Please select your home edition
Edition
Barz Optics - Kids range

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.

Related Articles

Shape of next Volvo Ocean Race revealed at Southern Spars - Part 1
Southern Spars has been confirmed as the supplier of spars for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. In mid-April, Race Director, Jack Lloyd and Stopover Manager Richard Mason outlined the changes expected for the 40,000nm Race during a tour of Southern Spars 10,000sq metre specialist spar construction facility. A total of up to seven boats is expected to enter, but time is running out for the construction of any new boats.
Posted on 3 May
Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted on 29 Apr
From Olympic flag to Olympic Gold and maybe another
The Sydney Olympics was a Sailing double 470 Gold event for Australia. Having won the 420 World Championship in 2000, the feeder class to the 470, while still at school in Australia young Matt Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Posted on 28 Apr
The Road to Rio now 99 days short
The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win. The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win in Hyeres, at some World championship events and Weymouth World Cup but for many crews: 'It's 106 miles to Chicago we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.' Whoops wrong movie.
Posted on 28 Apr
America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
Thou doth protest too much, me thinks
And no, we’re not off to analyse Hamlet right away. There’ll be no surtitles popping up on the top of your screen And no, we’re not off to analyse Hamlet right away. There’ll be no surtitles popping up on the top of your screen about now. At any rate, it is simply an adaptation of Lady Gertrude’s original line. We merely seek to use it as a way to demonstrate that when there is a lot of brouhaha going on, the smoke screen ultimately ends up as a lovely, colourful flag as to the real intent behind it.
Posted on 18 Apr
An interview with Jake Beattie about the 2016 Race to Alaska
In 2014, Jake Beattie and a few friends envisioned the Race to Alaska. Now, it’s time this wild race’s second edition. In 2014, Jake Beattie-the executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington, and a few friends hatched the bold idea of a human-powered race to Ketchikan, Alaska, took flight. They decided that their human-powered race would start in Port Townsend, Washington and run to Ketchikan, by way of the inside passage between Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Posted on 14 Apr
Children of the Internet, Rio and Hong Kong
I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. The kind of conversations I have with her run along these lines.... In the olden days we did not have television until I left school and they had a thing called print magazines, that reported events between two weeks and four months after they happened. And her sceptical response... Hoh! Daddy, Hoh!
Posted on 14 Apr
Go fast girls - 49er FX sailors Paris Henken and Helena Scutt
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt will be representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which will be their first Olympiad. American’s Paris Henken (20) and Helena Scutt (23) recently won a berth to represent the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the high-performance 49er FX skiff, a goal that the team has been working on for almost three years. While this is their first Games, writing them off as Olympic newbies would require ignoring their recent results and their strong teamwork.
Posted on 13 Apr
World Sailing Cup V3 - A Dead Rat in a Shoe 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 headphones 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 9 Apr
NaiadSchaefer 2016 660x82Southern Spars - 100