Fiji boat building industry sees surge; Boksa Marine Design excited to play a part

We’re excited to be mentioned in a recent article about the increase in boat building in the nation of Fiji. Our firm was involved in a design project for an 18-metre (70 foot) long semi submersible vessel that will be used for tourism purposes.

A world first, this new concept is an 18-metre (70 foot) long semi submersible vessel , nearing completion. At the yard, work has been underway over the past four months on this new and cutting edge vessel.
Construction is in marine grade ABS approved aluminium, and the pieces were cut to the plans by KK Industries in the USA and shipped to Fiji in containers. Initial designs were done by Rob Moigg of South Sea Subs and all Naval Architecture by Boksa Marine Designs in Florida, USA, but the construction is 100% in Fiji, using Fiji tradesmen.

This was an exciting project for us – please read the full article below – or link here to read at


Boat building industry on the up

Over the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of boats built in Fiji.
This is happening for a number of reasons, but the main one is the policies put in place by the Bainimarama Government, aimed at protecting the industry from offshore competition and improving the environment for the local businesses, by putting in place incentives.

Some of the policies lead to Fijian builders being able to compete with offshore products through various forms of tariff protection which target certain types of vessels that best suit the local industry production capability, while still allowing offshore tourism investors to import vessels that are not easily produced by the local yards.

A third element that has added to the growth of the marine construction and service industries is the Superyacht Decree and changes to the legal treatment of cruising yachts visiting Fiji waters. The decrees have made it easier for yachts to enter and leave Fiji waters and for the transfer of crew into and out of the country to be streamlined.

The superyacht industry was basically non-existent five years ago. The potential had always been there but the laws in place made it very difficult and time consuming for the superyachts to enter Fiji and operate charters.
Along with the changes introduced by the government of Fiji, a number of people became active in the marketing of the destination to the superyacht industry, creating awareness of Fiji and the benefits available through the changes created by the decree and from the unique cruising environment in Fiji waters.

Superyacht industry grows

The leader of this push is David Jamieson of YachtHelp, who has been a regular exhibitor for the last five years at the most important Superyacht Show in Monaco.

For 2012, it is expected that around 40 of the superyachts will choose Fiji as a destination, continuing the upward trend in numbers experienced over the past three years. A survey, commissioned by the Port Denarau Marina and the Fiji Hotel Tourism Association Marine Industry Sub-committee, showed that for the 2011 season 37 superyachts and nearly 600 cruising yachts visited Fiji. The definition of a cruising yacht is that it is of less than 80 feet in length (a superyacht is in excess of that length). The average stay in Fiji waters for a superyacht is over 160 days and for a cruising yacht that time of stay increases to over 180 days.

The financial contribution from the visiting yachts is significant. In direct expenditure while in the country, the superyachts spent a total of F$5.4 million and the cruising yachts contribution was F$19.2 million. These figures do not include the discretionary personal spending of the crew and guests. In other related spending on things such as airfares on the national carrier, Air Pacific, departure taxes and clearance fees the total was F$6.2 million. The total spend was in excess of F$30.8 million.
And while the yachts are in Fiji they take the opportunity to do repairs and maintenance, an ongoing and expensive exercise, but one that has led to increased income for the marine service industries.

One superyacht last year had a full hull repaint in Fiji and the reports are that the yacht executives were well pleased with the result. So the government moves to encourage the yachting tourism sector has had a very beneficial effect on the ship yards, encouraging expansion and the provision of additional services.

The tariff incentives for the production of vessels locally, rather than importing from overseas, has also had immediate and very positive results.
No hard data on the value of boats built in Fiji in the last year is available but the anecdotal evidence is that the increases are very significant.

Fiji investing in the boat building industry

With the increase in orders and the improved continuity of demand, Fiji boat builders and related service industries are now investing in increased technology and in plant and systems to improve quality.
Their main market, the tourism industry operators, is now comfortable with commissioning local yards for their vessels and they themselves are becoming increasingly interested in vessels that will add to the tourist’s experience at the resort. So there are more innovative fishing and dive boats being sought and there is a move to smaller and more comfortable high speed transfer vessels. All of this, guarantees the future growth of the industry.
And with the increase in expertise in the Fiji marine industry comes a desire to enter the export markets, particularly for the other countries of the South Pacific.

