Please select your home edition
Edition
Zhik Dinghy Wetsuits

Is Australian boat manufacturing car-eening for fall

by Mark Rothfield on 22 Jun 2013
The government must support our world-class boat builders as it does the car industry. Maritimo Marine
How do you start a small business? These days, you buy a big Australian manufacturing firm and simply wait for a while …In recent weeks the car world has been floored by news that Ford plans to close its manufacturing plants while General Motors is aiming to cut workers’ wages to avoid or delay, an inevitable head-on crash.

Should the boating industry be concerned? Absolutely!

The car industry has consistently been a decade ahead of boat manufacturing in its R&D, construction, advertising and retailing. It enjoys a larger market, fewer local rivals, superior economies of scale and deeper pockets courtesy of their global parents.

They also have the undying support of a Labor Government that’s thrown millions of dollars at the problem, with Minister of Innovation and Industry Greg Combet insisting that the ability for local manufacturing to design and build a motor vehicle from the ground up is vital for the economy.

Well guess what? We have the ability to design and build boats from the keel up, to the pinnacle of international standards, but if history is any indication the government cares not one whit.

The prestige Australian built marques Riviera, Maritimo, Quintrex, Signature and Seawind, among others, have all struggled in recent years, slicing their workforces without raising so much as an eyebrow at federal level. We’re dispensable it seems.

So if an international conglomerate like Ford can’t build a family car in Australia, how the heck can we continue to build boats? The same market threats apply – a flood of imports built at a fraction of the labour cost, a dollar that for too long refused to be tempered, and nervous cattle. Perhaps the recent drop in the Australian dollar might help a little but it will have to keep falling to make any significant difference.

The Seawind solution was to shut shop and relocate.

‘Probably five years ago it was apparent that Australia had a limited future as a manufacturer,’ owner Richard Ward says. ‘We have a strong domestic market but we’re a long way from the world market – our boats are horrendously expensive to ship.’

Ward investigated options in China and Thailand but delayed a decision at his increasing peril. Then, in 2010, Seawind acquired Corsair Marine, which was building Farrier trimarans in Vietnam, and the die was cast.

‘It was sad, this process of closing our Wollongong factory, and unbelievably difficult,’ Ward adds. ‘People see that you’re selling out, that you don’t care about your workers … but it’s a short-sighted and mistaken way of looking at it.

‘Governments should be helping us to become a global company. That’s what we’ve done but entirely on our own. Seawind is 100 per cent Australian owned, we will continue doing all the design here, and the profits will come back to Australia. The alternative is to die.’

The Boating Industries Alliance Australia, the national peak body for the recreational and light commercial boating industry in Australia is working hard to explain the value of the Australian boat building industry to politicians, we hope they listen.

If not, the spectre of an Australian boat show without an Australian boat, once unthinkable looms as large as the prospect of a Bathurst race without a Falcon or Commodore.
Zhik ZKG 660x82Naiad/Oracle SupplierInSunSport - NZ

Related Articles

Brawn v Brain? The Bar or The Room?
Interesting questions and can they possibly be linked in any way. Interesting questions and can they possibly be linked in any way. Is it just the one connection, or could there indeed be several ways to address this conundrum? Well the route of the answer could be SailX, the online inshore racing game.
Posted on 7 Jul
Volvo Ocean Race to be contested over longest distance in history
Tough, intense, and featuring almost three times as much Southern Ocean sailing as the previous edition The 43-year-old race around the world – the ultimate ocean marathon, pitting the sport’s best sailors, against each other across the world’s toughest oceans – will start from Alicante in late 2017 with a 700nm sprint to Lisbon, Portugal that will provide the first test of the form guide.
Posted on 29 Jun
Volvo Ocean Race adds full Southern Ocean Leg and 5000nm to new course
Volvo Ocean Race has announced a new course for the 2017/18 round the world event. Several major changes are planned including a return to a full Southern Ocean leg, and the addition of a massive Leg 5 of 13,300nm - the longest leg ever sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race. By way of comparison a minimum circumnavigation around the planet is approximately 21,600nm to be recognised as, a record for the course by WSSRC.
Posted on 28 Jun
Foiling into the Windy City
. .
Posted on 10 Jun
Australia and Britain - The best of rivals or the best of partners?
There has always been a strong rivalry between Aussies and Poms, with of course the Ashes being the pinnacle of it all. There has always been a strong rivalry between Aussies and Poms in sport, with of course the Ashes being the pinnacle of it all. In the International Moth World Championship there is an Ashes trophy and, for the first time in a long while, the Brits took the trophy home.
Posted on 31 May
Practice makes perfect?
There are a lot of us who try to get out on the water whenever we can. There are a lot of us who try to get out on the water whenever we can - be it a club race, a weekend open or a championship. The general feeling is that the more we sail, the better we get, but is that actually the case?
Posted on 27 May
Races, Regattas and Disruptive Technology
x In the olden days, the major cost of attending a regatta for yacht owners and crew was the accommodation and still is. Of course for cruising yachties, traditionally the crew stays on boat, during regatta week, because after all it is replete with dishwasher, washing machine, a good cellar and an oven in which you could cook a roast. For racing boat owners or dinghy owners, life was not so easy.
Posted on 19 Apr
Children of the Internet, Rio and Hong Kong
x x
Posted on 13 Apr
World Sailing Cup - Ahead a Dead Rat in a Shoe v3 or Spring Daffodils
While a host of major sailing events go from strength to strength, the Sailing World Cup has very major issues. Last night my Irish better half was sitting beside me on the sofa watching an Australian version of the popular TV Cooking Program My Kitchen Rules on a tablet with her headphone while I was watching Diehard II for the seventeenth time (it’s a boy thing) on TV. She suddenly spluttered and laughed, took off her headphones and motioned for me to mute Diehard. (Seriously!!)
Posted on 7 Apr
World's most popular boat revisited and big news from Volvo Ocean Race
x x
Posted on 1 Apr