Event chairman Neil Fernando speaks to IBI in run-up to this year’s show

The 6th edition of the Sri Lanka International Boat Show and Marine Festival opens on Friday in Galle. Neil Fernando, chairman of event organiser the Boatbuilding Training Institute (BTI), spoke with IBI in the run-up to the show.

“The aim of the event is twofold,” he said. “Firstly, to promote the boating industry in our country, and secondly, the marine festival aspect of the event will promote the lifestyle of leisure boating and marine tourism.

“The potential of the boating industry has been well-recognised by the government with the initiatives taken by the Export Development Board, and we are happy that the recently launched Sri Lanka National Export Strategy has rightfully identified boatbuilding as one of the six focus sectors.”

“This also goes hand in hand with the government’s stated intention to make Sri Lanka a global maritime hub, strategically positioned between Europe, Africa and the Middle East on one side, and Singapore, South-East Asia and China on the other,” he said. “These moves by the government are putting our boatbuilding industry firmly on the global map, and are also helping to grow our export markets and encouraging much-needed inward investment.”

Sri Lanka has a considerable boatbuilding industry built up over the last 50 years in building fibreglass boats which have been exported throughout the Indian Ocean area, Africa and India. Most of these boats are fishing, passenger and utility boat models, although some contract building has been carried out for brands in the Netherlands, UK and Scandinavia.

In recent years the marine tourism sector has grown in the country as the waters, closed due to conflict, have opened up to boating. This has seen an immediate increase in marine tourism activities aimed at whale-watching and cruising the coastline, especially in the Galle area and the northeast coast. Operators such as Sail Lanka Charter build their own charter catamarans and are doubling their building and operating capacity yearly.

The event is expecting some 30 exhibitors over three days, starting on Friday 26 October. There will be an industry conference on the 27th with speakers from Europe and locally. The show is organised by the BTI and supported by the government’s Export Development Board.