According to new statistics published by the British Marine Federation at the 2015 CWM FX London Boat Show, the UK leisure marine industry sector continues to grow.
For the third consecutive year, the industry posted growth in 2013/14, with total revenue in the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry totalling £2.93bn (a 1% increase on 2012/13).
As the UK economy entered calmer waters, the domestic marine market returned impressive growth – expanding from 62.8% of total revenue (in 2012/13) to 68% (2013/14).
This success was driven by the mid-market, says the British Marine Federation, with small and medium sized builders reporting strong growth. Signs of resilience in the sector are supported by the latest set of industry trends (June-November 2014), which show 90% of members surveyed are positive about future prospects – a 2% improvement on this time last year.
The sluggish Eurozone economy and resulting lack of demand provided a challenging backdrop for exports. International trade still accounted for £938m revenue – 32% of total revenue in the sector – but the Eurozone slowdown caused an 8.7% reduction in exports. These conditions affected growth for the top exporters, which pegged back overall growth in the sector.
The industry strongly welcomes the coalition government’s emphasis on and support for exports. But challenging export conditions have not been helped by the government’s withdrawal of previously promised “enhanced funding” to the British Marine Federation.
The British Marine Federation uses this funding to help marine businesses take their first steps towards exporting, and to help existing exporters expand into new markets, by providing assistance for members to attend and exhibit at global trade shows. Despite the government having a target to double exports by 2020, the unexpected loss of funding earmarked for upcoming shows has left the industry to absorb costs to which it had already committed.
The British Marine Federation’s manifesto for jobs, growth and innovation in the sector contains an explicit ask of government to ringfence the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) and associated enhanced funding to support SMEs’ exporting efforts.
These statistics also illustrate employment in the sector has gone from strength to strength. The marine industry now supports 31,500 full time equivalent jobs in 2013/14 – a 2.7% increase compared to the previous year. This includes over 200 apprenticeship starts each year, a number set to grow through the industry’s involvement in the employer led Trailblazer scheme for boatbuilding, and support from the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights’ Apprenticeship Scheme.
But more can be done to sustain this drive, and in light of this, the manifesto calls for the government to make taking on apprentices more financially viable for SMEs.
Alongside support for exports and apprenticeships, the manifesto marks a call to arms in a number of other areas, including asking all political parties to commit to:
Including the marine industry as a core sector for future growth in the next industrial strategy; Improving funding for STEM courses; Reforming of the business rates system following the government’s review in this area before 2017; Continuing to support red diesel use in recreational craft; Including boating tourism in the national tourism strategy in the next Parliament.
Howard Pridding, chief executive of the British Marine Federation, said: “The UK leisure marine industry has continued to grow and create new jobs, in spite of the challenging environment for exports caused by the weakness of the Eurozone.
“The rising confidence of our members paints the picture of a resilient industry on the up, despite economic headwinds in challenging overseas markets.
“It is fantastic to see UK businesses across manufacturing, technology and a range of services continuing to do so well, which is reflected by another packed CWM FX London Boat Show.
“Now we want to see this continue in 2015 and for the government to get behind us even more with increased support for exporters and for apprenticeships.”