British boatbuilding revenue up 21.3% in 2018

Princess Yachts Sunseeker International and Princess Yachts enjoyed record sales and forward orders last year. Image: Princess Yachts

Britain’s boatbuilding revenue increased by 21.3% in 2018 as a result of increased exports of inboard motor cruisers and motor yachts, and rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), new British Marine research shows.

British Marine’s figures, released at Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, show that despite challenging conditions, boatbuilding revenue totalled £777m in turnover last year.

The British boating market is now worth £1.4bn annually to the UK economy with unit output growing 2.9% to 9,477 units. Exports of inboard motor cruisers and motor yachts are up 11.4% and RIBs are up 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.

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.”

Healthy production

The figures 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. Both Pearl Yachts and Fairline Yachts also revealed 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.

While these figures, show a healthy UK boatbuilding sector, recent surveys of British Marine members show the overall industry 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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