With 90,000 lakes, 6,500 islands and 18,000 kilometers coastlines (almost twice of Italy and France combined) China is a natural paradise for yachting. In reality, only since few years China developed a penchant for private and luxurious boats. Over the last centuries of its long history, China was a continental power, culturally focused on territory and agriculture. The Ocean was a distant dream, an heritage of the past. River navigation was more common and today still is. Income capacity played a role, too.
Yachting is an aspect of luxury, something very rare in a backward China. But a new class of riches is a common sight today and yachting is the last frontier for demanding millionaires. The market is still modest, compared to other countries, but on a constant rise. An exclusive fashion is turning to a lucrative business. With a € 300m. output and a € 180m. export, the Chinese yacht industry now ranks 10th in the world and 6th in the most expansive segment, in terms of production capability. The majority of the shipyards are in Qingdao, a distinction already known since the city hosted the Ocean competition of the Beijing’s Olympic games.
Still, the industry’s growth has been a quantitative one. Without a solid tradition, Chinese manufacturers simply catered to the needs of the market. Domestic yacht are generally small (24-48 feet) and relatively cheap (-30% compared to those imported). But elasticity with regard to price is minimal indeed, for a product supposed to provide elegance and prestige to the purchaser. Thus, foreign technology took the charge to improve the quality. Local joint-ventures are now 40, more than half of Chinese makers. The offer more powerful and fast boats, allowing further navigation from the coasts. Super yachts, now more than 300, are bought to showcase personal wealth or, for the corporations, to impress their business partners with luxury mini cruise along the rivers.
The boats are mainly imported from Italy, Uk, Usa and quite often berthed in Hong Kong. To favour the market, acquiring competence from abroad looks more promising than to wait for the local industry to grow. Some Italian yacht builders, reputed the best in the world, are currently under negotiation with cash-rich Chinese companies aiming to quality. Qingdao-based Nauticastar has bought the Cantieri Navali di Lavagna, while another Chinese company is ready to purchase a 51%-equity of Cantieri Navali Rizzardi.
Beijing seconds this growth, even if now applies an annual vessel tax based on the craft’s length. Green lights are given to build new ports. Xiamen, opposite of Taiwan, hosts 23 of marine yachts, half of the total in China. Hainan sees more construction to attract more international wealthy tourists, 17 Provinces have announced plans to build Marinas, and finally, Shanghai has unveiled its plan to build 10 marinas for sailing on the inland waterways. Its ambition is simple: transform its Suzhou River to the equivalent of the Hudson River for New York