ASMEX Showcases a Positive Future for the Australian Industry | MaryAnne Edwards, GMBA New Zealand & Australia

Maryanne Edwards, Global Marine Business Advisors, attended the 2021 Australian Superyacht, Marine Export and Commercial Industry (ASMEX) Conference held at Sanctuary Cove last week.  AIMEX successfully delivered a diverse and engaging event looking at the Australian economic recovery, growth in marine exports, defence innovation, electric hybrid engines, importing a superyacht into Australia and the latest superyacht visitation data for 2020. “Congratulations must go to President of AIMEX Jeremy Spear, the AIMEX board and CEO David Good for probably one of the most engaging conference days I have experienced.”

Alistair Murray AM

Alistair Murray AM, Chairman of Ronstan and Vice President, Australian Sailing, returned as conference MC bringing with him significant industry experience and a strong understanding of export markets.


Given the important role governments are playing in Australia and globally since the pandemic it was important to have Deputy Premier Hon Dr Steve Miles, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning outline current and future marine industry investment plans that will continue to support the economic recovery for Queensland. He made the point that one of the critical issues facing the industry is access to skilled labour and stated the government was placing more emphasis on how to attract and retain skilled workers in the industry.  Dr Thomas Wechselberger, Project Manager from the Queensland Department of State Development also attended the conference.  Dr Wechselberger has been working closely with industry to drive the QLD superyacht strategy, a significant government initiative that has been a huge benefit for the industry. It is exciting for the superyacht industry in Australia to see the level of not only government support but significant private investment in the refit, boatbuilding and marina development sectors being undertaken particularly in the state of Queensland.  The Palaszczuk Government’s Superyacht Strategy Champion, Member for Cairns Michael Healy was also present ensuring the issues facing the industry continue to be at the forefront of the Queensland government.  The Australian Marine sector voiced their concerns that other state governments have not been as progressive in supporting the industry with AIMEX working to drive more state government involvement particularly in WA and NSW where they have a strong concentration of marine industry players.


It was refreshing to hear a straightforward and easy to understand presentation from Peter Munckton, Chief Economist, Bank of Queensland.  Peter certainly impressed the audience with his commentary on a variety of issues that are important in understanding the current and future state of the Australian economy.  Housing prices, interest rates, defence spending, shortage of labour, current tax regime, government debt, importance of vaccination against Covid and the current influx of money coming into the economy from the latest government budget.   He stated the marine sector is a volatile but growth industry and suggested the sector is ahead of the pack in terms of supporting economic recovery. He also reinforced the importance of immigration to counter worker shortages and further drive the Australian economy.


The export sector in the Australian industry continues to be strong with Australian made products sought after on the global stage.  The export panel session with Kane Bygrave, Director, Aurora Global Logistics; Grant Amor, Director, Aqualuma; and Peter Dowdney, Australasian Sales Manager, Ronstan International was very interesting as they all recounted their first reactions to the pandemic 12 months ago and how their businesses changed as a result. The panel felt demand would continue as the global desire for Australia made products continues.

Grant Amor Aqualuma talked about his company’s desire to get more into a “need” rather than a “want” market. To this end Grant said Aqualuma have put more emphasis on their commercial lighting division which has produced positive results. He also advised the pandemic had allowed time to focus on R&D.

Kane Bygrave Aurora stated that in the beginning air freight options were reduced by 80% and as demand for air freight continued prices soared.  He advised freight schedules could be unreliable, containers difficult to access and prices across the board had increased.  Kane advised the pandemic has changed the freight environment and specifically lead times when you are looking to export.  Despite these challenges he stated Aurora were busier than ever and working hard to meet the logistic requirements of their clients.

Peter Dowdney spoke about how important and valuable their large distribution network had become since covid.  He said Ronstan had gone from a conservative mode when covid hit the globe to after 3 months having sales continuing to exceed forecasts.  He said like everyone the pandemic had provided the opportunity to really look at the business and make the necessary changes to ensure resilience in the future and like Aqualuma focus on R&D.

In conclusion the panellists were united in the areas that all exporters should focus on to ensure a sustainable long-term future in the industry.

  • Supply chains must be reviewed to ensure manufacturing capability is not compromised in the future
  • Distribution strategies and networks are essential to ensure a close relationship is maintained with clients
  • Marketing strategies need to be reviewed to take account for the lack of face-to-face interaction and the renewed importance of the digital environment and social media
  • Freight/logistics options must be reviewed to ensure companies can meet client’s delivery expectations
  • Everyone should use this time to improve your product range and ensure a continuing focus on R&D
  • Service and reliability are an important USP and must be reinforced
  • Australia made branding is becoming more important and in demand so promoting where you manufacture is important
  • Staffing – getting and retaining the right people will continue to be a critical issue within the industry and across the globe.

