The ASMEX 2024 Conference, now in its thirteenth year, was held at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort from Monday 20 May to Wednesday 22 May. The marine industry conference featured welcome networking drinks, a full day conference, industry tours and networking activities, culminating in the 2024 Australian Marine Industry Awards.

CR Naomi Fowler, City of Gold Coast, greeted delegates on Monday May 20, with an informative speech highlighting impressive statistics of the Gold Coast marine industry. The evening continued with cocktails and lively engagement, fostering connections amongst attendees from day one.

On Tuesday 21 May, the full-day conference drew an impressive line-up of international and domestic marine industry speakers, captivating a packed conference room. Delegates absorbed insights from a diverse range of speaker topics, and actively participated in the surrounding networking opportunities.

David Good, CEO, Australian International Marine Export Group (AIMEX) opened the conference, welcoming the 132 delegates and emphasising the conference’s overarching theme of ‘practical sustainability’. Jeremy Spear, President, AIMEX, delivered a heart-felt welcome underscoring the attributes of teamwork and collaboration within the marine industry on an international stage.

Peter Munckton, Chief Economist, Bank of Queensland, returned by popular demand, delivering the opening session ‘What’s next? Current and key drivers of the Australian economy’ presenting detailed key financial indicators, demographics and possible outcomes effecting the economy in the months to come.

Keynote Speaker, Theo Hooning, Secretary General, Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss) took delegates on a journey on the establishment of SYBAss.  He detailed their key role in the superyacht industry as well as the roles their affiliate associations play in professional standards, environmental best practices and economic reporting on the superyacht industry. Theo Hooning commented; The ASMEX conference in Australia plays an important portion of the total superyacht market.  Australia is a destination where there is sufficient space to enjoy your superyacht. With the 2032 Olympics being held in Brisbane it provides an excellent opportunity to take the steps to start planning a journey to Australia”.

Gillian Carter, Director, Pacific Marine Design, presented “What 5 Years Can Bring,” sharing her experiences in the impressive and integral design roles she held while working for Feadship. Based in the Netherlands from 2019 until her recent return to Australia, Gillian has been focusing on achieving net zero emissions by deepening her understanding of energy use and continuously pushing boundaries.

Chris Blackwell, Sales and Marketing Manager, Echo Yachts, together with Paul Clayton, Founder, Blank Canvas Studio, presented and demonstrated innovative marketing concepts for the marine industry using advanced VR programs.  A live on-stage demonstration enabled delegates to follow captivating ‘views’ displayed on large screens, immersing themselves in a virtual journey through the numerous cabins and decks of a superyacht, including experiencing the idyllic views from the yacht’s back deck.

Luke Fryett, Founder of Bula Coffee, shared a heartfelt story about the origins of Bula Coffee. His narrative reminded delegates of the importance of social responsibility, illustrating how respecting cultural differences led to his business’s success.

Petros Michelidakis, Director of boot Düsseldorf, presented a compelling case for attending the impressive annual boat show in Germany, which is held over nine days and attracting 214,000 visitors from 120 countries.  Petros Michelidakis commented; “I would like to thank AIMEX for the professional organisation of the ASMEX conference and I am certain it will contribute further growth to the leisure marine business in the Asia Pacific region and beyond”.

The panel discussion ‘Getting Your ‘Head’ Around Pollution Prevention and Response’ featured Mark Mellinger, President, Headhunter Inc., Captain John Kavanagh, Director, Pacific Maritime Lawyers & Notaries, and Chris Munster, Founder, Pro Biotic Power. Each panellist shared their insights and experiences on pollution prevention and the future of maritime pollution regulation. The discussion included details on MARPOL and the complexities Australia faces due to variations in state regulations and the overlay of federal regulations.

Paul Steinmann, Founder of ENAUTIC, delved into the evolution of ‘Electric Hydrofoil Technology’, highlighting the challenges encountered and the innovative solutions devised over time. He then treated the delegates to view an in-water presentation of the world’s most advanced electric hydrofoil watercraft, the Waveflyer.

After an outdoor lunch at the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort Lagoon Beach Club, delegates returned to the conference room for the second panel of the day. ‘Electrification, hybridisation and the switch from conventional fuels’. Steve Connolly, Director, Nautical Solutions, opened the panel session with a recap on lithium batteries, summarising the progress in the last 12 months, including development of appropriate regulations with the ‘AMSA Roadmap for lithium battery’.

