UK Boatbuilding Sector Enjoys Rising Exports

Posted: 18th September 2019 | Written by: Naomi Chadderton

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New figures released at the Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, from leading trade association British Marine highlight that Britain’s boatbuilding revenue increased by 21.3% in 2018, totalling £777m in turnover. The British boating market is now worth £1.4bn annually to the UK economy with unit output growing 2.9% to 9,477 units.   

This rise has been attributed to increased exports of inboard motor cruisers and motor yachts (+11.4%) and rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) (+5.5%). Over 65% of new boat production in 2018 went to overseas markets, with combined exports of new and used boats totalling £627m in 2018.

While these figures show a healthy UK boatbuilding sector, recent surveys of British Marine members show the industry as a whole has seen a decline in business confidence. Domestically focused UK businesses continue to experience flat markets, with only 7% of companies reporting an increase in revenue over the last six months.

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The figures released show builders of motor yachts sized 12-24m saw a 12.3% expansion in production. While the UK owns less than 1% of the world’s 12-24m motor yachts, the UK market exported motor cruisers and motor yachts to the value of £686m in 2018. At the same time two of the UK’s largest yacht manufacturers – Sunseeker International and Princess Yachts – enjoyed record sales and forward orders. However, these two are not the only success stories, with both Pearl Yachts and Fairline Yachts revealing double digit sales growth.

In addition, output by Britain’s rigid and inflatable boats (RIB) manufacturers also grew 5.5% to 1,060 units, largely driven by strong demand across superyacht tender and leisure markets. Manufacturers Williams Jet Tenders, Ribeye Boats and Cobra Ribs all enjoyed double digit growth over the last year. Meanwhile, production in the UK’s inland narrowboat market grew 1.2% to 204 boats, with total new boat registrations up just 0.5% on Canal & River Trust waterways. Sailing Dinghies & Small Sailboats also experienced growth of 2.5%, with exports of £15m in 2018.

Lesley Robinson, CEO at British Marine, commented: “We’re pleased to see that the UK’s boatbuilding sector enjoyed positive growth last year, despite Brexit and economic uncertainty. We are seeing increased demand across nearly all vessels, from motor yachts to canal boats and dinghies and it is very exciting to see so many of the top brands at this year’s Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, which kicks off today.

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“Whilst it’s encouraging to see the UK remain a global hotspot for boat production, with exports accounting for a large portion of this year’s growth, we’re also reminded that the sector continues to face challenges such as lower consumer confidence in the UK. Over the past year we’ve seen local sales remain flat and with the prospect of further Brexit delays dampening domestic spending, the future health of the sector is uncertain.” 

Antony Sheriff, Executive Chairman of Princess Yachts, added: “The figures released today show promising growth across the sector, at what is a challenging time for the market. We’ve enjoyed record sales and forward orders, which is a testament to the fact more and more people are seeking to buy UK manufactured boats.”

Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat run by British Marine, will take place until 22 September 2019, where hundreds of global boatbuilders, including Princess Yachts, will be gathering to showcase boats of all shapes and sizes. Over 300 boats are on show in the purpose-built marina at Southampton, and attracts around 100,000 visitors both from the UK and further afield, as well as a multi-million-pound worth of business, serving as a testament to draw the UK’s leading boat manufacturers have. 

Those attending will be able to discover the latest, accessible, affordable and flexible ways to enjoy boating and watersports with a whole range of opportunities to get out on the water. From kayaks to catamarans, SUPs to superyachts, there will be something for everyone.

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