NEWS - Down Under, Down South?

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Australian superyacht builder seeks new USA manufacturing site

NEWS - Down Under, Down South?
NEWS — Down Under, Down South?

Australian superyacht builder Evolution Yachts is eyeing a Merritt Island boatyard for building lightweight sailing yachts that would use new fibreglass technology developed by a Brevard County composites company. Brevard County is located on Florida's east coast in the immediate area of the Kennedy Space Center.

Capt Ronald LePard, operations manager for Evolution Yachts USA, the company's US sales office based in Fort Lauderdale, is leading the search for a facility and then to negotiate the terms and conditions including the permits to build new sail and power boats.

Aussie Evolution Yachts, founded in 2003 with a profile for building stylish luxury yachts such as the 24m/78-foot Crystal Blue and the 34m/111-foot Benita Blue (ex Salacia), is based near the capital city of Perth and has been working closely with Melbourne, Florida-based Structural Composites and its president, Scott Lewit.

Structural was recently awarded a $US245,000 State grant to help transition boat designs and improved composite construction technology developed for the government to the commercial market. The company will help commercial operators adapt its designs and construction techniques for small boats to be built for the US Navy that will weigh half as much as standard craft. As far as its non-commercial applications, the company hopes to use Structural Composites' technology to create an environmentally-friendly manufacturing process and improve fuel efficiency. Given the global concerns about both these factors, most would agree that, going forward, a shift toward more economically efficient boats has already begun.

Additionally, as strict regulations and high labour costs in the US have driven much shipbuilding overseas, an Evolution Yachts shipyard could bring dozens, if not hundreds of jobs to Brevard County. With employment at Sea Ray's Merritt Island facility dropping to fewer than 200 from a high of 1200 workers in 2008, we may be seeing an evolutionary change quite soon. — Capt Ken Kreisler

Photos: From the portfolio of West Australian luxury boatbuilder Evolution Yachts is the 34m Benita Blue (ex Salacia).


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