditions are right for big growth in superyacht visits to Oceania

Tom Hill, director of superyacht refit yard and marina Rivergate in Brisbane, Australia, reckons Oceania’s superyacht industry is due to grow rapidly now that Covid restrictions are gone. He says his “forward order has never been backed out so far.”

Rivergate Marina and Shipyard Director Tom Hill in a portrait photograph

Rivergate Marina and Shipyard Director Tom Hill says his family is selling the superyacht service provider to focus on other businesses

Hill and his family are the owners of Rivergate Marina and Shipyard, which is one of the few dedicated superyacht facilities in the region. Rivergate was recently put up for sale, a move which Hill said was due to his family wanting to focus on its other businesses, including construction and farming. This comes even as Australia’s superyacht industry looks forward to a brighter future.

In 2019, Australia’s government eliminated import tax on visiting, foreign-flagged superyachts, which opened the charter market. Hill says that there was a pickup of interest after the law passed, but Covid dented that early interest. Brisbane is due to host the Summer Olympics in 2032, which is likely to bring more superyachts to the Gold Coast.

Rivergate Marina and Shipyard – the sale includes waterfront parcels of land

“Everything is way better from every perspective, in terms of number of yachts, sizes of yachts, in terms of owners and captains wanting quality work done,” says Hill. “Every metric in our business is better.” He adds that superyachts considering coming to Australia and the Pacific are staying longer, a key element for growth in superyacht charter in the Asia-Pacific.

Hill tells the story of a 90m Lürssen superyacht that was in Australia but had to go back to Europe for work on its shaft lines as no suitable facilities could be found in the region. For reasons such as this, it is hard to tempt superyachts into staying longer in the region. The Hill Family got into the superyacht business 17 years ago when they couldn’t find adequate refit and maintenance services for their own family superyacht.

“We have said no to A$50 million worth of work, unsolicited work that, that just comes to us each year. That’s the whole of Australia missing out, not just us.”

An aerial view of Brisbane Australia from the sea at sunset

Brisbane, Australia, will host the Summer Olympics in 2032, which is likely to draw superyacht visitors

Hill noted that the key problem was the lack of services and haul-out facilities suited to the largest superyachts. In late 2020, Rivergate announced plans to acquire a syncrolift capable of hoisting superyachts up to 3000 tonnes as part of a US$200 million expansion. Those plans have yet to be realised, but Hill says government permissions have been arranged already.

Meanwhile, he reports strong investor interest. “We didn’t know how it was going to play out, but we have been absolutely blown away, and the level of interest has been outstanding,” says Hill, adding that it will likely be an overseas buyer that ultimately takes over Rivergate, even though he’d like it to stay in Australian hands

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