It could be a case of “whatever floats your boat”, but the possibility that legislation will be relaxed later this month to allow berths on marine vessels to be rented out – Airbnb style – is gaining ground.
Currently, boat owners in Australia are allowed to rent out their vessel, or a space on it, but this changes the classification of the vessel from recreational to commercial, and extra requirements must be met.
The Australian Marine Safety Authority recently released for public consultation, open until June 25, a proposed change which would allow recreational boat owners with boats in marinas to let their boats out for a fee for short-term overnight accommodation.
Marina Industries Association chairman Andrew Chapman said in a statement at the end of May that the board supported the change as “it has the potential to expose new people to the social and recreational benefits of marinas and to the boating lifestyle and in doing so bring new customers and revenue into the marina economy”.
Mr Chapman said the use of boats within a marina would be subject to the written approval of the marina, “giving marina operators control over the use within their facility”.
More sceptical of the future of Airbnb-style boating is a former commodore of Whitsunday Sailing Club, Stuart Harris, who lived on his boat, Munn, for 27 years until Cyclone Debbie destroyed the vessel.
“I think there’s too many logistics to see it working,” he said this week.
Mr Harris said concerns included the potential impact on the charter boating industry, safety on board the boats, and the demographic of many of the people who would be seeking to rent the boats.
“I don’t see it as a feasible option. I’m sure there’s people who’d be willing to try it, though.
“I don’t know how the charter boat industry would feel about it because people are coming up from down south and pre-booking their holidays on the charter boats and they can be about $2000 a week per person with up to 10 people.
“If somebody was to start an Airbnb-style operation with their own personal craft, I think there would be some sort of aggravation.”
Mr Harris said the bareboat industry was highly regulated and the change could “open up a can of worms in so far as the boat owners would leave themselves open to litigation in case anything goes wrong”.
Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club founder Ken Thackeray agreed that safety issues would need to be comprehensively addressed.
“The thing about it is each boat is a unique thing, and you would really need to have somebody do an introduction to each boat as every boat has its own power systems,” he said.
“When you charter a boat, you get at least a 2.5-hour briefing.
“I would think there would have to be some sort of briefing.”
However, he said the concept sounded “great” and could be “quite a novelty”.
The founder of Flotespace, Hugh Treseder, said his online marketplace would enable boats berthed in marinas to be used for overnight accommodation.
Mr Treseder, who has not yet met with Abell Point Marina in the Whitsundays, said his start-up would allow people to hire boats for overnight accommodation and day-time work environments.
“We’re working closely with marinas and we want to put health and safety first,” he said.
He said the booking system would be “transparent” and thorough documentation would be provided.
“And the boat must remain berthed in the marina. Each marina is different so would be looked at case by case. We’re meeting with people all over the country to shape it to their individual needs.”
Mr Treseder said he hoped people would get a “unique” experience by being able to sleep over on a boat – “everyone from active retirees to people looking for an adventure”.
He said the business was currently in the “research and development” phase to understand “how we can add value, not just in monetary terms, but to the marinas and small businesses around them”.
Source: Whitsunday Times.