Seawork continues to be a stand-out show
Seawork continues to be the standout commercial marine show in the international calendar with innovations galore as Andrew Webster’s Mercator Media enterprise celebrated the exhibition’s 21st anniversary in style, putting on a blockbuster of a show in Southampton’s Mayflower Park, writes Peter Poland.
The 2018 exhibition was a clear demonstration that the UK and European commercial marine sector is open for business.
The show has a very real focus on service towards exhibitors and visitors, assisted by a deep knowledge of the sector that comes from Boating Businesses' sister magazine, Maritime Journal.
There are several reasons behind Seawork's success story. The first is that UK companies have been major players in the fastgrowing international commercial and military marine sectors for many years so there's a need for a business-to-business show.
The second is that Mercator Media and the Seawork team know what exhibitors and visitors want and are dedicated to ensuring that the show runs as efficiently - and cost effectively - as possible.
To take one example, instead of looking for one fat headline sponsorship deal (which LBS failed to find), Seawork involves several smaller sponsors from within the marine trade to sponsor specific parts and aspects of the show. This way these companies get value-for money exposure before, during and after the event.
Above all, however, the Seawork team listens to the exhibitors' suggestions and needs - then reacts by developing new ideas.
An example of this has been the evolution of various 'Trails' relating to specific aspects of commercial marine business. Each 'Trail' has its own logo that features alongside the catalogue entries and on the stands of those exhibitors who major on this type of business.
So there is a RibWork Trail, a DiveWork Trail, a Marine Civils Trail (including a focus on marine renewable energy), a Marine Renewables Trail and a Maritime Training Trail.
For 2018, Seawork introduced the new Superyacht Build, Refit and Repair Trail. Several exhibitors are already involved in superyachts because many of these share the complexities of design build, propulsion, support and materials of modern commercial craft.
The overlap between the two sectors is so obvious that 62 exhibitors immediately signed up to be featured on the inaugural Superyacht Trail.
Landau UK's Ben Metcalfe says Seawork's latest successful new trail is 'bringing additional focus to the superyacht sector is ideal for us as our offerings are used across commercial, leisure and superyacht audiences.
Speed@Seawork was another 2018 innovation. On 2 July exhibitors and speakers travelled to Cowes on the Ocean Scene and delegates discussed and inspected specialist equipment and networked with sector-specific companies on the 'exhibitor deck' en route.
Sea trials were also available on RIBs including Tideman Boats, Parker RIBs, Zodiac RIBs and Leiftur. Andre Scott of Parker RIBs demonstrated the Parker 800 Baltic and told me he was delighted with the event.
Day two comprised a Speed@Seawork conference featuring several specialist speakers.
As usual at Seawork, exhibitors covered a huge and diverse range of products and services.
SALES ARE SPLIT
That's part of the show's appeal. On the engine front, anyone who's anyone seemed to have a stand.
Radus Lungu of Beta Marine engines said this was Beta's tenth Seawork and that sales are now split about 40% commercial/60% leisure.
Beta’s popular diesels start off as Kubota blocks that are then fully marinised in the UK. Mr Lungu told me 2017 was Beta's best year ever.
Engineering director Martin Bizzel said Seawork helped achieve the 30% of Golden Arrow's marine engine distribution business that went to the commercial sector, adding that the show's three-day format was ideal.
John Wiseman agreed that Seawork was important for Volvo's growing market share in the commercial sector and Volvo Penta conducted sea trials of its new IMO Tier III propulsion package at Seawork. This uses Volvo's latest (IPS) D13-IPS900.
Marine engine distribution specialist Barrus is one of many exhibitors to have attended the first Seawork. This year the company showed a selection of Yanmar and John Deere diesels and various outboards.
Sales manager David Etherington-Smith explained the award-winning Capsize PIRS (post immersion restart system) on the Mercury 115 displayed upside-down on the stand and told me that special products for the military and commercial sectors represented about a third of his turnover.
Andrew Spencer of Yamaha Motor Europe NV, Branch UK was also pleased with business. He said the larger engines - the 300 and 350hp models - were selling well to people who want real power and I could believe this since I had just seen a brace of impressive looking 300s on the stern of the Cheetah 11m cat recently bought by my 80-year old uncle.
What's more Dan Graves later told me that Cheetah Marine's order book was brimming. About 25% of production goes to private buyers while survey companies, port authorities and border control - among other categories of commercial clients - took the rest.
Mr Graves added that survey companies like these cats because their inherent stability leads to exceptionally steady data readings.
Staying with cats, Stuart Davidsen, MD of Blyth Catamarans, said the year had been good with an 11m passenger boat just delivered to the Philippines and now a 18m survey ship underway.
