Billionaire's yacht coming to capital

Last updated 15:18 19/03/2014
Super yacht A
Fairfax NZ

LUXURY VESSEL: The $350m superyacht Motor Yacht A, owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, seen here in Auckland. The yacht is scheduled to arrive in Wellington Harbour on Saturday.

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Mystery surrounds the scheduled arrival of Motor Yacht A, a stunning superyacht resembling a stealth destroyer, in to Wellington Harbour on Saturday afternoon.

A is owned by Russian fertiliser and chemical magnate Andrey Melnichenko, who is worth an estimated US$14.8 billion (NZ$17.2b).

His superyacht is listed on CentrePort's website arrivals list as arriving in Wellington Harbour at 3:30pm on Saturday afternoon.  
CentrePort's marine services manager Captain Charles Smith said the port had been notified of A's impending arrival on Saturday. 

''She will not be berthing. She will just be anchoring in the harbour. We don't know how long she is in for at all. 

''We have just been told she is coming to anchor and that is it,'' Mr Smith said. 

Known only as A, the superyacht has dominated Auckland's Viaduct since last September.

A is said to be worth US$350 million and is the largest superyacht to have visited New Zealand.

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.

Built in Germany in 2008 by Blohm + Voss (the Hamburg firm that built the battleship Bismarck in World War II 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 Zealand-owned superyacht, Graham Hart's modest 77-metre Weta.

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, 2583-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.

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

It is not known if the couple will be on board when the ship anchors in the harbour on Saturday afternoon.

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- The Dominion Post

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