Luxury yacht builder is buoyant as expansion officially launched

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, right, performs the official opening ceremony at a new boat building facility

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, right, performs the official opening ceremony at a new boat building facility at Spirit Yachts, with, from left, MD Nigel Stuart, James Cooper, chief executive of Associated British Ports, and owner Sean McMillan. - Credit: Archant

The delighted owner of a luxury yacht builder yesterday unveiled an extension which effectively doubles the size of its premises at Ipswich Haven Marina.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, flanked by Spirit Yachts managing director Nigel Stuart, left, and owner Sea

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, flanked by Spirit Yachts managing director Nigel Stuart, left, and owner Sean McMillan, at the official opening ceremony of its new boat building facility at Ipswich Haven Marina. - Credit: Archant

Spirit Yachts has ridden the tough economic wave and continues to attract wealthy buyers from around the world, keen to own one of its painstakingly crafted wooden vessels, which cost anything from around half a million pounds up to £3m for one of its latest orders - or more.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer performs the official opening ceremony at a new boat building facility for Spi

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer performs the official opening ceremony at a new boat building facility for Spirit Yachts, which is based at Ipswich Haven Marina. - Credit: Archant

These can take its crack workforce of 40 up to a year or two to build to its exacting specification.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, flanked by Spirit Yachts managing director Nigel Stuart, left, and owner Sean

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, flanked by Spirit Yachts managing director Nigel Stuart, left, and owner Sean McMillan, at the official opening ceremony of its new boat building facility at Ipswich Haven Marina. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer performed the opening ceremony for its new new 750m sq facility, which will allow the firm to work on yachts up to 150feet long.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, right, performs the official opening ceremony at a new boat building facility

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, right, performs the official opening ceremony at a new boat building facility at Spirit Yachts, with James Cooper, right, of Associated British Ports (ABP) and owner Sean McMillan. - Credit: Archant

“It’s a big day for us,” said chief executive Sean McMillan.


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“It’s literally double our capacity and we are doing our best to fill it as quickly as we can. We have taken on 10 new staff so far this year and we are looking for probably as many again over the next year.”

The business was launched 23 years ago by Mr McMillan and the late Mick Newman in redundant farm buildings in Saxmundham.

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“We started with absolutely nothing. I’m so proud of this business. It’s the team I’m proud of. They are the best in the world at what we do and it’s entirely down to their skills,” said Mr McMillan.

He pointed out that Ipswich has been a centre of shipbuilding for 1,000 years and had a “fantastic tradition” in the craft.

Port owner Associated British Ports (ABP) has invested £300,000 in the extension, which had previously been a “pretty derelict” building next to the main workshop, according to Mr McMillan. Spirit Yachts invested a further £50,000 to £60,000 on services within it.

Managing director, Nigel Stuart said that following a turbulent few years for the marine industry, British boat builders needed to adapt.

Spirit sells around 70% of what it makes to overseas customers.

Mr Gummer described the business as “a great news story” for the town.

“If we had more businesses like Sean’s we would not have a trade deficit,” he said. “It’s businesses like Sean’s that keep the economy going.”

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) chair Mark Pendlington said “It’s fantastic to see an international company based here in Ipswich expanding and growing.”

ABP Short Sea Ports director Andrew Harston said it was “a world-class business demonstrating incredible workmanship”.

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