The panel stated reviewing the above areas was an eye-opening exercise and every company should do it. Repeated statements were the need to be nimble and resilient. A common theme being don’t underestimate how good you are at what you do. We must pull the future towards us not wait for it to come.

Ryan Carmichael, COO and Co-Founder of The Whiskey Project Group was impressive with his presentation and depth of detailed information on the requirements and development of defence solutions. With the purchase of Yamba Welding and Naiad late last year, the Whiskey Project Group now offers an end-to-end sovereign capability under one integrated company.

Chris Blackwell, Sales & Marketing Manager, Echo Marine Group and Sander Toonen, Chief Operating Officer, Silver Yachts represented Western Australia with Blackwell providing an overview on marine activities and updates on the WA Australian Marine Complex including Austal, BAE and Luerssen / CIVMEC and Echo Yachts as the major ship and yacht builders in Western Australia. Toonen delivered an in-depth presentation on Silver Yachts including its new Explorer Series. An interesting concept being managed by these shipyards is the sharing of staff during troughs and peeks within the business.  A concept that many other businesses should look at to combat staff shortages and the down time sometimes experienced between projects. It was noted the WA government had supported Silver Yachts in locating to a new site within the AMC.


The electrification of vessel engines appears to be a current hot topic so having Martin Skoglund, Head of Volvo Penta Oceania and Gavin Rooney, Director Volvo Penta Australia present their vision for Volvo’s continuance in innovation and sustainable power systems was of keen interest to the audience.  Lynelle Johnson, Managing Director, E-Class Outboards talked about the company’s newly released electric outboards, their efficiency, range, and ease of recharging with comparisons to two-stroke diesel engines. Looking into the future there was talk about the need for marinas to have the capability to charge a fleet of electric vessels.  When one considers what is happening in the automotive sector this is certainly a space to watch out for.

Captain Richard Morris, Managing Director, Australian Superyachts tackled the importation of superyachts into Australia, the considerations and process, and the current unprecedented boom in superyacht importation largely due to COVID-19. Richard highlighted the importance of enticing the large contingent of overseas based Australian crew members back to work in Australia where there are now growing opportunities.

Martin Baum, Managing Director of Pantaenius Yacht Group, currently residing in Australia presented an update on the superyacht industry in Europe having another record year. He noted the high demand for new builds since the start of the pandemic was keeping shipyards busy, and that many who had been regular charter clients were now looking to yacht ownership to be able to enjoy the benefits control over their own vessel provides.   Pantaenius have made a significant mark in the Australian industry with a strong focus on the leisure marine sector and building strong relationships with their clients and other stakeholders.  It has been interesting to watch this company’s significant progress within the Australian market and how the Australian arm of Pantaenius stamped their unique brand on the industry.


David Good, CEO, AIMEX released the new superyacht visitation data for 2020 showing foreign flagged superyachts stayed an average of 128 days in 2020 compared to an average of 73 days in 2019. This represents a 75% increase in the length of stay, translating into a contribution of over $100M to the Australian economy. David and his team have undertaken considerable work with both state and federal governments during the pandemic to ensure the steady flow of superyachts coming into Australia.  62 superyachts arrived in Australia during 2020. David also talked about his “reach, catch and deliver” marketing strategy detailing how their international events prior to covid had supported the strong visitation currently being seen.  AIMEX is focused on returning to the global stage when borders open but in the meantime have been working on new projects designed to promote Australia as a number one cruising and refit destination.

Returning to ASMEX by video was Martin Redmayne, Editor-in-Chief, The Superyacht Group and Kiran Haslam, Chief Marketing Officer of Princess Yachts. Martin shared his latest research findings from ‘The Pacific Superyacht Report’ detailing the future is bright for the region as owners look to use their vessels to travel further afield from their stock summer and winter locations.



Finally, to wrap up what had been a day where you could see how engaged the audience were and how excited everyone is to be back in a face-to-face environment AIMEX had secured Kiran Haslam, a favourite presenter at ASMEX.  By video Kiran presented an upbeat and uniquely developed presentation on the changing landscape of luxury consumption and results of a survey by the Economists Group.  He talked about the transfer of wealth and referred to HNWI’s and HENRY’s (High earning not rich yet) and the opportunities these people represent to the superyacht industry.  Kiran also touched on the merits and attractiveness of Australia as a superyacht destination ending what had been one of the best conferences yet by confirming what many had said during the day and that was ‘Australia has it all’.


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Maryanne Edwards
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