Cape Town Superyacht ‘Hub’ on the Horizon

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is exploring plans to grow a Superyacht hub facility

The V&A is compiling a report into the much-anticipated project that could see Cape Town competing with other global facilities for a share of the lucrative superyacht maintenance and repair market.

Andre Blaine, the V&A’s marine and industrial executive manager, told SABBEX the project forms part of the V&A’s strategic thinking around Operation Phakisa. The plan is also being spearheaded by ship repair veteran Brian Blackbeard, who owns YachtPort SA in Saldanha. “We are putting together a report with Brian on facilities here at the V&A,” said Blaine, adding that the V&A was looking to work in tandem with numerous local maritime industry stakeholders. “The Waterfront is working with industry to evaluate the position here in Cape Town at the Waterfront, which forms a key focus area of our Oceans Economy work,” he said.

At the heart of the plan is a shared vision to leverage Cape Town’s maritime skills base to capture a greater share of the top end of the leisure boating market. The city is already a boatbuilding centre of excellence, home to the likes of Southern Wind Shipyard, Robertson & Caine and Two Oceans Marine, to name but a few production behemoths.  Blaine said the V&A had been studying the superyacht ecosystem for several years, inspired partly by regular visits from some of the top boats, among them Octopus and Oracle. “The V&A is an ideal location and our intent is to explore and grow this offering with the associated services, such as repairs, modifications, paintwork, tourism etc.  This requires us to work closely with industry and government to put the best offering on the table,” Blaine said, adding that the current service offering was relatively small. “However the past few years has seen positive growth albeit incremental for sail, mechanical and electronic repairs some of which happens here at the V&A,” Blaine said.

He said the highly successful Volvo Ocean Race (formerly the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race) had inspired dreams of what else might lie in wait for Cape Town with its world class infrastructure, from repair facilities to hospitality services.  The Race, watched by over 150-million people worldwide, had catapulted Southern Africa into the spotlight during it first local stopover in 2014, and generated hundreds of millions of Rands towards the national economy.  A local superyacht hub would have a similar potential to grow the economy, Blaine said. “What better location than, Cape Town for the Northern Hemisphere ‘off season’ for maintenance works.  This is definitely a growth market and all role players need to band together to make it a success.”

“Using New Zealand as an example, in 2013 superyacht revenue amounted to some €456 million of which refit and maintenance amounted to €50 million and berthing € 44.41 million. At the moment our potential lies in making berthing space available and growing the refit, repair industry associated with these vessels.  South Africa and Cape Town in particular needs to become the destination,” Blaine said.

The V&A recently produced a ‘Superyacht Guide’ to Cape Town for distribution at the Monaco and Miami Boat shows. The Guide details Cape Town’s current superyacht berthing options in the quay 6 basin between jetties 1 & 2. The berth is 144m long with concrete quay walls and tyre fendering.

Last year Blackbeard told SABBEX he was convinced a superyacht hub was feasible and in Cape Town’s long-term best interests: “Superyachts come here quite frequently but there is no qualified person to work on these yachts – you need to work to high specifications.”

“We (as YachtPort) would like to operate the facility but we will include other local businesses – we want to create a precinct where all other services are accredited to work on the vessels, and in this way spread work to the entire industry,” he said.

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