THE PLEASURE OF BUSINESS AND THE BUSINESS OF PLEASURE

Q&A with Seascape GM Jamie de Jong

1) Traditionally your company looks after Yanmar and dealt more with the commercial sector. However SA also produces a lot for the pleasure sector. Do see yourselves predominantly in any one segment?  

Seascape, Formerly IMS Engineering was built on servicing & repairs for the commercial marine industry, something the company continues today. In 1983 the company took on the Yanmar Distributorship &  with this was  able to offer a range of diesel engines previously not available in South Africa for the pleasure industry, our pleasure engine business has grown organically with the success of the boat building industry. The Yanmar Commercial high & medium speed engines have also proved successful & we have recently had some success with supply for military, supply / crew boats, fishing & long liner trawlers. This is a segment Seascape sees further potential in and for this reason we have brought Mr. Gavin Botha onboard as new Business Development / Sales Manager and recruited another commercial sales engineer to assist with these efforts. With 25 Years of experience in the industry while overseeing all sales aspects Gavin will place a large focus on offering solutions for the commercial sector in South Africa & Sub Saharan Africa with not just Yanmar but Kohler generators, Hamilton water jets, Dtorque & COX diesel outboards.

2) From an operational point of view, have you have you had to make any major adjustments to ‘roll with the punches’ during lockdown? 

Nothing over and above the challenges that the majority of businesses have faced. All aspects of Seascape’s operations have been affected at various stage to some degree. However it has been our team’s enthusiasm to “get on with it” in supporting our customers that has allowed us to continue to navigate the pandemic with as little disruption as allowably possible.

3) Port logistics issues have affected just about anybody in your game. Has this been a challenge? Are things improving in this regard?

It has been very challenging. We have been managing this as best possible by working more closely on logistics with our suppliers. We’ve had to embark on costly freight exercises to ensure our commitment to customer deadlines are met and that our build schedules are not significantly affected. As we speak we have not seen any improvement and continue to adopt the approach that if we can get our containers onto land then we will get them onto land no matter which SA Port that maybe! Additional freight costs are incurred but importantly we gain control of our shipment.

4) What for you are the most robust sectors of your market? Have you seen growth in any areas during this difficult time? 

Strangely enough sales for pleasure boat applications sail & power for private owners are doing increasingly well and we hear positive reports of many full order books for the upcoming few years.

5) Product innovation is important with engines in particular.  Have there been any exciting new trends worth highlighting at this time?

Too many to mention for the products under Seascape’s banner. Our suppliers are constantly investing in R&D & innovating.  We are seeing emphasis on new control systems, integration & digital monitoring, also inboard hybrid & full electrification could be a possibility. In the main we are seeing a lot of interest in the COX & Dtorque diesel outboard technology & Hamilton Jets new water jet range.

6) Seascape recently sold the first Cox Diesel into Africa. A significant milestone? 

Very much so.  Seascape started negotiations with Cox in 2018, and the first engines were released (to Seascape) in the third quarter of 2020, so it has been a long process. Completely new design from paper to finish. COX Powertrain has spent 14 years & over 100 Million GBP on development and these high-tech outboard engines are unlike anything currently on the market. COX are now a broader part of what we do & complements the other brands which fall under the Seascape banner. The Cox outboards align with Seascape’s commitment to offering propulsion solutions for the various challenges our customers face in both the pleasure and commercial applications.

 7) The SA market must be tiny compared to the major US and European markets. But would you say we have a potential to be a springboard into the African market? Are you seeing growth in the African market generally, or is it difficult to say at this time? 

We feel the South African marine industry already has a favourable footprint in the African market and from a commercial industry point of view we are seeing slow growth and have had some recent successes with supply of equipment and after-sale support into a number of African countries. We are seeing signs of a slight upturn in the oil & gas industry but with the travel restrictions and quarantine rules we are not yet able to revisit these markets in order to fully understand the situation.

8) What to you is the reason for Seascape’s success?  You have proved resilient across time. Does it have to do with your impressive client base? 

Yes, we are proud to be associated with our boat builders and the quality boats being produced in South Africa. And we are extremely thankful for the continued support. Seascape’s stability & success is routed in the relationships we have with our customers, principals, notably Yanmar — which we have represented for almost 40 years — and the products which fall under the Seascape Marine banner along with the team at Seascape and their commitment to the customers and the marine industry.

9) As a supplier of technical equipment does Seascape’s service dept. play a role in its success? 

Yes, most definitely. As mentioned Seascape has a long history in commercial service and repairs. We invest heavily in the correct assets, in house knowledge transfer, training of technicians locally and internationally to support our after-sales function. After-sales support can’t be compromised in this industry.

10) What to you is the biggest challenge for the marine industry going forward? Conversely, what are you most excited about in terms of potential future growth?

For Seascape it is hard to pinpoint any one thing as a challenge but most concerning is the constant unknowns of the pandemic globally, logistical & supply chain issues seen throughout the industry, and pleasure charter business returning to pre-covid levels.

As mentioned above we have seen a slight recovery in the Oil & Gas industry in Africa but only once we can visit these markets will we truly understand the opportunities going forward.

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