A new industry report released at this year’s TheYachtMarket.com Southampton Boat Show shows that production levels at UK boatbuilders are buoyant and that revenue is growing. The report, by industry association British Marine, looks exclusively at the boat manufacturing sector within the UK’s £3.01bn leisure marine industry.

According to the findings, UK boatbuilders grew production by 1.5% to 9,907 units in 2016. Revenue increased by 1.6%, generating £859m in turnover in 2016, meaning that boat production accounts for more than one-third of the marine industry’s £3.01bn revenue. Some £724m, or 84%, was derived from exports, an increase of 35%.

Growth is being led by small and medium-sized boatbuilders, with the lion’s share of production absorbed by the mid-sized powerboat market (12m-24m), sailing dinghies and RIBs, where output has recently returned to 800 units after a period of decline.

The industry report also shows that:

  • The UK continues to be a leader in the global dinghy sailboat market, accounting for 78% of total units produced. Production numbers grew 1.2% in 2016 to 7,735
  • The RIB market has grown 12.3%, with 820 units produced last year
  • Mid-sized motoryacht production has grown 2.7%, with 380 units produced last year

“Boatbuilding in the UK has changed dramatically since the last decade," says British Marine CEO Howard Pridding, "with demographic and social change re-shaping manufacturers’ customer base and their access and approach to spending and boat ownership. As a result, the market for boatbuilders in traditional boat segments has narrowed for boatbuilders across the world.

“UK boatbuilders have adapted," he adds. "Our members continue to find opportunities and commercial niches to exploit in the eurozone, and, increasingly in established and emerging markets outside of Europe.”

Analysis within the report finds that while sailing yacht ownership has declined in popularity, participation in the sport has not, with charter holidays and shared ownership offering the flexibility of use and experience not afforded by conventional ownership. The current trend in domestic yacht manufacturing is therefore driven by changing customer behaviours in an ageing market.