Daniel Lynch

Daniel Lynch is a digital business reporter for nzherald.co.nz

Super yacht builder to close doors after work dries up

Fitzroy Yachts chief still keen on keeping a scaled-back design and technology team

The 50m Sloop Ohana, leaves the Fitzroy Yachts plant in New Plymouth.
The 50m Sloop Ohana, leaves the Fitzroy Yachts plant in New Plymouth.

An award-winning super yacht builder has announced it will close its doors next month.

New Plymouth-based Fitzroy Yachts, which employs around 120 people, made the widely-speculated decision yesterday after attempts to secure a new boat build failed.

Managing director Rodney Martin said a substantial reduction of staff was unavoidable with international orders for luxury water craft drying up.

"All of the jobs could go, there's no more work for them here. We are talking about highly skilled people so I'm optimistic they will find new employment," Martin said.

The company has been in business for 15 years and is in the final stages of completing a 37.5m Dubois performance sloop, code named FY17 by staff because of the high level of secrecy the owner sought, which includes the actual name of the boat.

"Completing the build of FY17 to Fitzroy's high standards is our priority," Martin said.

FY17 is on schedule for completion on February 28.

Martin said the company was still keen on keeping a scaled-back design and technology team and isn't ruling anything out for the future.

"Like a large number of our fellow yacht builders, we have felt the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis and its impact on the new build order book."

Martin said the distance to the major markets of Europe and America was always a factor for potential buyers.

"There are more wealthy people than ever ... and having to travel for two days to check in on your build's progress is a deterrent."

The 50m Sloop Ohana, which Fitzroy completed in 2012 was commissioned by a European buyer in 2010.
The 50m Sloop Ohana, which Fitzroy completed in 2012 was commissioned by a European buyer in 2010.

Executive director of the NZ Marine Industry Association Peter Busfield said the high dollar was biting boat builders and other exporters.

The industry has been in survival mode since 2008 and some companies are walking the narrow line between economic survival or failure, he said.

"It's sad to see a well-established company like Fitzroy shut its door."

In 2012, the marine industry had turnover of $1.7 billion, almost identical to the previous year, but short of the heady $2.26 billion of 2007-08.

The industry employed 8000 people and brought in $650 million in exports in 2012, compared to $850 million in 2008.

In 2012 New Zealand built four new super yachts, while Italy built 53.

"It's still tough, but we're in business, and we have the capacity for growth," Busfield said. "We have the fundamentals of a reputation like the French have to Champagne, and the Swiss have to watches ... Kiwis to boats."

- NZ Herald

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