By Lucy Chabot Reed
A 450-foot slip in the Port of Palm Beach is now available for large yachts.
Port commissioners voted unanimously on Oct. 19 to lease the slip to Berth One International, a company co-owned by a yacht owner and his former captain, Kevin O’Conor.
The slip lies at the northern end of the port — Berth No. 1 — and had been the site of the 3,000-ton floating dry dock operated by Rybovich shipyard. Port officials indicated at the public meeting that the dry dock would be relocated to berth 14 in the port.
The first yacht in that slip is expected Nov. 3, said Deb Radtke, owner of American Yacht Agents, which will handle berthing at the slip.
“We’re very excited,” Radtke said after the vote. “It’s going to open up another large yacht, deep-water berth in South Florida. Having this slip available is going to help in the same way that Island Gardens and One Island Park in Miami increased the impression that South Florida can accommodate these big boats. Before those marinas opened, these big boats were not coming here. Now they are.”
Radtke was looking for more dockage space for the large vessels her company helps travel into and around the United States when she found a request for proposal from the port seeking someone to manage yacht berthing at the slip. She reached out to O’Conor, who had begun working for one of his former yacht bosses in his real estate business, Triquest Florida.
“He was looking to expand his real estate business into the marine industry, and this made sense,” said O’Conor, who spent 15 years on yachts, including first officer on the 295-foot (90m) three-masted schooner S/Y Athena. “It gives large vessels of 100m-plus that haven’t been able to stay in South Florida a home. Those vessels call port home, and only stay for a night or two to provision and fuel. But this berth will allow them to stay for extended periods.”
The slip is currently serviceable, he said, with two pedestals of three-phase 480-volt power, water, and surface access for fuel and provisioning trucks as well as cranes. But Berth One has plans to upgrade the 13,000 square feet of surrounding land and about 2,100 square feet of the first floor of an onsite building to make it more accommodating to yacht crew. Initial sketches include a lounge, offices, conference room, and entertainment and relaxation area.
The port plans to replace the seawall in the summer of 2019, making the slip unusable for yachts during that four-month work, O’Conor said.
Berth One’s three-year lease — which has two three-year options to renew attached — allows minor repair work such as maintenance and warranty work to be performed in the slip.
Berthing arrangements can be made through American Yacht Agents (www.americanyachtagents.net) at +1 954-908-7559. Rates will be competitive with area marinas, Radtke said.
Berth One also plans to apply to be part of a marine Foreign Trade Zone, which would allow a yacht in the slip to be shown to U.S. residents.
Berth One is the first of what O’Conor hopes will be more similar slips for large vessels around the world.
“This is a unique dock in that it’s able to be sectioned off from the port,” O’Conor said. “We’re looking at other ports — in Miami and around the world — where slips wouldn’t be in the middle of the port.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.