Multimillion Dollar Superyachts Australia's cashed-up corporate tycoons are rushing to join the world's most exclusive club, buying multimillion dollar superyachts in record numbers.
Owing to the rare alignment of Australia's surging dollar and depressed US economy, the price of the world's ultimate status symbol has been slashed by as much as 70 per cent over the past two years.
And demand in Australia has never been stronger, as our booming economy is creating a new generation of Australians wealthy enough to afford one.
Superyachts are large private vessels generally worth more than $US10 million and have full time professional crew, with the most luxurious worth as much as $US1 billion.
Lift the lid on this world of the rich and famous, and one finds a lifestyle of Dom Perignon and caviar, onboard helicopters and a cavalcade of Hollywood guests stepping aboard.
And many vessels are now being sold for knockdown prices, with the luxurious 50 metre superyacht 'La Naturalle Dee' on the market in early 2009 for $US13.9m ($AUD22 million) and now available for under $AUD7m, a discount of almost 75%.
Likewise, superyacht 'Big D' was for sale in March 2009 for $US12.9 million ($A20 million) and can now be purchased for about $A9 million, a drop of almost 57%.
Superyachts worldwide are sold in US dollars. Two years ago the Australian dollar was worth US63 cents. Now it is flirting with $US1.10.
One of Australia's leading superyacht experts, Captain Richard Morris, CEO of Australian Superyachts said the number of Australian owners had more than tripled from about 30 people five years to more than 100 today.
According to the latest BRW Rich List, the market for those rich enough to buy one of these six-star floating palaces has doubled from 250 multi-millionaires in 2009 to more than 500 in 2011.
"Twenty years ago, the Superyacht sector barely existed. Now it is a teeming, thriving, multibillion dollar global industry devoted to the whims of the 21st century tycoon," Captain Morris said.
"Australians are rapidly becoming players in this market owing to our strong Aussie dollar, distressed sellers in the US and a domestic economy that continues to generate enormous wealth.
"This is creating a once in a generation opportunity for Australians to join one of the world's most prestigious unofficial clubs.
"A quality second hand vessel worth $US10 million a few years ago can now be acquired for as little as $A4 million, increasing the affordability for many well off Australians.
"The 2000 Olympics really opened many Australians' eyes with some of the best boats in the world descending on Sydney.
"More than 4,300 superyachts now cruise between the South of France, Monte Carlo, Australia, the Caribbean and luxury ports around the world.
"Owning a superyacht is now a socially acceptable trophy of Australian wealth."
Australia's owners have included James Packer (gaming and publishing), Reg Grundy (media), Greg Norman (golf), John Symond (finance), John Gandel (retail), Solomon Lew (retail), Kerry Stokes (media), Lindsay Fox (transport), Jack Cowan (restaurants) and Lang Walker (property).
In order to meet this demand, most Australian capital cities now have a dedicated superyacht marina, including Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Hamilton Island and Cairns, and a large marina is being built in Fremantle to service the booming Western Australian mining magnates. Australia's first dedicated superyacht marina, built for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games at Rozelle Bay, is now fully booked all year round.
International superyacht owners have included Aristotle Onassis, Adnan Khashoggi, Microsoft's Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Larry Ellison, Middle Eastern royalty and more recently, the rising Chinese mega rich.
Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich recently took delivery of the world's biggest and most expensive superyacht, the 162 metre 'Eclipse', rumoured to cost a staggering $1 billion.
In 2005, approximately 300 Australians had a personal net worth of $50m or more. In 2011, according to the BRW Magazine Rich List, this increased to more than 1,000.
"To offset running costs and to facilitate owning under a tax effective structure, many owners choose to rent out their superyacht in Australia for corporate and private charters, with some available for more than $A100,000 per week," Captain Morris said.
Of the 45,000 people worldwide who work on these floating six star palaces, a remarkable 10,000 are young Australians - and the number is surging as the uncertainty of the Global Financial Crisis fades.
This outstrips the number of people working on Royal Australian Navy and Merchant Navy vessels combined. In the last 12 months alone, an estimated 1,000 new jobs have been filled by Australians as a new generation of mega-sized Superyachts is launched onto the world market.
Australia and the Asia Pacific Region are now highly regarded superyacht destinations on the international circuit, with more than 70 foreign owned superyachts visiting Australian shores annually.