Plain sailing for Suffolk yacht firms

BOUYANT marine industry in Suffolk is sailing a smooth course through the economic slowdown, according to figures released today.Revenues in the East of England's leisure marine industry increased in 2002, rising by 8.

BOUYANT marine industry in Suffolk is sailing a smooth course through the economic slowdown, according to figures released today.

Revenues in the East of England's leisure marine industry increased in 2002, rising by 8.2pc over the previous year, says the British Marine Federation.

The good news, as the Schroders London Boat Show opened at Earls Court, is confirmed by one of Suffolk's best-known boat yards, Oyster Marine based in Ipswich.

Marketing director Liz Whitman said: "It would be foolhardy to say that business is booming but I can say our order books are full for the next two years. A lot of people out there seem to want to buy yachts."


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Oyster Marine, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, employs 500 people in two boatyards in Norfolk, one in Southampton and one in New Zealand.

The cost of their custom-built luxury vessels range from £400,000 to several million.

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Recent figures confirm growth took 2002 revenues to a record £239.4m, even as the slowdown in the global economy hit many other industries and sectors.

Companies within the marine industry appeared to cope well with the current economic pressures and even marine manufacturers and exporters thrived in 2002.

This paints a picture of a sector which contrasts starkly with announcements last month by the Confederation of British Industry that Britain's manufacturing sector was heading towards recession.

John Clarke, chief executive of the British Marine Federation, said: "The British leisure marine industry, which is particularly large in the East of England, is going from strength to strength. The rising revenues and strong export figures make it an important industry to the country as a whole.

"The high quality, design and innovation of the country's marine products are renowned the world over, enabling UK operators to achieve consistently good results, even in adverse conditions."

Mr Clarke expects the industry to continue to perform well, and he added: "Today's figures also show that growing numbers of people are employed in leisure marine-related businesses: 5428 people in the East of England worked in the industry in 2002, an increase of 18.3pc over the 2001 figure.

Mr Clarke added: "Boating and marine-related activities are becoming more and more popular in terms of both employment and pastimes. As more people realise how easy it is to get into boating and as many high-profile figures like Ellen MacArthur and Ben Ainslie enjoy frequent successes, we can only presume the industry will continue to thrive."

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