Personal submarines emerge on boat market

Bored with the luxury yacht? Personal submarines are a growing trend for the mega-rich.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich – owner of the world's largest private luxury yacht, Eclipse – are among those who have their own mini-sub.

Other ocean explorer types, such as British billionaire adventurer Sir Richard Branson and film director James Cameron, have custom-built subs.

In March last year, Cameron descended 11 kilometres into one of the ocean's deepest nooks, the Mariana Trench, in his Australian-designed solo sub, Deepsea Challenger.

Recreational subs could soon be jostling for space on board the world's luxury yachts, if latest design trends are any indication. The first family-friendly five-seater has hit the market and could soon be vying to become the new must-have toy of the mega-rich.

The C-Explorer 5 was created by Dutch submarine maker U-Boat Worx to accommodate four passengers and a pilot, and has been dubbed "the world's first the subsea limousine".

This airconditioned mini-sub – which will set you back between $2 million and $3 million – can descend to a depth of 300 metres, reach speeds of three knots underwater and stay below the surface for eight hours.

A range of larger recreational submarines that seat many more passengers are also on the market, but because of their size and price – in the tens of millions of dollars – they are mostly pitched at the luxury resort market.

The market for recreational mini-subs is relatively new, according to Barry Jenkins, chairman of Superyacht Australia, which represents businesses that sell products and services to the superyacht industry.

He says he spotted a mini-sub – a single-seater – for the first time at an international boat show about five years ago, then a double-seater appeared, and now the first five-seaters are arriving.

"We're hoping to track down one of the smaller ones for the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show this year," he says.

This article Personal submarines emerge on boat market was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.