Angus McDonald, CEO, Maritime Impulse, presented ‘Accelerating Maritime Decarbonisation’ focusing on the decarbonisation of existing domestic fleets and outlined myth busters on decarbonisation.  Whilst Dr. Steve Mitchell, Engineering Manager, Ampcontrol Group, presented on the ‘Plug-In Hybrid Diesel-Electric Propulsion’ commercial vessel, its design specifications and its advantages. Damon Rahmate, Co-Founder, Genevo Marine, spoke on their new battery electric speedboat – the E8 and its proprietary recycled carbon fibre hull and lithium battery comparisons.

Kitty McGowan, President of the US Superyacht Association, delivered an overview on “Navigating the U.S. Superyacht Industry – Rough Waters or Smooth Seas Ahead?” She outlined likely challenges and opportunities arising from geopolitical pressures, consumer confidence, economic impacts, environmental issues, workforce dynamics, technology advancements, and infrastructure developments. McGowan concluded her presentation with data on the largest superyachts currently in operation, detailing their travel destinations and the reasons behind their choices.  Kitty McGowan commented; “I am honoured to have once again been a keynote speaker during this year’s ASMEX conference. This annual gathering of industry professionals from around the world always delivers fantastic presentations, education and networking opportunities that are priceless.”

Melissa White, Director of South Pacific at the International Seakeepers Society, conveyed clear messages about ocean conservation and preservation of the oceans. She detailed the global operations of Seakeepers, highlighting key projects, current initiatives, and partnerships. Her most impactful message to delegates was that any ocean-going vessel can contribute to protecting and improving our oceans by supporting the International Seakeepers Society projects.

David Good presented Superyacht Australia’s latest superyacht visitation figures which clearly demonstrated a 34% increase from 2022 to 2023 in the number of superyacht vessels visiting Australia. Refit and maintenance activities also saw an increase, rising by 71% during the same period.

Angela Pennefather, Melanesian Luxury Yachts and Captain JT Bundren, MY Pangaea Ocean Explorer closed the conference by co-presenting ‘Yachting with Purpose’. Their presentation featured a personal story utilising sea floor mapping to find a missing Australian aircraft from WWII. The subsequent retrieval and analysis of evidence identified the final resting place of four young Australian airmen, providing some closure for their families. Delegates respectfully stood in silence as ‘The Ode’ was recited by Good, who then delivered the conference’s closing remarks. 

The conference concluded on Wednesday, May 22, with Gold Coast industry tours and networking events. Delegates were treated to a surprise itinerary that unfolded as the day progressed with an exciting networking opportunity, flat-out afloat, where delegates marine industry knowledge and experience was put to the test by participating in building cardboard boats in a park and testing the boats’ seaworthiness in a lagoon race.

The highlight of the day being the occasion to engage in exclusive tours of DOCKPRO and Marine Air Flow International.  Delegates were offered the unique opportunity to gain insights into various aspects of production by touring the factory floor, exploring project management systems, and experiencing firsthand the incentives in place to value employees.

Katrina Matheson, Head of Marketing and Media, Maritime Cook Islands commented:Attending the ASMEX Conference 2024 was informative, with industry leaders and innovators sharing great insights about the future of the maritime sector. The sessions encouraged collaboration, and the networking opportunities were excellent for building professional connections and potential partnerships”.

David Good, CEO of AIMEX, Superyacht Australia and ACMG commented; “We thank all who contributed to the remarkable success of the ASMEX 2024 Conference. Our sincere thanks go out to the international community for their attendance, including our keynote speakers and delegates, marking the highest level of overseas participation to date. We are thankful to each of our generous sponsors for their invaluable support. Lastly, thank you to all the conference delegates who actively participated in every opportunity for learning, networking and collaboration”.

AIMEX extends our gratitude to the Major Partners, Conference Partners, Award Presenting Partners, and Supporting Sponsors of the ASMEX 2024 Conference. We acknowledge and appreciate their generous support, which has been crucial in making this year’s event a resounding success.

Major Partners: City of Gold Coast, Queensland Government, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show

Conference Partners:  Benetti Yachts, Gulf Craft, Interferry, Marine Air Flow International, Pantaenius Australia, The Whiskey Project Group, Tourism Fiji

Supporting Sponsors: Boat Style Yacht Interiors, Bula Coffee, Pyrotek, Quality Marine Clothing, Tyrrell’s Wines

Award Presenting Partners: BOQ Business, City of Gold Coast, Rivergate Marina & Shipyard, Sealink, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, TAFE Queensland and Volvo Penta