South Africa has a long and rich maritime history, with decades upon decades of experience when it comes to marine manufacturing and boat building. Since 2014 the country has secured investments worth ZAR30-billion and created over 7000 direct jobs in the ocean’s economy. The investments have been mainly in infrastructure development, marine manufacturing, aquaculture, as well as the oil and gas sector.

As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town has a unique location. It’s situated at the southern tip of the African continent and is perfectly positioned on the South-South Trade Corridor i.e. linking Asia, Africa and the East Coast of the Americas. This in turn, also makes the Mother City a bustling port for merchant and commercial fleets, with several marine manufacturing, maintenance and repair companies that service local and international enterprises here.

In fact, Cape Town is the second-largest producer of recreational catamarans in the world, after France. Each year, 80 to 200 cruising yachts pass Cape Town from the Indian Ocean en-route to the Caribbean – a lucrative market waiting for enthusiastic investors.

Best of all, one of the best ways to explore these opportunities is to attend the annual Boatica Cape Town, South Africa’s premier boating and luxury lifestyle event taking place from 23-25 October 2020 at the V&A Waterfront.

Cape Town’s competitive Maritime Manufacturing qualities

In general, Capetonians are very involved with all aspects of sailing, boating, fishing and water sport activities. With an exquisite coastline and many intricate waterways, lakes and rivers, the Western Cape is a wealth of opportunity and knowledge. Enterprises here are generally also renowned for their good build quality and prices that are very attractive to those holding stronger international currencies.

This cost-efficiency, as well as the level of skill and service, has led to the boat-building industry reaching well over ZAR1-billion annually. This holds enormous growth potential for Cape Town’s economic landscape.

“Boatbuilding and navigating the seas are part of the Capetonians’ DNA.”
– Clinton Johns (Phoenix Marine) & Mark Delany (Two Oceans Marine)

Not surprisingly, Cape Town’s shipyards have nurtured and built incredible international networks, even securing market penetration into the Caribbean, USA, Mediterranean and Asia. As a result, Cape Town’s boatbuilding exports have grown by ±20,5% year-on-year since 2014 (Quantec, 2019) and exports 80% of its produced items. This has ultimately attracted a positive trade balance of around US$73-million annually.

Cape Town’s competitive boat-building capabilities

The Western Cape is the largest boat-building centre within South Africa, generating over R2,3-billion in 2018 in exports revenue (Quantec, 2019), and housing approximately 45% of boat builders. In fact, ships, boats and floating structures were Cape Town’s 7th largest value export in 2018. Of course, it doesn’t end there.

What sets Cape Town’s boatbuilding industry apart?

  • The Mother City is home to boatbuilding skills that are unparalleled in Africa and the broader southern hemisphere region.
  • The sector employs directly over 5120 artisans, carpenters, engineers, nautical architects.
  • Thousands more work in secondary industries providing materials and components to shipyards across Cape Town.
  • There are 40 plus shipyards, and Cape Town has boutique boat builders who can custom build your boat with world-class artisanal craftsmanship.
  • Built at the tip of Africa, the Cape of Storms, Cape Town’s boats are made for all sailing conditions and are renowned for their resilience.
  • Local manufacturers are easy to deal with as one-stop-shops and help their clients get the maximum return on investment.

Cape Town boasts South Africa’s only Boat-Building school

False Bay College has approximately 60 students graduating annually with a national certificate. Students here learn a wide range of disciplines including design, marine joinery, fibreglass or polymer composite fabrication, metalwork and welding, naval systems, computer-aided drawing (AutoCAD), as well as boat-building standards. Naturally, Cape Town companies generally do not have any skills shortages in these technical areas.

South African Boat Builders Export Council (SABBEX)

Several top boatbuilders from South Africa have exhibited at the annual Miami International Boat Show. In fact, Cape Town companies regularly showcase their boats and win awards at sector shows. This industry is currently supported by SABBEX, which often helps to facilitate investment and conduct research into investment and growth opportunities.

“What is great about South Africa for boatbuilding is you have a lot of skilled people, who have been doing it for a long time, and you have great procurement, you can get anything to build the boats with good marine infrastructures, (and) a nice mix of skilled and unskilled labour.” – Phil Berman (Balance Catamarans)

Currently, SABBEX, together with the City of Cape Town and the University of Cape Town, are conducting a study about Cape Town’s ocean sports economy. SABBEX estimates that this ocean sports economy is worth R1.2-billion per year in Cape Town and is prime for investment and growth.

For more information:

Contact Invest Cape Town today for detailed information on Cape Town’s prolific boat building industry!

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message