How big is the UK boat-building industry?

Published Thursday 25th February 2016

Boat-building is one of the oldest branches of engineering but while once mighty, the UK boat-building industry has been sinking ever since the end of the Second World War.

Despite not being as grand as it once was, we explore the size and scale of the UK’s boat-building industry today and what factors sailed us to this point.

A bit of history

A century ago, Britannia really did rule the waves with two-thirds of the world’s ships flying the British flag.

However, a combination of economic downturn, soaring oil prices, inflation and competition abroad meant order books thinned and many builders went under in the 1970s and 1980s.

Despite this, the boatbuilding industry remains positive and proud of its achievements today.

“Britain has a worldwide reputation for design, innovation and quality,” says Howard Pridding, chief executive of the British Marine Federation, which represents the leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine sector.

“This has made us a force in leisure. We are still a manufacturing success story.” he said.

UK Boat-building

Currently, South Korea is the world's largest shipbuilding country with a global market share of 41% in Q1 2015, closely followed by Japan and China. The UK is the fourth largest shipbuilder in Europe in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), and the third largest in boat-building.

According to a study by British Marine, the UK boat-building industry saw a 4.3% rise in output during 2014. UK manufacturers built 10,120 boats that year, despite challenging market conditions in the Eurozone.

Sarah Dhanda, membership and services director for British Marine, said: “These figures showcase the strength of Britain’s marine industry in a climate where UK manufacturing is under pressure to compete in international markets.”

A particularly strong area for growth was the superyacht sector, which recorded a 10% rise in 2014, when compared with 2013.

Superyachts

The UK’s leisure, superyacht and small marine commercial industry was estimated to generate £2.9bn in revenue last year and employs about 30,000 people.

While Britain may only rank fifth in the worldwide league table for constructing superyachts (those longer than 79ft), it’s the expertise in this country that makes Britain a global hub for the industry.

Ben Roberts, editor of superyachts.com agrees saying: “Britain is the hub for superyachts.”

Growth strategy

As part of the government’s strategy for growth for the UK Marine Industries it identifies key themes that will aim to help the marine industries deliver against market opportunities, enable companies to grow their market share and help to rebalance the UK economy.

“By 2020 the UK marine industries will be renowned for the quality and value for money of their high technology products, systems and services globally, and for their overall and substantial contribution to the UK’s economic, environmental and social well-being.

Greater cooperation across the marine industries and maritime services sector could see their value to the UK economy rise from the current £17 billion a year to £25 billion a year by 2020.”

The marine industries are important to the UK, employing nearly 90,000 people and there are undoubtedly some great opportunities for growth; for example, in naval and leisure export markets, and in offshore renewables, which can only be a good thing for boat-builders and pave way for a world-class industry.

And you?

Are you a boat-builder and would like to share your thoughts on the boatbuilding industry? Then don’t hesitate to connect with us on Twitter.

And if you're looking for quality timber for a boat building project, don't hesitate to get in touch today.