by Jeni Bone
Industry stalwart, Terry Vine is replete with the skills of yesteryear, as well as up to date with the latest manufacturing techniques and technology. At the ripe old age of 51, Terry is watching the industry he loves decline, impacted by a negative and restrictive government and nervous consumers.
DiVine 59 concept powercat from Terry Vine
'Australia’s mass production has contracted. Niche projects and small production, or one offs are still viable and there is some interest in that area, but the people with money are not confident to go ahead.'
Consumer sentiment, market fluctuation, the Aussie dollar rising and falling and prohibitive manufacturing environment, abounding in red tape are just some of the 'perfect storm' fundamentals that are stifling the boating industry.
Like many in the boating community, Terry is close to considering another industry to apply his considerable skills and vision.
'But my passion lies in the art of building boats. The customers are scared. They are there, they have the money, but they are hesitant. I have been told countless times, people won’t budge until they have confidence in the government. When there’s a government that inspires more support for business and consumer confidence, boats will be sold.'
A glut of second hand boats and the spectre of grey imports from the US have reduced the momentum of new boat sales in this country.
'Then there’s Asia, as a rising force in boat manufacturing. Their boats are getting better and better. But obviously, as wages rise, it will become less competitive to build there, which will in turn make Australia more competitive.'
While Australia has a strong, skilled workforce, there is an absence of projects for them.
'We’re a big country with a small population. Specialising in niche, or one-offs for top end clients is where we are should be focusing. At the recent Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, several clients mentioned they would be willing to pay about 10% more for their boats to be built in Australia, but they are not going ahead with anything because of this uncertainty.'
From 35 years in the business, Terry has a broad arsenal of skills gained from experiences in the UK and Australia.
'I served my apprenticeship in the early 1980s at world renowned Princess Yachts based in Plymouth, south West England. Then, I then immigrated to Australia in 1992 where I studied Yacht Design for a couple of years and then was lured back into new project development. This project was to put together and manage new team of craftsmen to develop and build a new 'one-off' 50' racing/cruising yacht in Fremantle, WA.
'This vessel (Buzzard 2) went on to win the 1995 Kings Cup in Phuket, Thailand. After this project I started a new company called Travelux Motor Homes in which I designed and developed a new and, at the time, unique motorhome concept for the luxury end of the leisure market. This first of its kind one-piece body design is now in use by many other motorhome manufacturers.
'After a few years in the ‘land leisure’ industry I was lured back into the more exciting and flamboyant boat building industry and decided to start a water taxi business aptly named Classic Water Taxis. Classic, because I based my new design on a world famous all mahogany Italian runabout/sports boat. ‘The Spirit Of Mandurah’ was born, named after her home town of WA. Her model name was the DiVine 28 Classic.'
Many people fell head over heels in love with the DiVine 28 including a businessman from Sydney who then approached Terry with the idea of setting up a company and building different models.
In 2000 DiVine Craft P/L was then formed and was based out of Sommersby on the Central Coast, NSW where I designed a 'retro-style' DiVine 29 based on her classic sister-ship the DiVine 28'.
'DiVine Craft specialised in water-jet technology as this system powered all our new retro boat models, and therefore we went on to become Lloyds approved to also developed 'water-jet' boats for the Australian navy.
'Unfortunately DiVine Craft had to close in 2004 after five years and so I moved to Queensland to help grow my opposition company which had just recently started up. I worked for Pegiva Boats as their Marketing and Sales Manager.
'Then in 2006 I went to work for Innovation Power Catamarans as their marketing/sales manager and then worked directly as an owners’ representative/project manager for a new build. In 2010 I managed a new company called Coral Sea Marine where my team developed and built a stunning luxurious power catamarans.
'Even though the Coral Sea commanded much attention at the 2011 boat shows, there wasn't enough money behind the company to move it forward.'
Power cats are rising in popularity both here and in China
According to Terry, the future could well lie in powercats. 'There’s a healthy demand for a high quality, high aesthetic range of powercats,' he says.
'Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are known internationally as having an in-depth knowledge of powercats. In Asia, there is a demand for Australian-built boats, which they see has having the quality and prestige Asian-built brands do not. If you could build them for the local market and export, you would fill a genuine demand.
'If you could start producing here, you would certainly be able to sell in to China and other Asian markets. There is a lot of interest and a lot of money there. Catamaran-style boats are high on their list, and Australian made is what they’re after.'
He continues: 'They say once people go to a cat, they never look back. There are so many reasons – space, efficiency, stability. But there has always been that commercial look that inhibited growth. There’s nobody building anything really special in Australia to cater to this market. You could develop such a nice product. There’s nobody else doing it!
'The commercial builders know the appeal of cats, it’s a wonder they aren’t branching out into recreational leisure models.'
Terry is currently consulting on varied projects, designing the concept of the dream powercat, and hoping that in 2013 a different mood prevails. 'I hope that the industry has a more positive outlook, otherwise we will lose more highly skilled professionals to other countries and other industries.'
Terry is available as an owner’s representative or project manager. Contact him on 0414 535 683 or email: email@example.com