Sri Lanka, the picturesque island in the heart of the Indian Ocean, boasts a long and proud history of boat building. It’s well-poised to become the hub for boat manufacturing in the Asian region over its strategic location, highly trainable workforce and labour cost advantage. On top of that, Sri Lanka has one of the best natural harbours in the region and its commercial port in Colombo is rated among the most economical and efficient providing a complete service to the shippers.
The Sri Lankan boat manufacturing industry is fast growing with huge potential for growth in the international market. In 2008, the industry brought in but US $2.4 million while today it rakes in an astonishing US $100 million(Rs. 1.5 billion), an impressive growth of 40% in 9 years, according to Mr. Gamini Herath, Managing Director of Boat Building Technology Improvement Institute(BTI).
Sri Lanka has the capacity to build and operate boats for yacht chartering and maritime activities. That apart, foreign yachts can come to Sri Lankan waters to anchor and spend a few days in the country as we have fantastic on-shore activities such as whale/ dolphin watching, scuba diving, leisure fishing, snorkeling, windsurfing, kite surfing and a lot more throughout the year. Mr. Herath added that the country should capitalize on this emerging trend before losing our competitive advantage to the other countries in the region.
Despite Sri Lanka’s long history of boat building, the nation is currently not engaged in boating, so it’s necessary kindle an interest amongst the local community in boating activities. Building a strong local market will favour the country's export market as well. Considering this, the industry, BTI and EDB have initiated a number of activities to ignite the enthusiasm of the nation towards boating activities. One such initiative to commence in 2018 is the "Grow Boating Campaign". It hopes to get more and more Sri Lankans interested and actively involved in boating activities similar to that of the famed boating nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, etc.
The expanding tourism industry is opening up a new frontier of leisure and pleasure crafts. Also, the increased interest of the local community in boating activities has engendered additional market opportunities as well. The country's leisure sector records growth where whale watching and other leisure activities contributed by the surge in the tourism industry have a positive impact on the boat building industry.
Currently, Sri Lanka has a lucrative market in India, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Singapore, and the East African countries (Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania) They have proven to be valuable partners in the growth of Sri Lanka's boat industry. Mr. Herath notes that Sri Lanka's next target markets are Europe and East Africa, as well as regional countries. He emphasized that global economic conditions are conducive to the expansion of the Sri Lankan boat industry and that it is important to move fast to secure the markets.
Further, given the high marine diversity in the country and the influx of high spending tourists, the country has a huge potential for marine tourism which too will open up more market opportunities.