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boatica Cape Town showcases the thriving South African boatbuilding sector

Oct 30, 2023


Cape Town, South Africa, is reaping the rewards of its burgeoning blue economy, a sector that injects billions of rands per annum into the city's GDP. Contributing to this growth is boatica Cape Town – the City’s annual boat show that has evolved into a pivotal contributor to boosting Cape Town's profile in this sector.

The South African boat building industry continues to be a formidable force, demonstrating remarkable growth and resilience in the face of challenging economic landscapes. Spearheading this success are the South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX) and Blue Cape, pivotal organisations driving innovation, growth, and international collaboration within the maritime and boat building sectors.

SABBEX, one of 18 National Export Councils recognized by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC), focuses on the manufacturing and exporting of leisure craft and related manufactured components. With an emphasis on training, ease of manufacture, and export promotion, SABBEX plays a crucial role in propelling South Africa's boat building industry onto the global stage, enabling international visibility and market expansion.

Complementing SABBEX's efforts, Blue Cape, a Cape-based initiative, serves as a catalyst for fostering growth within Cape Town's boat building and marine manufacturing landscape. Founded in partnership with the City of Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront, Blue Cape's focus on three core pillars - Boatbuilding and Marine Manufacturing, Superyachts, and Ocean Sports - underscores the comprehensive approach to driving sustainable growth and development within the region's blue economy.

South Africa, renowned for its exceptional quality and sea-keeping abilities, boasts a thriving boat building industry, a significant contributor to the national GDP. Valued at a staggering R3.2 billion annually, this sector supports approximately 3,700 direct jobs and an estimated 6,000 jobs in total, including indirect employment opportunities within the wider supply chain.

The industry's commitment to skills development is evidenced by the establishment of the Boatbuilding School at the Westlake Campus of False Bay College, along with the implementation of a new trade qualification aimed at enhancing workforce capabilities and expertise. Two of Cape Town’s larger vessel manufacturers are registered as Training Centres.

Boasting an impressive international presence, the South African boat building sector has witnessed a significant increase in export volumes, with close to 300 vessels exported annually. This vibrant industry's unwavering commitment to innovation and research is exemplified through Omegaverse's recent groundbreaking investment of R20 million into cutting-edge technology. This includes the acquisition of a state-of-the-art 7-axis milling machine and a 3D large-scale printer. Anticipated to revolutionise the future of mould construction, these advancements promise to significantly enhance both the efficiency and precision of production processes, while simultaneously paving the way for unprecedented possibilities. This substantial investment underscores the industry's steadfast dedication to technological progress and sustainable practices, cementing its position as a trailblazer in the marine manufacturing domain.

Beyond its economic contributions, the boat building industry actively engages in community development initiatives, emphasising skill development programmes, education, and environmental sustainability, fostering a holistic approach to community upliftment.

Additionally, the industry's strategic collaborations with international organisations, coupled with its focus on import substitution, position South Africa as a global leader in the marine industry, boasting innovative solutions and cutting-edge practices that resonate on an international scale.

Industry facts and figures at a glance:

  • Boat building annual contribution to the economy: R3.2bn
  • Oceans sports/blue economy annual contribution to the economy: R2bn
  • Number of people employed in boat building: Approximately 3,700. Ocean Sports employs approximately 3,000. Total employment is estimated at 6,000, including indirect jobs.
  • The industry supports an estimated 8,000 households through direct and indirect employment opportunities within the supply chain.
  • Growth in the last three years: In excess of 17% per year for the last 3 years, post-COVID, a thriving Tiger sector.
  • Number of vessels exported this year: Close to 300 vessels this year. Most marine manufacture operations have full order books for the next 2-3 years.
  • The sector is internationally recognised with regular award wins, including Boat of the Year Awards and four nominees this year.
  • South Africa ranks as the second-largest leisure sailing catamaran builder worldwide and is the leading large power catamaran manufacturer.
  • South Africa is estimated to be the world's leading exporter of talent, providing over 500 young, trained Superyacht crew per year with a 95% success rate in securing well-paying jobs in the competitive international Superyacht sector.

These significant figures underscore the industry's profound impact on the national economy, employment growth, innovation, and global recognition, solidifying South Africa's position as a key player in the global maritime industry.



For any media enquiries, please contact:

Kirsten Veenstra | +27 82 926 3932


About SABBEX: The South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX) is a key player in the country's thriving boat building industry. With a focus on manufacturing and exporting leisure craft and related components, SABBEX plays a pivotal role in promoting South Africa's boat building prowess on the global stage. Committed to innovation, sustainability, and fostering international collaborations, SABBEX remains at the forefront of the marine industry, driving growth, and excellence.

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About Blue Cape: Blue Cape is a Cape-based initiative established in collaboration with the City of Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront. With its focus on Boatbuilding & Marine Manufacturing, Superyachts, and Ocean Sports, Blue Cape serves as a catalyst for sustainable growth and development within the region's burgeoning blue economy. Through fostering innovation, nurturing local talent, and driving community development, Blue Cape continues to solidify Cape Town's position as a hub for marine excellence and innovation.

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About boatica Cape Town: The boatica boat show is an annual event held in Cape Town, South Africa, dedicated to showcasing advancements in the maritime and marine industries. With a strong focus on innovation, sustainability, and the blue economy, boatica connects industry leaders, enthusiasts, and experts to explore and celebrate the immense potential of our oceans. The event takes place at the V&A Waterfront and is a critical driver of Cape Town's transformation into a thriving blue economy hub.

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Background information on Messe Frankfurt: The Messe Frankfurt Group is one of the world’s leading trade fair, congress, and event organizers with their own exhibition grounds. With a workforce of some 2,200* people at its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main and in 28 subsidiaries, it organizes events around the world. Group sales in the financial year 2022 were around €450 million*. Operating in the Fairs & Events, Locations, and Services business fields, Messe Frankfurt prioritizes sustainability as a central pillar of its corporate strategy, striking a healthy balance between ecological and economic interests, social responsibility, and diversity. With a robust global sales network spanning approximately 180 countries, Messe Frankfurt continues to deliver high-quality services that cater to the diverse needs of customers worldwide.

For more information, please visit our website at: With its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, the company is owned by the City of Frankfurt (60 percent) and the State of Hesse (40 percent). For more information, please visit our website at:

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