Well-known maritime consultant Vanessa Davidson has been appointed executive manager of the South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX).

Davidson was previously deputy chief executive of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), and before that chief executive of the Maritime Industry Association (MIASA). Last year MIASA was absorbed into SABBEX to create a unified umbrella body representing the boating sector.

Davidson joins SABBEX amid a massive national government job creation programme dubbed Operation Phakisa, which has ring-fenced significant budget for maritime development.

Her new mandate within SABBEX is to facilitate constructive engagement between key boating role players, including builders, retailers, service providers and relevant government officials. Davidson also hopes to bolster ‘brand South Africa’ in the international boating market.

“Supporting smaller companies and local component manufacturers within the broader value chain is a focus area for 2018,” Davidson told IBI. “Specifically we want to support transformation in the sector; develop and brand South Africa’s value proposition for solutions in African countries where South Africa can offer boatbuilding, maintenance, repair, infrastructure, training and skills transfer; and maintain South Africa’s global presence at boat shows internationally,” she said.

New political leadership in South Africa had provoked a general sense of ‘buoyancy’ in the markets, “albeit a cautious sentiment at this stage”, Davidson said.

“The local small recreational boating sector still has ample room for growth, although at the luxury end of the market, in the last quarter, things have been looking more positive. Boatbuilding continues to remain in positive trade balance with exports outstripping imports,” she said.

SABBEX chairman Bruce Tedder said the newly merged industry body needed to become more relevant to builders, exporters and stakeholders beyond South Africa’s borders. “We are certainly dealing with a lot more enquiries in Africa, but more holistic enquires where it is around training and maintenance – not just selling boats or ferries,” Tedder said.