Finnish boating industry driven by export
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Exports drive the Finnish boating industry

Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Finnish boating industry is performing well: net sales increased by over 10%, employment improved and exports that are important to the national economy are growing strongly. The industry employs approximately 3500 people in Finland, and the net sales of Finnboat's member companies amounted to nearly EUR 600 million in 2019.

"The good spring and summer boosted sales of small boats and personal watercraft (PWC) in particular. Also boating-related services are enjoying a clear growth trend" says Jarkko Pajusalo, CEO of the Finnish Marine Industries Federation Finnboat.

The Finnish boating industry is particularly pleased, however, with its success in global markets: exports accounted for 77% of the total euro-denominated sales value of boats manufactured in Finland. According to preliminary customs statistics, the value of boats exported from Finland increased by 20% and amounted to EUR 253 million for the period January-November 2019. Altogether nearly 9000 boats were exported from Finland to a total of 37 countries. The export invoices reported for the whole boating industry and trade by member companies for the full year amounted to EUR 290 million.

The most important export markets for the Finnish boating industry are still its western neighbours, Sweden and Norway, although exports to both countries decreased from the previous year. Sweden remained clearly the number one trading partner in terms of the total number of boats sold, accounting for 4151 boats - almost half of total exports - in January-November 2019. The total value of exports to Sweden was EUR 55 million euros, while Norway accounted for exports of 2700 boats and sales of approximately EUR 49 million euros. As the total number of nearly 7000 boats suggests, exports to Finland's western neighbours consist to a large extent of smaller open boats and day cruisers with bow cabins. Finnish R&D and manufacturing is particularly strong in this sector.

Finnish luxury yachts popular around the world

Another very strong sector is represented by Finnish manufacturers of luxury boats based in the Ostrobothnia region. Their exceptional level of quality on a worldwide scale is reflected in the export statistics for luxury yachts: the UK rose to third place in Finnish export statistics in 2019, when five exclusive boats were delivered from Finland with a combined value of EUR 30 million. The British Virgin Islands was in fourth place in the export statistics with a single delivery worth EUR 25 million.

Other important export markets for Finnish luxury yachts in 2019 included Italy (3 boats/EUR 12 million) and the Cayman Islands (2 boats/EUR 6.3 million). Germany accounted for total boat exports of EUR 11.4 million, of which yachts accounted for EUR 4 million. Exports to Russia increased by more than 30% to EUR 9.2 million. Other export markets that accounted for sales of more than EUR 1 million each included Denmark, France, Greenland, Estonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Hong Kong, Croatia, Spain, Poland and Belgium.

Finnish boat registrations increase by 4%, sales of small boats up by 20%

In Finland, the number of boat registrations increased by 4% to just two less than 4000 new boats registered in 2019. All boats over 5.5 metres in length or powered by engines with power ratings in excess of 20 hp must be registered with Traficom, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency.

Particularly steady growth has been recorded over the past five years in the popularity of motor boats in the 9-10 metre class. The most popular type of boat in Finland, however, remains a practical and small craft for summer cottages. While just over 120 boats more than 9 metres in length were registered last year, wholesale delivery statistics reveal that nearly 2500 boats smaller than 5.5 metres were sold. This represents an increase in sales of the smallest boats of more than 20 percent over the previous year.

The types of boat models favoured by Finns is also reflected in wholesale delivery statistics for outboard engines: almost 80% of outboard engines sold in Finland in 2019 had power ratings of less than 60 hp. Finland has over 190,000 motor boats, 73% of which are powered by outboard engines.

Relatively inexpensive and easy-to-handle personal watercraft (PWC) seem to have become regular favourites in recent years, although their steep rise in popularity has already begun to subside. Nevertheless, over a thousand PWCs were registered in Finland last year, representing an increase of 8% over the previous year.

Popularity of electric outboard motors and sailing boats on the rise

Although number of outboard engines delivered to Finland decreased by 5% from the previous year, the popularity of electric outboard motors continued to grow. They have become popular on small rowing boats and are also replacing the smallest internal combustion engines. According to wholesale delivery statistics, almost 9900 internal combustion-powered outboard engines were sold in Finland in 2019, in addition to which 6300 electric outboard motors were delivered.

While wholesale deliveries of electric outboard motors increased by more than 70% in 2018 compared to 2017, the increase in 2019 was just 6%. Last year's sales growth came largely from remote-controlled trolling motors used in fishing boats, of which more than 1100 were sold in 2019. This reflects the rapid increase in the popularity of recreational fishing, which is also reflected in the new offerings in the fishing section of the Helsinki International Boat Show.

More sailing boats measuring over 5.5 metres in length were registered in 2019 than have been in years, with sales almost doubling to 26. Sailing boats represents approximately 7% of the total number of registered boats in Finland.

Most imports from Mexico

Mexico continued to be the leading market for boat imports into Finland last year. The value of imports increased by as much as 45% to approximately EUR 40 million, and virtually all of the 5200 imported units were PWCs. Most of these were only imported into the EU via Finland before being exported to other parts of Europe, as just over a thousand new PWCs remained in Finland.

The remaining imports, amounting to approximately 4000 units, consisted mainly of small boats. Poland, a leading country in the European boat industry, accounted for 287 imported units (EUR 7.4 million, +12%) and France for 116 units (EUR 3.3 million, +292%).

Boating industry barometer predicts a stable outlook but slower growth

Finnboat's member companies express confidence in 2020, even though the boating industry barometer predicts a decline in growth. Only one percent of member companies expect a reduction in the number of employees, while 80% believe the number of employees will remain at the current level. Almost half of member companies, 48%, expect higher net sales, while 43% believe net sales will remain unchanged.

Boating industry barometer and outlook for 2020

Finnboat has compiled estimates from its member companies regarding their net sales and number of employees for 2020. The employment situation is expected to remain healthy, and almost half of member companies expect their net sales to increase. However, compared to the estimates made a year ago, a larger share of companies now expects their net sales to remain at the same level.

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