Figures from the latest Superyacht UK Annual Survey reveal that the national superyacht industry is buoyant and growing, despite uncertainty and financial volatility surrounding the EU referendum.
International demand for British products, services and expertise helped to grow industry revenue by 11.5 per cent to £605 million in 2015 and 2016 — the fourth consecutive year of growth. Over the same period, the sector contributed £273 million in GVA to UK GDP (+6.1 per cent) and full-time employment rose by 4.5 per cent to 4,125.
“The superyacht sector continues to outperform the rest of the marine industry and the domestic economy,” says Peter Brown, senior sales broker at Burgess and chairman of Superyacht UK, the dedicated association of British Marine. “The decision to leave the EU is likely to dampen this growth, but the sector is showing confidence going into the end of the year. This is because we have less exposure to domestic economic risk and a depreciation in sterling has strengthened the purchasing power of our overseas buyers.”
Notwithstanding Brexit angst, the superyacht industry recorded its highest levels of business confidence with 75 per cent of companies feeling positive about the next 12 months. This is in stark contrast to the sharp falls in business optimism recorded in August among small and medium enterprises in non-marine industries. Productivity levels are also rising with 72 per cent of respondents reporting an increase in business activity, compared to 61 per cent in the last survey.
“Recent years have seen greater demand for yacht sales from international markets, including Asia and the US,” says Richard Selby, international development manager for Superyacht UK and British Marine. “This has led British builders to shift their focus to bespoke yacht builds.”
Post-recession confidence in the global superyacht boatbuilding and refit sectors, as well as after-sales and service businesses, have had knock-on benefits for UK jobs with 50 per cent of UK superyacht manufacturers reporting an increase in staff numbers.
However, there is a dark cloud on the horizon that could threaten this positive trend for the industry at large. Another recent report from British Marine reveals that 30 per cent of companies have identified critical skills gaps that are holding their businesses back, with 74 per cent of firms citing a lack of technical training as a barrier.
“We are growing and we want to hire more people to meet this demand, but a lack of specialist manufacturing skills in the market is a future challenge for the industry,” says Mathew Hornsby, co-founder and sales director at Williams Jet Tenders.
Most companies are tackling the issue themselves by turning to in-house training and apprenticeship schemes with 470 apprentices across 100 businesses in the marine industry. During the recent Southampton Boat Show, British Marine celebrated the graduation of 63 of these apprentices, including 11 from Pendennis, 12 from Sunseeker International and 20 from Princess Yachts.
“Apprenticeships are essential to ensuring that our future workforce have the necessary skills to preserve our high standards of craft,” says Andrew Walter of Princess Yachts. “Offering an array of growth opportunities, they provide numerous benefits for any young person looking to step on the career path.”
The Superyacht UK Annual Survey was circulated among 254 of Superyacht UK’s members with 122 questionnaires returned (48 per cent response rate of those receiving the survey), combined with additional secondary and primary analysis of another 250 member and non-member businesses operating in the sector.
Image: Richard Tarr