By David Robinson

With more and larger superyachts visiting New Zealand, along with efforts to continually upgrade local facilities and services to support them, the promotional activities of New Zealand to highlight its attractions and infrastructure is achieving results.

Probably the clearest signal to date of this has been the arrival this week in Auckland of the 134m (440ft) Serene, the largest superyacht yet to visit New Zealand. In parallel with this, the latest superyacht-related investment opportunity – namely to develop a large yacht haul-out repair and refit centre on a key waterfront area known as Area 18 – is also moving closer to identifying a final developer.

Serene breaks the record of the largest yacht to visit New Zealand by some 15m (49ft) over A, which called in Auckland last year and stayed quite a while. It is the 12th largest yacht in the world and is owned by a Russian entrepreneur active in the vodka business.

Serene was the first superyacht built by Fincantieri, dating from 2011, and it also holds the record as the largest yacht ever built in Italy.

Asia Pacific Superyachts (APS) is looking after Serene’s visit to New Zealand, but was unable to give more information. APS NZ chief executive Duthie Lidgard told SB: “The Serene will be here for a while but I can say no more.”

He added: “The superyacht business is really starting to grow and the message is getting out there about what New Zealand has to offer. Our revenues this year will be five times more than last year because while the number of superyachts that we are handling is about the same at 15, the owners and their guests are staying longer and doing more cruising.”

Peter Busfield, executive director of NZ Marine, agreed, adding that the changes made recently in access for foreign yachts and the possibility for them to charter so long as it is no more than 65% of their time in New Zealand, are all contributing to the increasing number of visiting superyachts. “We are also looking to double the revenue from superyachts over the next three years,” he added.

Waterfront Auckland, owner of the Area 18 site, invited Expressions of Interest from local and international companies regarding its development in November last year. Area 18 is located close to Silo Marina, which can berth superyachts of up to 120m (394ft) in length.

A spokesman for Waterfront Auckland told SB: “Waterfront Auckland received a number of Expressions of Interest from parties interested in developing the Wynyard Marine site (Site 18). Four of these parties have been asked to submit more detailed proposals by 30 April 2015. The parties were a mix of national and international investors and marine operators, and covered a range of different proposals for using the site. Once the detailed proposals have been received, Waterfront Auckland will then enter into negotiations with the preferred party or parties, with a view to sign a Development Agreement for the site. This is all we can say at this stage of the process due to the commercial and confidential nature of the discussions with the parties involved.”

When this site was released for development last year, it was suggested it could become a superyacht haul-out facility for craft over 100m. SB understands that, among the four shortlisted companies, at least one has plans for a full marine facility while another suggests a mix of hotel and marine facility.

Two local potential bidders both active in the superyacht repair and refit business are Orams Marine and Titans Marine Engineering. The latter is close by and its facilities include a 1,500-tonne capacity slipway.

As for Orams, its refit, repair and marina facility is next door to the site. They have the capacity to handle yachts up to 90m (296ft).

Orams’ managing director, Craig Park, previously said that Orams prepared a plan for the site over three years ago.