Japanese market: a limited sector that could grow

The Japanese maritime industry has strongly influenced the economic development of the country, but yachting remains a marginal area, though it could evolve.

The Japanese maritime industry has had a lot of influence on the history and economic development of the country. Since it is a nation made up of islands, with few natural resources, Japan is strongly dependent on maritime trade. In 2011 the value of the Japanese industry was, according to a report by Habara on the country’s maritime policy, about 5000 billion yen (more than 38 billion euro). But in this context, yachting still has only a marginal role. The home market is still rather limited, though Japan does have a certain number of companies specialising in yacht engines, mostly destined for export. Toyota Motor, Nissan Marine, Honda Motor, Yamaha Motor, Yanmar, Suzuki Motor and Tohatsu are the main companies producing engines in this sector.

According to the Marine Manufacturer Association, Japan is currently the 11th largest market in the world in boat production and could still grow. In this scenario yachting could be an interesting growth area, stimulated also by the generation of “baby boomers”, born after the Second World War, that are now retired. This generation has an enviable economic situation and could invest in leisure activities such as yachting.

The Japanese yachting market include sailing boats, inboard and outboard motorboats, other rigid craft, inflatables and water scooters. A year of great growth was 2012. Much of the drive behind the growth also came from natural phenomena such as the big earthquake in the east of Japan and the tsunami, which damaged a lot of boats that the owners then replaced.

These two disasters also provided the opportunity to reconstruct some harbours, that had been built earlier exclusively for  the fishing industry but have now been transformed and are targeting yachts.

Collaboration and eco-sustainability

Overall, the Japanese marine industry sees close collaboration between large groups: shipping companies, shipowners, shipbuilders and carriers/builders. This close collaboration is a unique characteristic of the Japanese marine industry and has brought the sector’s success. Among the associations that help reinforce the success of the Japanese maritime plaster are the Shipbuilders’ Association of Japan (SAJ), the Japan Ship Technology Research Association (JSTRA) and the Japan Ship Machinery & Equipment Association (JSMEA).

Japan is also seeking to increase international cooperation for the maritime industry. For example, in June 2013 Japan and Norway organised a seminar to help companies find global commercial partners willing to share innovation in terms of products and services, with the aim of favouring eco-sustainability in the maritime sector.

Interest in increasingly less polluting technologies is very strong in all areas of the Japanese marine sector. The reduction of CO2 emissions, the use of more efficient and cleaner fuels are among the objectives the sector has set itself.

Banking on training and research

The increase in the vessels registered in Japan could help the Japanese shipbuilding industry grow, and to overcome its competitiveness problems it is focusing on the ability to build vessels of all kinds: from cargo ships to cruise ships to yachts. Many companies are also investing in training engineers, more evolved projects and support technologies.

According to the Council Working Party on Shipbuilding’s report these strategies demand an increase in efforts of research and development to grow new competences and also to favour an approach based on eco-sustainability.

Economic conditions in recent years have favoured companies in the marine sector and have led foreign investors to appreciate vessels with prices comparable to those of South Korea and China but with greater reliability and coherence.

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