Other smaller models were popular such as a 14m for ABP, 15m passenger boat for Wales, 12m fishing boat for France and 15m dive boat for Ireland. Orders have gone quiet on the windfarm front now that the industry is buying 24-26m vessels.
Seaglaze's MD Alastair Clayton told me his stand at Seawork was bigger than at METSTRADE or the Southampton Boat Show, illustrating how important Seawork is to his business.
He added that in 2018 his company recorded its best quarter ever and that a large number of boats at Seawork were fitted with Seaglaze products. 60% of his production goes to the commercial sector.
He did however say that his material costs had risen since the Brexit vote and that Brexit invariably featured on board meeting agendas ... as I am sure is also the case in the boardrooms of most British manufacturers and importers as 'B Day' approaches.
Many tell me that the exporting advantage of the falling pound is largely offset by the increased cost of imported materials.
Part of the fun of Seawork is the appearance of new products offered by new exhibitors.
Springmasters proved that interesting 'first timers' are still signing up for Seawork stands. And it was a delight to gaze upon its beautifully displayed array of springs that come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.
Carl Jackson told me that these springs found their way into such items as seats, winches, windscreen wipers and boat mooring springs and that 100 people worked in this successful family owned British business.
He added that Springmasters had also noticed an increase in the prices and delivery lead times of EU sourced materials. A sign of things to come?
It was also the first time Coppercoat has exhibited at Seawork. Having already supplied Coppercoat for 70,000 vessels in the last 25 years, Ewan Clark said the product is now being increasingly used in commercial applications.
These now represent about 33% of turnover. In addition to being used on superyachts and larger vessels, Coppercoat is now also breaking into the windfarm industry.
Since the discovery of serious corrosion on the unpainted inside surfaces of the turbine 'legs' under water, Ewan said Coppercoat will be applied to fight this in the future.
In addition, Ewan told me that Dr Vance of Plymouth Marine Laboratories has run tests sponsored by EDF and Rolls Royce and Coopercoat came out on top. So now it will be applied to the blades of under-sea Rolls Royce turbines off Orkney.
Spinlock is another company expanding its leisure industry products into the commercial sector. Doug Vincent told me this was Spinlock's tenth Seawork and that the company's products are now split about 50/50 between safety gear and hardware.
He added that clutches are now being marketed to Disney World and to the pylon industry and that Spinlock's successful life jackets are being used in both the leisure and commercial sectors.
Suzanne Blaustone, CEO of Barton Marine, told me this successful leisure company also continues to push into the commercial market.
She showed me the mainsheet traveller system that is being adapted for use on workboats, the special workboat deployment blocks being made for a UK survey boat manufacturer and other specialised blocks being made for the MOD and other specific clients.
What's more she added that Barton has recently upgraded, re-designed and re-launched more than 400 of its blocks. So it's not surprising that 2017 was Barton's best year ever.
Sea Sure was back again. Last year the company introduced its early shock mitigating seats and much progress has been made since then.
This year it was showcasing its new SHOCKWBV C-series and Graham Brown says these seats are "already selling around the world to coastguard agencies and superyachts."
It's yet another example of how a manufacturer of mainly leisure marine fittings has used Seawork as a launch pad for breaking into a new commercial market.
Garmin is another company that sells about 90% of its products to the leisure market and is keen to make an impact in the commercial sector.
Nick Meadow told me that Garmin's new Livescope is attracting a lot of attention from dredging and surveying companies as well as from fishermen.
Mr Meadow added that according to 2016 figures, Garmin was the biggest supplier of electronic navigation systems in the world and that Seawork 2018 was a very positive show.
One of the most amazing exhibits at Seawork was the new Tugdock floating dry dock system.
Shane Carr said that current methods, fixed dry dock, floating dry dock, Syncrolift, slipway or travel hoist, are expensive to use, are few and far between and are costly to build and maintain.
Tugdock, based in Cornwall. has invented a new way of lifting vessels of up to 2,000 tonnes and it can be transported worldwide directly to the vessel in shipping containers and assembled on site.
The system uses individually controlled buoyancy bags tethered inside a steel space frame structure to lift the vessel clear of the water.
It is modular so can be assembled to the width and length of the vessel to be lifted and it's a fascinating piece of kit.
All in all then, the Mercator Media team continues to show how to run a successful exhibition.
Seawork continues to introduce interesting new features, buyers from all corners of the world continue to visit and exhibitors continue to go home happy.
My only regret is that Mercator did not help run the London Boat Show. If it had done, things might have panned out very differently.
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