Whitsunday Regional Council has set its sights on turning Bowen into a service centre for the world’s 10,000 globe-circling super yachts.
Mayor Andrew Willcox said his council wanted to turn Bowen into a marine centre of excellence. He said the vision at this stage was to establish the service centre for super yachts and to set up a separate maritime college for students wanting a career “on the sea”.
Cr Willcox said council representatives would visit a large vessel maintenance centre on the northern Gold Coast at the end of September.
“We want to see how other places do this sort of thing and we are hoping one of these places might want to partner with us on a service centre,” he said.
Cr Willcox said the Whitsundays would become a popular destination for super yachts now that visiting restrictions on the 35 metre-plus vessels had been relaxed.
“There used to be only two places in the Whitsundays where you could anchor a super yacht. Now there are 21. Plus in addition to this, these vessels have much more freedom in traversing the Whitsundays,” he said.
Cr Willcox said with these restrictions lifted and North Queensland waters being a safe destination for the rich and famous in the age of terrorism, the Whitsundays needed to be in a position to provide a major service centre.
Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox at Grays Bay in Bowen where amenity block restoration works are just one of the many post cyclone projects completed by the council across the region.
“It would mean full trade services including painting, plumbing, diesel fitting and boilermaking,” he said.
“The Bowen Marina number two basin is the place for it as it sits right in behind Flagstaff Hill. There is plenty of protection in cyclones. All of the large Whitsunday vessels go to Mackay now for major servicing. They would be able to come to Bowen which would save them from burning fuel going to Mackay.
“We would like to have this facility up and running before 2121, which is when Auckland is hosting the America’s Cup. There will be big yachts from all over the world come past here, to and from Auckland.”
Cr Willcox said the only other maritime college in the country was the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, Tasmania. He said Australia needed a similar college in North Queensland.
“A Whitsunday Maritime College could offer coxswain courses, maritime class four and five tickets and engineering certificates,” he said.
A $1.6 million amenities facility for super yachts has just been installed at the Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach.
The Ocean Club, as it is called, started its life as pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef. It has been restored by Abell Point Marina owner Paul Darrouzet and offers 12 private unsuited bathrooms and a fully-furnished laundry.
There is a reception area upstairs where the travel weary can book planes and reef trips and organise the everyday matters of their lives.
Mr Darrouzet and marina manager Luke McCaul said the Ocean Club would help draw super yachts to the Whitsundays. The relaxed laws governing visitation rights of super yachts means that vessels longer than 35m can now anchor in Great Barrier Reef waters.
“Currently, we see less than 0.5 per cent of the world’s super yachts in Australia and even less in the Whitsundays area,” Mr McCaul said.
“This is because of government regulations covering charter operators and the fact that vessels over 35m (couldn’t) anchor in reef waters.”
Source: Whitsunday Times.