$350m superyacht arrives in Auckland

A stunning superyacht that resembles a stealth destroyer has cruised into Auckland harbour.

Known only as A, the superyacht is dominating Auckland's Viaduct and sparking marine industry gossip over who is getting big money to service the ship.

Owned by Russian fertiliser and chemical magnate Andrey Melnichenko, 41, the vessel slipped in this morning without any listing in the Ports of Auckland shipping movement bulletin.

There was no sign of its owner, worth an estimated US$14.8 billion (NZ$17.2b).

A is said to be worth US$350 million and is the largest superyacht to visit Auckland.

At 119 metres long and 5959 gross tons, A is a metre longer than New Zealand's two warships, the frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana which weigh in at 3600 tons.

While a frigate can probably outrun A - cruising at 50 kph to the superyacht's 42 kph - a frigate probably wouldn't boast a jacuzzi or a swimming pool. It's also an open question which ship has more security systems.

Superyachts.com rates A as the 16th largest superyacht in the world - but it is due to slip a couple of places to 18 this year thanks to some Middle East billionaires building bigger vessels.

Built in Germany in 2008 by Blohm + Voss (the Hamburg firm that built the battleship Bismarck in World War Two - and designed the frigates that New Zealand's two warships are based upon), A is touted as one of the finest yachts in the world.

She is considerably bigger than the largest New Zealander-owned superyacht, Graham Hart's modest 77 metre Weta.

Marine industry sources at Westhaven were not saying today what is known of the work to be carried out on A. She is too big for the Westhaven slips - but could, if needed, go into the Calliope Dock at the Devonport Naval Base.

The Wall Street Journal is one of the few media outlooks to have been aboard. Reporter Robert Frank went aboard in Barbados and noted that at the top of a spiral staircase lined with scalloped, silver-leaf walls is a door accessible by a fingerprint security system.

"It opens to an all-white, 2,583-square-foot master suite wrapped in bomb-proof, 44-millimetre glass," he said.

Designed by Philippe Starck, A has become one of the most loved and loathed ships in the world.

"With its radical shape-more sleek submarine than boxy pleasure boat-and reams of custom parts and finishes (including bath knobs costing US$40,000 apiece), A is a conspicuous marker of an ocean-going plutocracy that's largely been untouched by the recession," the WSJ noted.

The yacht is highly secure, with its rounded exterior and knife-like hull making it difficult to board.

It has 44 security cameras and more than a dozen exterior cameras fitted with motion-detection systems and a night-vision infrared system.

WSJ said the Melnichenkos make frequent changes in itinerary and do not spend much time in any one port, preferring to roam the seas for weeks at a time.

Melnichenko founded a bank in 1993 and then moved into pipe manufacturing and fertiliser and chemicals.

His wife Aleksandra - the A in the ship's name - is a former Serbian model and pop singer.

The world's new largest superyacht is the 180 metre Azzam, launched earlier this year for an Abu Dhabi billionaire.

It took over top honours from Russian magnate Roman Abramovich's yacht Eclipse - also built by Blohm + Voss.

Fairfax Media