Austral Marine reports positive market signals in the first quarter of 2018, coming off a low base in 2017 during which the company built only 92 boats – compared with a high of around 700 in 2006/07.
“There’s definitely a turnaround,” Austral director Jason Price told Boating South Africa. “We are probably about 200% ahead of last year.” Price said some dealers who until recently had sold one unit in 18 months were now back in business thanks to increased demand.
The positive signals are shared by Yamaha South Africa stalwart Greg Bennett, although Bennett expects buoyant sentiment associated with the improved political climate will not immediately improve profitability: “The recent changes in government and the appointment of a new president has greatly improved business confidence in 2018 and the improved exchange rate and general morale promises to show improved sales again at the end of this calendar year,” Bennett said in response to queries. “There has been a severe decline in the number of boat builders in the country with many closing their doors due to reduced new boat sales (particularly in the waterski and leisure segment) and increased demands from labour unions that have pushed overheads to the point of no return. This decline is expected into 2018 as well,” he said. “Offshore fishing boats continue to sell at a slow rate with the smaller one-man business’ being able to withstand these issues as they are not unionised and are more flexible,” Bennett said.
Austral has also recently teamed up with the Whisper Boat Building Academy to help their students with factory floor technical training. Price said the company would soon embark on their third student intake, with the previous two producing encouraging results. Whisper provides skills training in boat building to the deaf or hearing impaired. Said Price: “It has just been such a privilege to work with some of these people. I have had staff I’ve worked with for more than 30 years who don’t greet me like they do. They have so much to give and nobody wants to give them an opportunity.”