Cooperation is Key for a Positive 2012

The shipbuilding as well as yacht building industry endured an unpredictable year in 2011. Together with the Holland Shipbuilding Association and HISWA Holland Marine Industry, we look back on the past year and also discuss the developments for the future.

“How is the shipbuilding industry doing? I would like to say well, although the accounts may vary”, states Mieke Bakker-Mantjes, general director of the Holland Shipbuilding Association. “Our innovation skills mean we are leading in this industry and ahead of our competitors, yet there are factors at play that we do not and cannot control.” Andre Vink, managing director of HISWA, concurs: “The past year was not easy. There are some companies who have had less new builds and in the lower segments have shifted to repair and maintenance, until the market picks up again. We as an industry are a full-on consumer market. Yacht building is directly related to emotion and consumer confidence, which offers altogether different circumstances than the business-to-business shipbuilding market.”

Think Yachts, think Holland

The yacht building industry is made up of three segments: yachts up to 24 metres, the so-called superyachts (of 24 metres to 45 metres) and yachts larger than 45 metres (the megayachts). Climate-wise the Netherlands may not seem the most favourable location for yacht building. Vink: “Yet geographically everything is so close together and well laid out in our country, such as the locations of builders, suppliers and knowledge institutes, as well as the infrastructure of our inland waters.

All of these elements offer a favourable position when you look at our competitors overseas. We are called the yacht valley of the world.” Vink explains that the Dutch yachting industry has an excellent reputation and a proven track record. Meaning that even in difficult times, customers will think of the Netherlands as the place where you can buy quality products at reliable companies with excellent maintenance records en even better resale values. Vink: ”As an association we are some 35 years very active in promoting our industry members. HISWA Holland Yachting Group consist of some 60 yards and suppliers and contributed to our top reputation.” Speaking of the past year, Vink states: “The superyacht segment did well last year. We have seen the order intake change, but the orders have still come in. It was, however, not an easy year.”

The Holland Shipbuilding Association also focuses on yachts larger than 35 metres. Bakker- Mantjes believes that this industry has done well and will continue to do so the coming year, stating:”Ofcoursetheyachtbuildingindustry was hit by the recession, but I would consider it more a postponement of orders than a decline. I believe the yacht building industry has done well. This is a global industry and many companies settle in the Netherlands because our country has a considerable reputation.”

Various outcomes

Much like the yacht building industry, shipbuilding has had a year of various outcomes. “Some companies have done well over the past year, which is very good news. Although I am wary of the future. The rules and regulations regarding sustainability are becoming stricter, which we of course advocate, but they do prove difficult for our members and their customers. Luckily the shipbuilding industry and its suppliers are very innovative. It is what we are known for”, comments Bakker-Mantjes. “Unfortunately, the stricter rules and regulations might mean we will encounter customers who are unwilling to pay high prices. This leads me to believe 2012 will be a dangerous year.”

Innovations are also a hot topic within the yacht building industry. Vink: “A high level of workmanship and the inevitable innovations are very important to this industry. Owners often have very specific requirements, which means many yachts are unique. Yards, suppliers, designers, technical universities and research institutes combine forces trying to comply with the client needs. We work with steel in the segment up to 24 metres, thus always building semi custom and custom-build, unlike our foreign competitors who produce series, often made out of fibre glass. That means we are able to build to the owners specification for a reasonable price in completion with series builders.”

The yacht builders of yachts under 24 metres may have a difficult year and Vink hopes that the launch of their ‘Orange Yachts’ marketing project will help Dutch companies find new customers within the European market. Vink: “An excellent development for this industry is that the increasing water sports activity has improved the European inland waterways, who cater to yachts up to 24 metres. How splendid it is that one industry can have an international impact and stimulate regional development in other European countries. Lots of marinas are build all over Europe stimulating the regional economy through tourism.” The main goal for yacht building will be to improve their position and enforce their already excellent reputation.

Goals for 2012

With a wealth of maritime knowledge, the question remains how both industries have planned to make 2012 successful. Bakker- Mantjes: “Our goals are not set for one year, but are very much long term. We have five objectives we want to focus on: human capital, globalisation, sustainability, innovation and cooperation.” Vink adds, for the yacht building industry: ”New ways in marketing, new markets but also closer cooperation between the yards and their suppliers. We can improve the chain.”

Work in the maritime industry

Finding young employees willing to work in the Dutch maritime industry is difficult. This causes for a shortage of skilled personnel, which Bakker-Mantjes believes is down to an image problem. She feels children should be taught more about the maritime industry from a young age. Vink agrees: “The ageing of the population could potentially be a problem. The education of young people is important, trying to get them interested in our industry so that they will come and work for us some day.” Globalising, aimed at the export, financing, trade and leveling the playing fields is another of Holland Shipbuilding Association’s focus points for the future. A term HISWA is familiar with as their industry caters to an international market. Vink: “We have over¬†400 years of yacht building knowledge and we show the world how good our Dutch industry is by inviting international journalists and by making sure international clients know our architects, suppliers and research institutes. However costs are a major issue, especially regarding import, we may think of lobbying for a yard in Brazil to tackle the Latin-American industry. By the way, in Holland our two HISWA boat shows already attract many of youngsters and almost two million people are active on their yachts. Lots of sailing schools educate children aged six years and up and get in touch with the yachting side of our maritime industry.” Sustainability is another important goal, for both industries. Bakker-Mantjes states: “We continue to innovate and get greener. Sustainability and innovation go hand in hand and are really the backbone and the strength of our maritime industry.”

Reducing the emission of CO2

Part of the long term goals for the shipping industry will see the further reduction of CO2 prompted by the signing of the ‘Covenant Energy Efficiency and CO2 Reduction Shipping’ on 15 December 2011 by Minister Schultz van Haegen ¬†Infrastructure and Environment), the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners, shippers’ organisation EVO, the Holland Shipbuilding Association and the Dutch Association of Dredging Contractors. The covenant means to reduce the CO2 emission by 50% between 2020 and 2050 and to evolve the shipping industry in an energy neutral manner. Bakker-Mantjes: “This is a complex matter. You have to establish what makes up the carbon footprint and then decide how you want to reduce this. The CO2 covenant is a long term plan, stating we must reduce our emission by 50%, which is something we will have to do together.”


Recently the Dutch Maritime Network have rearranged their councils: human capital, innovations, internationalisation and public relations, which will see the maritime industry working together. Companies and eleven associations alike will strive for common goals to improve each individual industry and the maritime industry as a whole. Vink: “We have to work together and I believe, together we will be able to tackle some of our common problems. We want to stimulate youngsters and enforce the maritime education. Youngsters are free to work in any sector of the maritime industry, as long as they will work inside the industry. We have to forget our competitive edge and work together, cluster thinking.”

A tough year has passed and a new challenging year awaits. Bakker-Mantjes concludes: “We have to show the world how good we really are and why we have earned our reputation. Our goals for 2012 will hopefully help us better our position.”

Rebecca McFedries


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