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African Boat Building Market Spells Good News for Cape Town

8 July 2021

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos, was recently invited to visit Robertson and Caine, one of the world’s top boat-building companies based in Cape Town.

The visit coincided with the release of the ‘Boat Building Global Market Report 2021: COVID 19 Impact And Recovery To 2030’, which found that Africa is forecast to be the second fastest-growing boat-building region in the world over the next four years.

Published by The Business Research Company, the report says that the Compound Annual Growth Rate of the continental market will grow by 8,6%, second only to the Middle East region’s 9,4%.

The forecast spells good news for the Western Cape, which is the largest marine manufacturing centre within South Africa, generating over R2,3 billion in 2018 in export revenue, and housing nearly half of the country’s boat-builders.

Cape Town’s boat building market, in particular, has seen consistent growth in recent years, with almost 12 000 jobs created and exports up by approximately 20,5% year-on-year since 2014.

The global report’s findings come weeks after the launch of BlueCape, the City of Cape Town-funded Special Business Partner in the industry.

“Boat building, despite the challenges and pressures facing the global economy due to Covid-19, has weathered the storm,” said Alderman Vos.

“Cape Town is one of the continent’s biggest and most important ocean economy hubs. To make true the findings of The Business Research Company and help Africa become the top player in marine manufacturing, we need a central industry body that supports and promotes skills development, technological advancements, and policy advocacy.”

Cape Town already boasts a spot as one of the top catamaran-producing cities in the world with companies such as Robertson and Caine being the third-largest builder in the world of these boats. It also manufactures the most power catamarans globally.

The company plans to build up to 160 catamarans this year (with projections of 220 catamarans by 2023). With each vessel costing between R7 million and R21 million, boat-building companies such as Robertson and Caine – which has more than 1 800 permanent employees – make clear the input and value of the sector to Cape Town’s economic growth.

“We have a strong focus on skills development as most of the boat is hand-built. We have a rotational practical learning programme for students, many of whom go on to graduate and become permanent employees,” said the company’s Technical and Industrialisation Director, Donovan Thomas.

In order to grow Cape Town’s ocean economy, provide jobs and social upliftment, Alderman Vos said BlueCape and its partners will focus on three areas of growth:

“The department is constantly evaluating high growth markets that present investment opportunities. Cape Town’s ocean economy is one such area where there is potential for significant development. This is the time to work together and capitalise on this exciting prospect,” added Alderman Vos.