Jonathan Chancellor | 5 February 2013

James Packer's Seahorse adds nautical glamour to Melbourne's Docklands

James Packer's Seahorse adds nautical glamour to Melbourne's Docklands

It's Melbourne meets Monaco – well, almost.

Seahorse, the super yacht of James Packer, cruised into Melbourne Docklands around 4am this morning.

Its cruised down to Melbourne for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations. No one knows how long it's there for, or when it heads back to Sydney Harbour, but some hope it comes back to Melbourne for the March grand prix too. Around 110 Australians possess yachts over 30 metres, according to nautical journals.

The $50 million 52 metre yacht dwarfs Texas, the neighbouring 45-metre Solomon Lew superyacht at Docklands. The giant cruiser Seahorse can accommodate 12 guests and up to 18 crew members. 


The Packer boat was formerly known as Tigre d'Or, custom-built in 1999 by Dutch ship builder Amels with its steel hull and aluminium superstructure equipped with an ultra-modern stabilisation system to reduce roll motion effect. It has a maximum speed of 16 knots.


Just 20 years ago Melbourne's docklands was an industrial wasteland. The Docklands concept stems back to around 1988 when the then mayor Leckie Ord proposed building an Olympic village, but with the games bid lost, and then the property market collapse, it didn't go far until Jeff Kennett's swath of major projects, including the Bolte Bridge, Federation Square, and the Docklands precinct.


Melbourne's Superyacht Marina is located at Central Pier in Melbourne Docklands, the harbourside retail, entertainment, commercial and residential precinct. When the marina opened in 2006 the then minister for major projects John Lenders said it would not only expose Melbourne to a new and lucrative economic market, but make this city a more attractive destination for the world’s rich and famous.


“There are about 6,000 superyachts worldwide, and now Melbourne can share in the $150 million generated in Australia each year from superyacht visits," he said.

Construction cranes are still building residential high rises at Docklands amid commercial office blocks of quite some architectural flare.

But despite the harbour having come a long way, and possibly with its priciest mooring yet, the city's broadsheet newspaper headlines were of despair.


"Victoria is coming to a standstill" with more than 12,000 construction jobs lost and thousands more at risk as big infrastructure jobs such as the desalination plant finish and the pipeline of major building projects dries up, The Age front page story and special report said.

The jobs losses add to a record slump in the new housing sector that has contributed to the largest decline in construction jobs since the early 1990s.

The decline in building puts thousands more Victorians in related fields under pressure, including hundreds of engineers, surveyors, workers and contractors, The Age said.

The Master Builders Australia said there were about 254,100 Victorians employed in the industry in November 2012, but that was 12,200 fewer jobs than the year before, a drop that was more than double the national trend for the industry.

Executive director Brian Welch said the building and construction sector employed about 10% of Victoria's full-time workers, making it the second-largest employment provider in the state.

The executive director of the Victorian division of the Property Council of Australia, Jennifer Cunich, told The Age the industry was increasingly worried about where the next building projects would come from and this uncertainty was resulting in a downsizing of the Victorian workforce.

''If Victoria continues to bleed skilled workers to its competitor states, our ability to manage a future economic resurgence will be severely constrained,'' she said.

Of course, James Packer, the gambling tycoon has recently been overseeing the costly $2.3 billion upgrade of his Australian casino interests, Crown in Melbourne and Burswood in Western Australia.

Driving much of his outlay is the hope that Crown can keep luring China's high rollers to Australia, as Packer notes "China's wealthy are spending increasing amounts of time and money on their quality of life, with luxury travel their leisure activity of choice."

VIP players turned over $30 billion plus at Crown Melbourne annually.