Popularity of PWCs driving Finnish boat market growth

Personal watercraft registrations were up by almost 50 per cent; motor boat registrations slightly down

The Finnish boat market enjoyed a growth of seven per cent over January-July 2018, driven by the burgeoning popularity of personal watercraft (PWC). Over 900 new PWCs were registered over the first seven months of 2018, almost 300 more than in the corresponding period last year.

At the Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show, the positive trend inspired by the warm summer is illustrated by the fact that the moorings for the exhibitors were sold out. During the four-day event, more than 150 exhibitors will showcase their offering including 260 boats in the fully booked exhibition area.

Aluminium boats continue to be popular in Finland

Based on the boat registration statistics, a console boat about five metres long and powered with a 30-60-hp outboard engine continues to be the favourite of Finnish boaters. Aluminium boats account for a considerable share of all registered outboard-powered boats. In Finland, official registration is mandatory for boats that are at least 5.5 metres long or equipped with a 15-kW engine or bigger.

"Finnish boat builders appear to know what the boaters want, given that more than half of the 20 most popular boat models in the Finnish market are indigenous aluminium-hulled craft. We believe that the warm summer has triggered a growing interest in boating, jet skiing and other waterborne activities and that boat sales continue to be strong even in August and particularly at the Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show where there is a record number of new boat models on display," says Jarkko Pajusalo, Managing Director of the Finnish Marine Industries Federation Finnboat.

Hot spring spelled busy period - nevertheless a slight decrease in motor boat registrations

Over the year's first seven months, a total of 2,200 motor boats were registered, which was 4 per cent less than the year before.

"It seems that boat sales reached their capacity limits with the weather warming up so quickly in the spring and that boat dealers were simply unable to deliver more boats than they did. When considering the timing of new boat deliveries as reflected by the delivery volumes, most new boats are delivered to buyers over a rather short time span only extending from the beginning of May until Midsummer," Pajusalo says.

As a possible solution that could help balance out the seasonal fluctuations in boating and closely related services such as those provided by the travel industry, Pajusalo suggests that consideration be given to adjusting the summer vacation schedules of schools. "A new kind of sequencing of school summer vacations should be looked into, and this work should incorporate all players affected by the vacation schedules," Pajusalo envisages.

In Finland, the boat industry is a significant employer: The companies in the field directly employ 3,500 people, while the total employment effect lies between 4,000 and 6,000 people. Moreover, the business generates considerable multiplier effects also for the service industries in Finland's archipelago and Lakeland. Boat building is also going strong in Finland, unlike in the other Nordic countries. In the previous year, as much as 73 per cent of Finnish production was exported elsewhere.

Electric outboard motors enjoying a dramatic increase in popularity

When considering this year's boat market, one detail worth noting is the drastic increase in the demand for electric outboard motors. Their deliveries over the six months amounted to over 5,400 units, which is a good 90 per cent more than in the previous year.

"Electric outboard motors have emerged as an alternative to conventional outboard engines in the smallest boats. Furthermore, electric trolling motors are becoming or have already become part of the standard equipment also in somewhat larger boats intended for casting," Pajusalo explains.

Nordic countries as the main export destinations

Sweden and Norway continue to be the most significant destinations for Finnish boat exports. The value of boat exports in January-May was down from the previous year. However, the figures are subject to certain statistical uncertainties related to big sailing boats built as long-term projects and yet waiting to be delivered.

"The deliveries of large sailing boats by Baltic and Nautor will add an interesting twist to the statistical work, considering, for example, the fact that last year only eight boats were exported to Malta but for an aggregate value of 72 million euros," Pajusalo points out.

Domestic market

The number of domestic boat registrations is on the increase. During the first seven months of 2018, altogether 3,208 boats were registered, up by seven per cent on the previous year. The most important change was the rapid growth in personal watercraft sales: 908 PWCs were registered, that is, almost 50 per cent more than a year ago. The majority of the registered boats, 69 per cent, were standard motor boats.

The volume of sailing boat sales continues to be rather small, albeit exhibiting strong growth over the previous year. Altogether 12 sailing boats and motor sailers were registered over the first seven months. The registration statistics feature sailing boats or motor boats at least 5.5 metres long or with engine ratings of at least 15 kilowatts.

  1-7/2018 1-7/2017 Change %
01 Motor boat 2,205 2,295 -4.0
02 Sailing boat 10 5 +100
03 Inflatable/RIB 44 58 -23
04 Hydrocopter 2 3 -33
05 Personal watercraft 908 620 47
06 Motor sailer 2 - -
07 Hovercraft 1 5 -
08 Other 36 26 -80
Total 3,208 3,012 +7

Boat exports

The main destinations for Finnish boat exports are Sweden and Norway, which together account for 70 per cent of the total number of boats exported. Based on preliminary information, the five biggest boat export destinations in January-May were:

  No. of boats EUR million Change %
1. Sweden 2,956 40.1 -5.5
2. Norway 2,029 33.1 0.8
3. Russia 415 5.9 86.8
4. Germany 134 3.5 -21.7
5. France 63 3.2 14.9

The other countries or territories surpassing the EUR 1 million mark in Finnish boat exports during the review period were the UK, Denmark, Switzerland, Greenland and Greece.

The total value of boat exports in January-May was EUR 106 million. This was 4.1 per cent less than in the corresponding period a year ago.

Imports of boats and personal watercraft

The most significant import sources of motor boats and sailing boats were the UK and Poland.

The international PWC markets are experiencing strong growth, which is manifest in Finland as increasing volumes in both imports and exports. Personal watercraft are imported into Finland mainly from Mexico, Japan and the USA and re-exported from Finland to other EU countries. The total value of boat imports including PWCs fell by 0.3 per cent to EUR 40.2 million.

Value of boat imports in January-May 2018, PWCs included
  No. of craft EUR million
1 Mexico 3,408 25.4
2 UK 115 2.9
3 Poland 75 2.3
4 USA 744 2.3
5 Sweden 54 1.4

Outboard engines

At this stage, import statistics concerning outboard engines are only available on wholesale deliveries in January-June. The total number of outboard engines delivered through Finnish importers was 15,835, which is slightly down from the corresponding period of last year. Of these outboard engines, 7,355 (-15%) were delivered to Finland and 8,480 (+1%) were re-exported.

In addition to conventional outboard engines, altogether 5,415 electric outboard motors were delivered in January-June, which is 92.1 per cent more than in the previous year's corresponding period.

Further press information
Jarkko Pajusalo, Managing Director, Finnish Marine Industries Federation Finnboat
Tel. +358 (0)40 673 4032
www.finnboat.fi www.suomiveneilee.fi

Helsinki Boat-Afloat Show 16-19 August 2018