The boatbuilding industry’s response to COVID-19 in South Africa

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Category: Best Practice - Continuity


Published: July 3, 2020

To reach a port, we must set sail.


Like most industries in South Africa, the boatbuilding sector faced severe job losses with order books in limbo due to harsh lockdown measures.  The industry jumped into action.

Boatbuilding is an artisanal occupation that employs close to 4000 people in South Africa and has an annual contribution to GDP of R2.2 billion.  Boatbuilding is one of the oldest artisanal engineering occupations, and currently, South Africa is the second-largest builder of catamarans in the world after France. The third-largest producer of catamarans in the world is in the Western Cape region of South Africa and employs 1800 people with a surrounding supply chain employing an estimated 7000 people.

SABBEX/Boating South Africa is the industry association linking companies across South Africa. In collaboration with their members, they put in place self-regulated workplace safety regulations. These, along with the lobbying efforts supported by Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, allowed them to be one of the first sectors to re-open in South Africa.

Such swift action and innovation by the boat building industry in South Africa during COVID-19 shows why our boatbuilders are global leaders.  The workplace safety protocols they have put into place will protect their businesses, their staff, the customers, and their suppliers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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