The geopolitical uncertainty that is damaging prospects for tourism in the Mediterranean, and a rather sharp drop in domestic demand are not stopping the recovery of the pleasure yacht business: in 2010 the order portfolios of the Italian shipyards were back to precrisis levels. Above all, they have shown the ability to remedy a situation that just a year ago seemed hopeless, by finding the right answers within their own organization: the aggregation of small and medium-sized enterprises and the development of ecocompatible solutions.
The evidence is clear in the statistics of the Global order yearbook, the main data bank on the subject, which was used by the Symbola Foundation to elaborate its report entitled La nautica italiana: reti territori e sostenibilità (Italian shipbuilding: networks, territories and sustainability), which will be presented on April 15 in Gaeta during the Yacht Med Festival, the first leg of the GreenItaly 2011 roadshow promoted by the foundation with Unioncamere, the Italian federation of Chambers of Commerce. The roadshow, in its second edition, will examine every facet of a production sector, revealing in detail how aspects of sustainability are changing processes and products and, in many cases, generating new cross-sector chains.
According to this document, last year Italy acquired a total of 383 orders, accounting for over 50% of the orders worldwide. It reached the same level two years ago, and this proves that, in spite of the economic crisis and the entry on the market of strong competitors in emerging markets, the Italian shipyards were able to consolidate their position of world leadership, at least in the production of superyachts. Also because the situation has evolved further in the meantime: by the first quarter of 2011, Italy had 249 orders assigned to eight companies classified among the top 20 producers worldwide. But the most important trend was represented by the fact that these few leading companies, «acting as more market-oriented catalyzers», were able to involve the many SME that revolve around them, and that bring the total number of people employed in the sector to almost 16,000. If we analyze all the segments, shipbuilding brings Italy revenues for 6.2 billion a year, and this figure doubles when we consider the surrounding business of fairs, berthing costs, tourism and the sale of furnishings, engines and parts.
These are important volumes, that make shipbuilding one of the ten leading national industries (in fifth place for export business) and that, as the experts of Symbola write, are due first of all «to long-standing, privileged relationships of close collaboration, that goes beyond mere supply and that, through a continuous exchange of information and views, leads to incremental product and process innovations». Starting from the greenest ideas such as the choice of lighter weight materials to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
This is by now a generalized trend, but it is more widespread among superyachts, despite the absence of incentives in this sector. The lack of incentives is an aspect that many consider a drawback to the recovery in progress. But the Italian shipbuilders and small commission plants in the sector are still lucky enough to have a good competitive advantage over the shipyards of the Far East and northern Europe.