Broads boat companies say sun is shining on boatbuilding industry

Two Norfolk boat companies are dispelling the myth that the industry is foundering, with an increase in orders signalling fairer conditions to come.

Norfolk Yacht Agency (NYA) and Haines Marine say a flood of new launches and orders is evidence of a “buoyant” market.

Nine new Haines boats – both offshore and river cruisers priced up to £500,000 – have been launched or commissioned this summer through NYA, with whom the Catfield-based builder has worked in partnership since 2006.

The news comes after a difficult period for Broads boat builders.

Last month Broom Boats announced it will put an end to more than 100 years of building at its Brundall yard, citing increased materials costs and a fall in demand for luxury boats, and financial trouble led to an abrupt closure and job losses at Oyster Yachts in Hoveton before it was rescued from liquidation in March.

The cancellation of next year’s London Boat Show has also signalled rough conditions for builders and sellers.

But James Fraser, managing director of NYA, which employs 27 staff at its two bases in Brundall and Horning, said the reality was more positive. His company alone sold 300 new and used boats in 2017.

“There has been a lot of negativity, and I think it can easily knock confidence in the industry,” he says. “But boat building is very much alive and well in Norfolk, and recently Haines launched three brand new boats on the same day.

“It’s been a real summer of success, and it’s important to put across the other side of the story.”

Justin Haines, director at Haines Marine, whose 18 staff build up to 20 boats a year, says: “There’s been talk about UK boat building as if it were dead, that it’s not competitive with European competition, but it’s not accurate. There’s a niche in boat building where we’ve thrived, that niche being bespoke, hand-crafted and high quality boats.”

Mr Haines says the company’s boats are being delivered all over the UK, with particularly strong demand from the south coast and Channel Islands, plus a growing export market in Holland.

“Getting a new boat into a new marina is the best advert we’ve got – it does generate new business,” he says.

Another Broads company carving itself a space in the market is former Oyster builder Landamores in Hoveton, which has begun boat building again after a six-year hiatus.

Story by Bethany Whymark for the Eastern Daily Press

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