It couldn’t have come at a better time. The much-anticipated non-profit company dedicated to growing the boating sector has arrived, bringing with it a gust of optimism at the end of a gale force downer of a year.

BlueCape is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between the City of Cape Town, the V&A Waterfront and key maritime stakeholders — notably Vanessa Davidson and Bruce Tedder. It is a vehicle intended to give effect to all the ideas and plans that were great in power point but now require actual Rands and Cents.

And finally here it is – a firm commitment to turn Cape Town into a global boating and ocean sports hub that will catalyse economic growth and create jobs.

“There was a definite need for one non-partisan body to start pulling all of the oceans economy issues together,” explains Davidson, who will serve as one of several directors on the Blue Cape Board. “We will play a connector role; bringing our years of experience and networking.”

“Like this morning for example: somebody knocks at the City’s doors and wants some support for a blue business concept. It was referred to BlueCape, and we then throw around some ideas. We figure out how to possibly locate them with another business, how many square metres they need, who they need to talk to,” Davidson says.

By pooling their resources the City’s key stakeholders want to position Cape Town on a par with other global blue economy stalwarts. The Covid-19 crisis, while devastating to the economic landscape, has at least accelerated business plans that might otherwise have lain dormant. The birth of Blue Cape is testimony to this new urgency, with a company ‘hard launch’ expected early next year.

Co-founder Bruce Tedder says he and Davidson have worked closely with Invest Cape Town, the City’s investment arm, to establish a BlueCape ‘blueprint’: “They funded certain projects as part of our business plan, and we realised we needed other partners to realise success of that plan.”

“Now the V&A are involved as founding partners and we are busy concluding a MOA with them,” Tedder says.

As if to illustrate the newfound optimism the V&A has confirmed its plans to have a dedicated superyacht facility at a reconfigured quay seven, with construction likely to commence in early 2022. The facility will incorporate a range of superyacht services and provide a massive boost to the City’s superyacht ambitions, according to V&A maritime boss Andre Blaine who outlined the V&A’s plans in late November at a multi-stakeholder webinar.  New docks alone have a planned capex of over R250m, while new shoreside facilities would see a further  R150m in 2021 to 2022, according to current estimates.

The V&A’s plans coincide perfectly with the launch of BlueCape, which lists superyacht development as one of their three key work stream pillars, alongside marine manufacturing and ocean sports. BlueCape’s Business Plan repeatedly dwells on the need to capitalise on the significant increase in superyacht visits to Cape Town over the past few years.” Cape Town is strategically located as the staging post to the cruising grounds of the Indian Ocean and East Africa when heading east or the Atlantic Ocean and West Africa when heading west,” the Business Plan notes. “A further niche segment is Polar tourism with many of these Expedition style Superyachts heading south to explore the South Pole region in our summer.”

BlueCape is currently working with retired Admiral Hanno Teutenberg to explore the private use of sections of the SA Navy facility in Simon’s Town as a dedicated Superyacht  Haul Out and Refit facility. “This will surpass by many levels what is on offer in New Zealand and Singapore to the east and Brazil and Argentina to the west,” the BlueCape Business Plan says.

Efforts to bolster the superyacht sector will dovetail with ongoing efforts to build on Cape Town’s already robust reputation as a global boatbuilding centre of excellence. Southern Wind, Robertson and Caine, Two Oceans Marine, Voyage Yachts, Maverick Yachts and Phoenix Catamarans have collectively entrenched the Mother City as a boatbuilding hotspot – and the world’s second biggest producers of luxury catamarans (after France).  The skilled artisans employed by these yards, as well as in the factories and workshops of supplier companies, are the bedrock of BlueCape’s business plan; by enlarging this skills base the City will be able to attract a bigger share of both the superyacht and boat production market.

To this end BlueCape has already begun developing a composite repair short course, and several other initiatives will follow as the company expands its footprint across the industry. “The Cape has a diverse range of skills and expertise in vessel construction in both the recreational and commercial sectors,” the BlueCape Business Plan says. “The ability to design, build and deliver custom solutions for clients and to follow it up with after sales service capabilities is something no other African country has. Boats are built to class and certification standards globally and builders are continually innovating to meet customer requirements.”

Recent research commissioned by SABBEX shows boatbuilding has significantly grown its contribution to the country’s GDP, from R1,4-bn to  R2.2bn.  The figures might seem unbelievable, until you consider that a single boat from the Southern Wind yard sells for around R270-million and Robertson and Caine employ over 1700 people.

BlueCape has also identified several new boatbuilding growth opportunities, among them hybrid vessels using new green technology; custom boats for people with disabilities; new-look catamarans that incorporate innovative design concepts, such as real time systems monitoring to support maintenance scheduling.

The third tier of BlueCape’s business plan is to grow the ocean sports sector of the ocean economy, already a significant contributor to GDP worth around R1,4bn per annum according to a recent study conducted by Invest Cape Town. “This sector is made up of small niche companies in kiteboarding, surfing, windsurfing, SUP, surfski, ocean kayaking, sportfishing, scuba diving and ocean safety sectors,” BlueCape says. “This economy is dominated by the Kite Surfing sector that generates over R500m per annum. Inland waters also accommodate water-based sports activities with paddling/kayaking generating economic value, as well as waterskiing, wakeboarding and bass fishing.”

Concluded Tedder: “For us it is the spirit of how we are going into it — that all the parties are in agreement with what we all want to achieve.”

“We will definitely make it a success.”

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