Dave Bloxham, who has a boat yard at Wailoaloa near Nadi, is planning to double the size of the yard by adding a second construction building.
By doing so, he will increase employment available to locals and the potential to go into production with a wider variety of vessels. A number of other builders are also looking at expansion or modernisation.
Bloxham is about to start work on his first export commission, a specialised whale watching tourist vessel for Tonga. His boats are constructed in aluminium, but there are several other yards that produce vessels in fibreglass and they too are experiencing growth.

And new types of vessels and construction methods are appearing. Bloxham is just completing a very specialised tourist vessel that will be used for reef tours to explore the abundant sea life around the main port of Fiji tourism, Denarau Marina, just outside Nadi.

Semi submersible sub

A world first, this new concept is an 18-metre (70 foot) long semi submersible vessel , nearing completion. At the yard, work has been underway over the past four months on this new and cutting edge vessel.
Construction is in marine grade ABS approved aluminium, and the pieces were cut to the plans by KK Industries in the USA and shipped to Fiji in containers. Initial designs were done by Rob Moigg of South Sea Subs and all Naval Architecture by Boksa Marine Designs in Florida, USA, but the construction is 100% in Fiji, using Fiji tradesmen.

Building a vessel that is designed to operate with the majority of the hull submerged brings a special set of challenges and technical requirements.
It is a compliment to the Fiji shipyard that South Sea Subs had the confidence to commission a Fiji builder to carry out this demanding task and achieve international standards needed to ensure the operating safety of the vessel.
One of the most important aspects of the construction is the welding required to achieve the technical finish specified. The plating and extrusions of the vessel are 6mm marine grade aluminum produced in the US.
The fourteen windows in the hull for viewing are a specially developed 50mm thick Plexiglass capable of withstanding pressures up to 16,000 pounds per square inch, pressures that the vessel will never encounter. To ballast the vessel, eighty tones of lead is being placed in the hull below the floor.

Bloxham, says: “We have built many boats in Fiji, a number of which have been for special purposes, but this is certainly the most demanding vessel we have been involved with.
“It is technically demanding because of the fact that it is designed to operate predominantly underwater and because the certification process to operate the vessel will be meticulous. Our work will be examined by experts before it is approved”.
The vessel will undergo inspection and marine survey by the Fiji Marine Safety Authority for its operating licenses.

The interior is fully air-conditioned with a very high rate of air replacement. There are eighteen marine bilge pumps in the lower and upper hull areas, all of which operate automatically to expel any water that may enter the bilge and for added safety there is a high velocity ‘trash’ pump that is capable of pumping the total volume of the hull out extremely rapidly.

The vessel, and the tourism experience it offers, has generated a lot of interest amongst tour operators Fiji wide and beyond and indications are that the passenger numbers will be good.
For the Fiji tourism numbers to grow, there has to be an increase in the number and variety of experiences available.

With the beautiful clear and unpolluted waters of the South Pacific and the abundant sea life in the area, it makes good sense to use the underwater realm for tourists.
Moigg, CEO of the company operating the vessel, says “We are extremely satisfied with the quality of the work done by Dave and the guys at Marine Power & Services and we’re pleased that we were able to commission this vessel’s construction here.
“At a cost in excess of F$1 million, the construction process will be a significant contribution to the Fiji economy, and we know that operation of the SeaView will certainly add to that contribution. We are looking forward to launching and operating her next year.”

Fiji ready to compete!

The building of a vessel such as this in Fiji clearly shows that the industry is able to compete at a world standard and a great deal of this development has been put down to tax incentives put in place by the government several years ago to protect the local industry and promote further growth.

The leading builders are now looking at bringing in overseas technology to further lift the standard of their vessels and help reduce costs.
When this sort of equipment is in place, the industry can effectively enter the export markets and compete with international brands that are currently dominating.

There is no doubt that the Fiji boat building industry is poised to move forward at a great rate, but this has been seen several times in the past, and the momentum stopped and the growth faltered. This time, with the foresight of the Fiji Government and the dedication to quality and innovation by the industry, it looks like success might just be grasped.

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