Step into just about any marine environment, anywhere in the world – a superyacht in Monaco, a shipyard in Gibraltar, a spar maker in Holland – and, chances are, you’ll find a Kiwi. If not, there will be someone who has worked with a Kiwi and come away with a good impression. Such connections have led to successful contracts for New Zealand marine companies.
NZ Marine Industry (NZMI) intend to harness these connections through a new social media network called Friends of NZ Marine. Peter Busfield, executive director of NZMI is hoping over the next few months and throughout the imminent America’s Cup buzz hundreds, possibly thousands, of kiwis and kiwi friends will be signing up.
NZMI has chosen the home base of one of its most dynamic ambassadors, Emirates Team New Zealand, to launch Friends of NZ Marine on 16 April.
Grant Dalton, Managing Director of Emirates Team NZ adds “Emirates Team NZ is part of a “strategic alliance” – the marine industry, the team, the government – which has as its objective the growth of the NZ marine industry as a source of jobs, technology and exports”.
“Emirates Team New Zealand is the perfect example of what Friends of NZ Marine is all about,” Mr Busfield says. “It is high profile, has a reputation for the highest quality and it’s made up of a group of people who have many, many connections worldwide. It’s a wonderful endorsement of Friends of NZ Marine to have Emirates Team New Zealand onboard. Friends of NZ Marine will be well positioned to take maximum advantage of ETNZ’s presence at the 34th America’s Cup, as well as international boat shows, conferences and the networks of NZMI’s 450 member companies.”
Friends of NZ Marine members will receive quarterly, electronically-distributed updates introducing them to new NZ-designed or built boats, technology and equipment. The network will also distribute relevant information from central and local government; for example, the opening of new superyacht berths in New Zealand and cruising destinations around NZ for visiting yachts to explore.
As members feed referrals back to NZMI, it will distribute the leads and information to relevant member companies to follow up on.
“There are hundreds of Kiwis closely involved in marine industries around the world,” says Mr Busfield. “Many of these expats and interested persons already have a high regard for the New Zealand marine industry and are acting as good ambassadors already. This will allow us to show our appreciation of these on-going referrals and encourage more referrals to NZ marine industry companies.”
Mr Busfield believes the Friends of NZ Marine network will also be active in attracting refit projects to New Zealand as Kiwi crews’ overseas share their enthusiasm for New Zealand-based projects and for cruising here. Captain Max Cumming, a New Zealander, oversaw the nine-month refit of Athena at Orams Marine Services in Auckland in 2011. The 90m (295ft) three-masted schooner is the largest superyacht refitted in New Zealand. Athena was a showpiece of New Zealand workmanship at the Monaco Yacht Show last year and will be at San Francisco for the America’s Cup. Captain Cumming says NZ was chosen as a refit location by Athena’s previous captain, based on a good experience some years earlier and after gathering quotes from yards in Europe and the USA.
Friends of NZ Marine will work closely with KEA, a NZ organisation which links expat Kiwis of all vocations, Friends of NZ Marine however will specialise in offshore people who are involved with or who have a love for boats. Some high-profile international maritime figures have already signed up to Friends of NZ Marine, including superyacht designer Ed Dubois of Dubois Naval Architects, UK; and Ron Holland, a Kiwi superyacht designer based in Canada.
Another supporter is American boat designer and blue water sailor, Steve Dashew, who regularly has his rugged, offshore boats built here for himself and for his clients.
"We keep coming back to New Zealand for our yachts because of its tradition of quality and the positive experiences we have had over the past 35 years working with the Kiwi yachting industry," Mr Dashew says.
Owen Rutter, former chairman of NZ Marine Export Group is a firm believer in what he calls the Kiwi factor – the proliferation of Kiwis working in marine industries and on yachts throughout the world.
“Many superyachts have Kiwis on board, captains, stewards, deckies – it keeps the New Zealand profile high,” he says. “Those people are an important connection because they’re so enthusiastic about what New Zealand has to offer, not only in skills with refits but as a fantastic place to explore.”
Mr Busfield says the friend concept embraces Kiwis everywhere. “Whether a lead comes from a superyacht designer or a Kiwi operating a travel lift in Sardinia, we are eager to hear from them and help convert that lead to a project for a New Zealand company.”