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Commercial operators wanting to sell their boats are often
wary of marine brokers who mainly deal with leisure craft; the
white shoe brigade, they perhaps feel.
Nobody has ever accused Brad Arnup of dodgy footwear, and
good evidence is that his Oceaneer Marine Brokers sells more
commercial vessels than any other broker in Western Australia.
Among the full range of commercial vessels, a longstanding
speciality has been ex-western rock lobster boats, a logical
speciality considering he had been president of the Central West
Coast Fishermen's Association and could be assumed to know a
thing or two about them. In fact, he knows so much about rock
lobsters and their capture that he was also a director of the
Western Rock Lobster Council for many years, and was the
industry's representative to London and Boston in the world's
first successful application for marine stewardship for a fishery.
And he would still be fishing if not for the bane of the industry:
back injuries. The first injury required surgery and a year ashore;
the second needed more surgery accompanied by the medical
instruction to get off the boat and to stay off.
With nothing else to do he was happy to conduct a vessel
condition survey for a prospective buyer. One thing led to another
and brokerage started in his spare room with a fax machine and a
mobile phone. It did not stay there long as staff swelled to a
salesman and three office staff, and they made the move to one of
the best marine addresses in Perth. It overlooks Hillarys Boat
Harbour, and everyone using the commercial wharf or calling at
the Transport Marine Safety Office passes its door.
Not all the customers call in. There has been a huge demand
for ex-rock lobster boats, 90 of them passing through Oceaneer's
hands in the past year, and such is Brad's reputation that
customers as far away as London buy through him sight unseen.
Brad explains this love affair with what used to be regarded as
the Porsche Cayenne of fishing vessels: "Over the years with
consolidation of licences, reduced prices, more limits on pot use,
and the more recent introduction of quotas, boat numbers have
gone down from a high of well over 800 to about 240." Brad,
also a director of Jurien Boat Lifters who sell fuel to Jurien and
Cervantes fishermen, says annual fuel sales there have dropped
from $5 million to $1.2 million.
"That's so many boats that prices were bound to be depressed;
buyers had the prospect of a $1 million boat for $400,000. But
those days are just about over. The fishery is looking pretty good
for those who are left in it, the surplus twin engine aluminium
boats have been snapped up for the oil and gas industry, and
Legend Boat Builders have even organised a process to convert
Legend 60s to twins. The bargain basement days are gone."
The sales Oceaneer has been involved in have seen conversions to
charter work, half a dozen to leisure craft -- although even in its raw
state a lobster boat makes an excellent pleasure platform -- an
inter-island carrier boat, and even an ambulance boat for the
Solomons. Oceaneer is agent for Legend and for Xtreme Marine in
Geraldton, and can arrange conversion design work with Gavin Mair's
Global Marine to be carried out by these long-established builders.
Brad believes that the western rock lobster fishery has stabilised,
and predicts new-building of lobster boats will start again soon.
The boats will need live tanks capable of holding the catch in top
condition, and fuel consumption will be a major consideration.
But, paradoxically, he is sure that people will still want boats able
to maintain 18 knots.
Three office staff sounds a lot for a broker's office but they all,
led by Brad's wife Debbie -- also from a fishing family, as is Peta,
one of the other staff -- are fully employed. They are mainly
working on the management of rock lobster licences, which is an
indicator of how complex the industry's paperwork has become.
Fishermen found life became much simpler when they handed
over the complexities of leasing and share fishing to Oceaneer.
Owners of vessels leased into the oil and gas industry also find it
convenient to leave the management to Debbie and Co.
Despite an obviously frenetic business life, Brad maintains his
personal links to the fishing industry, sponsoring fisherman
association meetings around the coast. Partly, this fuels his
nostalgia for what he believes is the world's best job and the one
he wishes he still had: being skipper of your own fishing boat.
For further information contact:
Oceaneer Marine Brokers, Western Australia.
PH: (08) 9243 6373, FX: (08) 9243 3535,
Brad and Debbie Arnup, husband and wife, owners of Oceaneer Marine
Brokers at their premises at Hillarys Marina, Western Australia
Oceaneer boats open for inspection at the recent Fremantle Boat Show,
Oceaneer was the first commercial brokerage to participate in this event
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