The N.C. Maritime Economic Development Consortium is charting the course for the state’s future in the superyacht industry.
With an average of 6,500 large recreational vessels navigating global waters at any given time, North Carolina could become the next new frontier for this luxury market, according to Peter Kurki, founding member of the N.C. Maritime Economic Development Consortium (NCMEDC), a Wilmington-based nonprofit.
“The superyacht economy is growing internationally, and the economic channel is hitting home here in North Carolina,” Kurki said. “One of the missions the consortium is undertaking is to educate community leaders on just how the transient superyacht can have a substantial economic impact. Visiting vessels facilitate economic activity through repair, provision, fuel, goods and service and hospitality.”
The superyacht industry, if nurtured properly, could thrive into a multi-million-dollar industry for the state and create hundreds of new jobs, Kurki said. Florida, which is the leading example of a sustainable and marketable reputation in the industry, has profited upwards of a billion dollars in economic impact, he added.
The NCMEDC has been calling attention to the large recreational maritime business as the state’s “first real active formatted group that can validate the industry for the state,” Kurki said.
The consortium has been developing over several years and officially recognized by the state as an incorporated group in February, Kurki said. The consortium is now seeking board members. NCMEDC checks on quality, condition and readiness of marinas, providing a third-party evaluation of port destinations for traveling captains and crew.
The consortium also travels to trade shows and other industry events to meet with owners and captains, who sometimes chart routes years in advance, to get them to plug North Carolina in their navigation plans.
“North Carolina is a preferred destination for captains now that we have introduced them to professionals in a very discrete way,” Kurki said. “Some owners and captains wish to be anonymous but require goods and services that are familiar to their home ports. NCMEDC connects the dots, provides … support, so the visiting vessel can operate safely, accurately and continue on its way.”
In October, NCMEDC officials directed a large recreational vessel up the Cape Fear River for a visit. The 198-foot Feadship Rock It touched base with the area’s goods and services, Kurki said.
Wilmington is an attractive stop for visiting superyachts, because of the river’s 42-foot draft, moving bridges and privately-owned docks in the city.
Currently, vessels are visiting North Carolina waters to take advantage of the area’s spearfishing, Kurki said. Superyachts will venture to fishing grounds so passengers can spend days free diving and return to port to take on fuel and provisions.
Just one superyacht takes on an average of 20,000 to 50,000 gallons of fuel, spends thousands of dollars in provisions and repairs and can even take advantage of local airports to fly in visiting guests. The more superyachts choose Wilmington, “the greater the impact on the state’s economy,” Kurki said.
The consortium is working to secure private and grant funding to enhance marketing and communications to attract more visitors.
In the future, Kurki said he looks forward to finding state and community partners to create a brand that’s internationally recognized, build a complete facility to handle requirements for superyachts, as well as build programs for enhanced education and technical skills training for industry jobs.
“The superyacht economic impact in North Carolina is poised for great growth. The vessels are getting bigger, and more of them are passing our front door,” Kurki said. “Now is the time to call on the large superyacht development for North Carolina and make it attractive for investors.”