Kaohsiung is future host of the Taiwan International Boat Show
The Portuguese called it Formosa, or beautiful. Taiwan, with its miles of coastline and offshore islands born of ancient volcanic activity, may sound like an ideal place to keep and operate boats, but despite its enviable geography and long tradition of boatbuilding, Taiwan has yet to develop local yachting.
The country’s productive boatbuilders have produced thousands of yachts since the 1960s (sailboats and motoryachts), but they have built them for international markets. As the story goes, it was American GIs stationed in Taiwan that took notice of the well-built local boats and placed the first orders for boats to export to the United States. From there, an industry was born, sustained over time by advantageous production costs and a firm grasp on technology. The United States currently accounts for about 50 percent of the Taiwanese yacht exports (down from a high of 80 percent several years ago), and the balance goes to Europe, Australia and more recently, the Middle East, South America and China. The crisis that affected yachtbuilding over the past four years also took a bite out of most Taiwanese builders’ order books, despite the emergence of new markets. While Taiwan still ranks among the world’s top building countries and work is going on at leading Taiwanese shipyards, overall the pace is slower than it once was.
Boatbuilding for the international market is a significant source of jobs and revenues (in 2011, the Taiwan boatbuilding industry’s output was $160 million, according to the trade office). The next step for Taiwan is to host the world at a trade show that may help shore up its value-added exports. Public and private organizations are actively promoting the 2014 international boat show. The location of this five-day event to be in April 2014, is Taiwan’s second largest city, the industrious metropolis of Kaohsiung.
Blessed with a large natural harbor (the largest in Taiwan) and tropical weather, Kaohsiung is home to 19 out of 35 Taiwanese megayacht builders, including Taiwan’s most prolific yachtbuilder, Horizon Yachts. Local government, trade development organizations and the Taiwan Yacht Industry Association (TYIA), lead by Horizon CEO John Lu, have united to promote this international exhibition, which will take place in a waterfront convention center currently under construction. The building’s innovative architecture features a wavelike structure and an 88-foot-tall pillar-free exhibit hall, designed to provide uninterrupted views to display, for example, large boats. For the past few years, Kaohsiung has strived to clean up its industrial past by implementing green initiatives (green spaces are found throughout the city and solar-powered boats cruise the Love River flowing through the city center). Following this trend, the exhibition center, which will be part of a new waterfront complex, will be built to be “green.”
Organizers hope to attract 300 exhibitors to display everything from boats to equipment and accessories at the inaugural Taiwan International Boat Show, which will include in-water spaces. The organizers will invite buyers to Taiwan for a one-stop shopping opportunity and one-on-one meetings. Plans are also under way to encourage the development of a local yachting culture and a better understanding of the ocean’s recreational potential at home. Rules regarding local cruising and licensing of leisure craft have started to be relaxed since late 2010, and more effort is afoot to develop dock support in Taiwan’s major fishing ports. Taiwan has a key location at important crossroads between Japan, China and Singapore, which gives it a great position as yachting grows and matures in the region.
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