Boat building adds wind behind the sails of Cape Town’s economic recovery

Cape Town is proud to be one of the top catamaran-producing cities in the world. The City’s Enterprise and Investment Department works closely with and supports this industry as one of our key catalytic sectors.

“It, therefore, gives me great pleasure to announce the formation and partnership with a new Strategic Business Partner (SBP) Blue Cape.” – City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos.

Blue Cape has been established to ensure economic growth, job creation, and social upliftment by investing in skills development and policy advocacy in the oceans economy. This SBP, with funding support from the City, will focus on marine manufacturing including boat building, super yachts, and ocean sports. Specifically, Blue Cape will manage a database of vetted super yacht suppliers and will develop training materials and career pathways, facilitate internships and job creation.

Ald James Vos at Catamaran launch Robertson & Cain

‘Cape Town remains a boatbuilding hub on the continent and is well-placed to maintain its status, despite the challenges and pressures facing the global economy due to COVID-19. The industry employs thousands of people and I am encouraged that with the planned production, we’ll be able to preserve jobs in this sector. We hope that through effective health and safety precautions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, we will see restrictions easing in the near future to get more people back to work and earning an income,’ said Executive Mayor, Dan Plato.

The emergence of Cape Town as a cost-effective supplier to international markets has over the years created a demand for people with the skills to build yachts and boats as well as to perform support functions in a boat building process. These processes include laminating, marine joinery, boat design and construction, metalwork, complying with international boat building standards, installing and maintaining marine electrical systems and inflatable boat technology.

“Together with the City’s Enterprise and Investment Department, we work closely with the South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX) to help promote and market the industry in South Africa and internationally.”

“We have engaged with the sector on various initiatives, have joined them to celebrate their success stories, and helped to cut red-tape to enable the ease of doing business.”

Robertson and Caine is the largest builder of catamarans in the Southern Hemisphere and the third-largest in the world. Despite COVID-19’s wide-ranging impact on the global economy, the Cape Town-based boat manufacturer has proven its resilience and ability to rapidly adapt to the changes wrought by the global pandemic.

The launch today of two state-of-the-art Leopard 53 power catamarans, worth R22 million and which are destined for international markets, is a testament to this resilience. There are currently 50 boats in the production process at this impressive company, with another “107 boats worth R1.35 billion in the pipeline for this year, if restrictions are lifted.”

‘The year started with an order book of 188 boats. The Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the market reduced this to 150 boats by the end of the first quarter, however, line stoppages due to lockdown and Level 4 restrictions now limit production output to 130 boats against a still existing annual order book of 150 boats. The lifting of level 4 restrictions such as curfew would still allow the build of up to 140 boats this year, depending on how soon the restrictions would be lifted. Robertson and Caine is adamant that the health and safety of all persons on our sites must enjoy the highest priority. Business continuity is imperative, however, the fundamentals of sound health and safety practices and discipline need to go hand in hand to ensure a sustainable future,’ said Robertson and Caine, Managing Director, Peter Giliam.

“By refocussing our efforts, we can adapt to this new normal and navigate the immediate to medium-term future until the virus has been brought completely under control. By implementing innovative ideas and solutions, it is possible for us to come out stronger than before.”