Luxury boats help keep UK industry afloat

Fri Jan 7, 2011 1:52pm EST
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By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britain's marine industry, buffeted by falling revenue and employment last year, is looking to new markets and models to steer it into calmer waters.

The mood at the London International Boat Show on Friday was one of resilience, with the number of exhibitors the same as last year and visitor numbers expected to be up at 120,000, but below the recent three-year average of 122,000.

"2010 was a difficult year for everybody -- boatbuilders, distributors and customers," said Will Green, sales director at Princess Yachts boatbuilders, in southwest England.

The marine industry has seen a 6 percent fall in turnover and a 5 percent drop in employment during the past financial year, said the British Marine Federation, which represents businesses from makers of canoes to superyachts.

But its Executive Director Howard Pridding said its leading manufacturers had survived the recession, with no major company closures.

One of the strongest sectors was the luxury powerboat market. London distributors for Sunseeker International said its order book for 40-meter (130ft) boats, which can cost about 15 million pounds ($23.17 million), was full until late 2012.

"Friends of mine come to dinner parties and say 'you must be finding it tough'," said Christopher Head of Sunseeker's London distributors. "No, we are busy."

Princess Yachts is seeking planning permission to expand its operation, taking on 200 people, to help build and test a new fleet of 50-meter super yachts.   Continued...