The Philippe Starck designed superyacht 'A', which arrived this morning in Auckland.
The Philippe Starck designed superyacht 'A', which arrived this morning in Auckland. Guillaume Plisson

$350m 'submarine' megayacht arrives in NZ

The megayacht "A" that slipped into Auckland today is believed to be the biggest to ever berth in New Zealand, with interior space almost 15 times the size of an average house.

The distinctive vessel is owned by Russian Andrey Melnichenko, who has a fortune estimated to be $17.2 billion, and is in Auckland for maintenance ahead of cruising in summer.

At 119m the sleek submarine-styled craft only just fits into the Auckland superyacht marina and is 27m longer than the Paul Allen-owned Tatoosh that called in 2002.

Allen is a co-founder of Microsoft and came back to New Zealand waters last summer with his even bigger yacht Octopus which at 127m didn't berth but cruised around southern waters.

The Superyacht
The Superyacht "A" owned by Russian Billionaire Andrey Melnichenko arriving in Auckland. Greg Bowker

The couple were not aboard today.

The vessel needed a Ports of Auckland pilot to bring it into the city and is berthed under tight security at Auckland's Silo Park Super Yacht Marina. It will undergo dry dock maintenance in Devonport before travelling around the coast.

Designed by Philippe Starck, the 119m megayacht features many mirrored rooms and one guest suite is lined with white stingray skins.

The feature stairwell is coated with silver leaf and has $70,000 hand-carved banisters. Its patented bath taps are worth $45,000.

One chair is made of alligator hide and horns from a kudu antelope and the Wall Street Journal reports Starck built in a cushion-lined "nookie room" hidden behind a mirrored cabinet.

A is packed with security features with its hull making it difficult for intruders to board, and is fitted with numerous security cameras with motion detection systems. Its 240sqm master suite incorporates bomb-proof glass and is opened only by a fingerprint pad and accessible to four or five people, according to the Journal.

The interior has 2200sqm of floor space - almost 15 times the size of an average New Zealand house.

Superyacht 'A's master bedroom.
Superyacht 'A's master bedroom. Anja Wippich

It is not known where "A"will cruise, but other superyachts have travelled around the Hauraki Gulf, Northland and then as far south as Stewart Island.


Lars Herweijer, technical manager for A said the vessel is "extreme in every way "and attracts massive attention wherever it goes meaning security had to be extremely tight.

"We have a very good security protocol and we've minimised local access."

Asia Pacific Superyachts NZ is providing support for A and the company's founder Jeanette Tobin said getting such a high profile vessel here would be a huge boost the boat support industry and luxury tourism in New Zealand.

"To get a boat this size into New Zealand is a really big coup for New Zealand tourism because and it tells every other megayacht owner that whatever needs to get done here can get done. For the tourism market in New Zealand at the high end it's huge - others will follow," she said

Tobin said she was contacted by the skipper six weeks ago who had been referred to her through a previous client.

Guillaume Plisson

Neither Herweijer or Tobin would talk about the vessel's owner.

The length of stay was dependent on how long "the boss" wanted it to be, Tobin said.

While it's in the top 15 mega yachts in the world, besides the master bedroom there is room for just 14 more guests who are tended by 37 crew.

Powered by twin high speed diesel engines delivering 24,000hp, the 5959-tonne yacht has top speed of 23 knots and cruising speed of 19.5 knots. At cruising speed it can cover 6500 nautical miles over more than a fortnight. Running A reportedly costs up to $24 million a year.

It has three pools, one a massage pool near the stern with a glass that can be viewed from the entry hall below, which also serves as a disco, according to the Journal. Snoop Dogg reportedly performed to mark the couple's sixth wedding anniversary. A also has a helipad on the foredeck.

Its large garage can also be used as a disco and has three tenders also designed by Starck and they have cruising speeds of 35 knots to 45 knots.

It also has two jet skis.

Starck has been described as an "all-round design luminary" who has designed furniture, bags, boats and high end hotels.

Aleksandra Melnichenko told Harper's Bazaar that she had input into the look of A.

"I was included in every step of the interior design," she said.

Who is Andrey Melnichenko?

Andrey Melnichenko is a Belarusian who made his fortune firstly in banking then in energy, steel and fertiliser companies in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The 41-year-old owns most of EuroChem, Russia's biggest fertiliser firm and is said to have played a role in building some of the country's biggest corporations. Reports say his net worth dipped following the global financial crisis but has recovered to a fortune of between NZ$16.6b according to Bloomberg and $17.2 according to Forbes. He is ranked by Forbes as the 56th wealthiest person in the world and the sixth wealthiest in Russia.

Forbes reports he started out with a chain of currency-exchange booths and later founded MDM Bank in 1993. With fellow billionaire Sergei Popov, he began buying up assets, creating TMK, Russia's largest pipe exporter, as well as fertiliser maker EuroChem and coal producer SUEK. In 2006 the partners started splitting their business empire. Melnichenko kept Eurochem and a stake in SUEK. In 2012 he began restructuring Eurochem to get it ready for an IPO.

The Moscow- based company currently generates most of its revenues from nitrogen and phosphate operations.

Melnichenko studied physics as Moscow State University and graduated from Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics majoring in finance and credit . He met his wife to be, Serbian model and pop singer Aleksandra Nikolic who is in her mid-30's, in the South of France in 2003.

They married two years later in a ceremony on the French Riviera with performances by Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, and Julio Iglesias, each of whom was paid an estimated $4.1 million for the gig.

There were rumours that Melnichenko had a Russian chapel dismantled, shipped and rebuilt in the Cote d'Azur where the wedding took place.