The Netherlands has long been Europe’s fifth most powerful economy, but falling house prices, a fresh tranche of austerity measures and over exposure to the euro crisis has caused a sharp decline in consumer spending.
Unsurprisingly, this is having an adverse effect on the domestic marine industry. As reported in IBI’s European Round-up last month, quarterly surveys of the trade body Hisws’s membership reveals that more than 40 per cent of Dutch marine companies expect a drop in turnover as well as margins during this financial year.
Not exactly helping to motivate their domestic buyers are some impending tax rises, including a hike in vVAT from 19 to 21 per cent as of October 1, 2012.
But the Dutch are getting used to riding the storm. Marine companies here are predominantly small, family-owned operations, and during the past four years have become remarkably innovative and flexible. They are actively chasing down new markets and optimising production whilst minimising waste.
Several companies have merged, whilst sadly one or two – such as the famous Pedro Boat company – have been forced to give up the struggle altogether.
Although a relatively small country of around 42,000km2 (18 per cent of which is water) and a population of 16.7 million, the Netherlands has the ninth-highest per capita income in the world (currently US$42,183.) According to the index Mundi, “the Dutch economy is noted for its stable industrial relations, moderate unemployment and inflation, a sizable trade surplus, and an important role as a European transportation hub.”
The economy itself is largely export-led, the superyacht sector being a prime example. So what has brought this vibrant economy to its knees, and why is it now being classed alongside Portugal, Spain and ireland as one the EU’s weakest performers?
A glance at the figures released by Hiswa highlights the gradual erosion of confidence, although boating still remains a major national pastime. whilst perhaps not the most exhaustive of statistical summaries – the Netherlands doesn’t have an official boat register, for example, so there is a degree of educated guesswork involved – the Hiswa statistics suggest that the number of watersports enthusiasts has remained unchanged at 1.5 million. Also unchanged is the number of watersports-related companies, steady at 4,200 for the last two years.
However, since 2010 the total number of people employed in these companies has reduced from around 30,000 to 27,500, reflecting the tightening of belts to remain competitive.
However, the number of boats moored in the thousands of marinas and small harbours throughout the various estuaries, coastal ports and extensive inland network hasn’t changed very much. There are fewer in boats moored in Friesland, down by 1,000 to 27,000, and Nord Holland, down by 500 to 33,500, but all the other regions remain stable.
The number of boats ashore and not in use remains at 100,000, and there are slightly less sailing yachts around, down by 1,000 to 193,000. Even so, they still outnumber motoryachts, which remain static at 146,000. The total number of Dutch-owned leisure craft, including some 100,000 canoes, kayaks and tenders, stands at 521,000.