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The Finnish boat industry experienced both disadvantages and benefits from COVID-19. The latter part of the year showed a strong growth after the sudden stop in the spring 2020: business grew 11 per cent and the boat exports, which had suffered the most during first half of 2020, were back in growth in the second half of the year. Boating industry employs approximately 3,500 people in Finland and the turnover of Finnboat member companies is more than 600 million euros.

"Domestic tourism and the popularity of summer houses raised the sales of less than 7 m motor boats to a double-digit growth," says Finnish Marine Industries Federation Finnboat CEO Jarkko Pajusalo.

International trade experienced a global decline, but supply chains got off the ground again in the second half of the year. However, exports for the whole year were slightly negative. According to the preliminary customs statistics the Finnish boat export value decreased by 3 % and reached 245 million euro during January-November 2020. A total of more than 10 000 boats were exported to 37 countries. The full-year export invoicing of the Finnish boating industry reported by the companies was EUR 319 million, of which boat exports accounted for EUR 273 million.

The main export markets are still Sweden and Norway. The value of exports to Sweden turned to a 31 % growth, and almost 5,000 boats were exported during January-November. The decline in Norwegian exports at the beginning of the year was reversed towards the end of the year, but the value of January-November exports was still in a 7 % decline.

Exports of luxury sailboats

The export success of Ostrobothnia's luxury -class sailboat manufacturers continues. The largest export market in January-November 2020 remained the United Kingdom with two sailboats and a total value of EUR 28 million. Italy was in second place with four sail boats and € 13 million. Malta rose back to third place in the sailboat export market with the delivery of one EUR 5 million boat.

Finnish boat registrations increased by 19 %

Domestic boat trading underwent a complete stop due to COVID-19 and the restrictions in the spring of 2020. However, the whole year rose to a strong 19 % growth in boat registrations. Nearly 5000 watercraft were registered last year and the strongest growth rates were seen in less than 7 m size range of motor boats and Personal Water Crafts. Boats over 5.5 meters or with an engine of more than 20 hp must be entered in the boat register maintained by Traficom. The wholesale delivery statistics reported by Finnboat member companies covers also non-registrable boats, and based on the wholesale delivery statistics the deliveries of motor and small boats up to 5.5 m in size increased by 4 % in 2020.

Similar statistics are not available for the used boat business, but according to the Traficom boat register, boat ownership changes increased by more than 30 % in 2020. This is also supported by the views of Finnboat's boat brokerage companies. Delivery times for bigger new boats are long, which is part of the reason why their registrations did not increase in 2020. The strong growth in domestic boat demand resulted in the more than 30 % growth of second hand boat sales.

Outboard engines continue to be popular

The wholesale statistics of outboard engines reported by Finnboat member companies reveal the popularity of small outboard-powered boats: nearly 80 percent of outboard engines sold in Finland are up to 60 horsepower, but the long-term trend is a decline of small outboard volumes. Correspondingly, the popularity of electric outboard motors, especially for rowing boats, continues to grow and their wholesale deliveries rose already by 26 % to 6,530 units in 2020. Wholesale deliveries of electric trolling motors popular in recreational fishing increased by as much as 92 % to 2130 units.

A total of 10019 outboard engines powered by internal combustion engines were delivered to Finland in 2020, and the growth was in the engines with over 75 kW /100 horsepower. The growing popularity of larger outboards is reflected in the increase in the total sales value.

Watercraft imports switched to decline

Last year, the biggest import market of watercraft to Finland was Mexico. The value of Mexican imports decreased by 30 % and almost all of the nearly 3,500 units were Personal Water Crafts. Most of them were delivered to the EU via Finland and were further exported to other parts of Europe. Just over a thousand new Personal Water Crafts were left for sale in Finland.

Other import of around 5,000 units were mainly small craft. The largest import market was in Poland with a 27 % value increase (9 EUR 4 million, 282 pcs ).

Export statistics for the 10 largest countries in January-November 2020:

  MEUR pcs Growth-%
Sweden 72 4987 31 %
Norway 45,6 2755 -7 %
Great Britain 36,9 136 -1 %
Germany 15,2 436 33 %
Italy 13,4 6 9 %
Russia 11 848 19 %
France 5,9 76 44 %
Malta 5,3 3  
The Netherlands 4,4 123 62 %
Switzerland 4,3 59 -51 %

Total exports 245 10513 -3 %

Import statistics for the 5 largest countries, January-November 2020:

  MEUR pcs Growth-%
Mexico 28,1 3464 -30 %
Poland 9,4 282 27 %
Great Britain 4,4 340 780 %
USA 2,6 482 30 %
Sweden 2,1 299 5 %
Total imports 53,4 8805 -21 %

Turnover of enterprises

The turnover of Finnboat's member companies in 2020 mill. EUR (VAT 0%, at production and import prices):

Boats 127 (+26 %) 273 (+17 %)
Equipment 62 (-5 %) 19 (+ 0 %)
(incl raw-materials and project deliveries)        
Engines 83 (+4 %) 21 (-10 %)
Services etc. 43 (-10 %) 5 (+274 %)
Total 314 (+7 %) 319 (+15 %)

TOTAL 633 milj. Eur (+11 %)

The business barometer for the boat industry predicts that the strongest growth will level out

Finnboat has collected estimates of turnover and personnel from its members for 2021. The business barometer for 2021 predicts a positive outlook, but a reversal of the strongest growth. Net sales are estimated to grow in 49 % of companies and 44 % believe that net sales will remain unchanged.

Employment is expected to remain at a good level. 6 7 % of the companies estimate the number of employees to remain the same and 31 % estimate the number of staff to increase in 2021. Only 2 % of companies estimate that their staff will decrease.

Staff for the year 2021

31 % of companies estimate that the number of employees will increase (19 % in the previous year)
2 % of companies estimate that the number of employees will decrease (1 %)
67 % of companies estimate that the number of employees will remain unchanged (80 %).

Turnover for the year 2021

49 % of companies estimate turnover to grow (48 % in the previous year)
7 % of companies estimate that turnover will decrease (9 %)
44 % of companies estimate that net sales will remain unchanged (43 %).
19 % of the 145 companies replying to the survey had carried out tempory lay-offs in 2020 (7 % the previous year), which indicates the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions in 2020.

More information:
CEO Jarkko Pajusalo

Finnish Marine Industries Federation Finnboat
Käenkuja 8 A 47, 0500 Helsinki
tel. 040 673 4032