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Marine Market Report & Predictions for 2021

  • by: Ryan Abbot
  • On: 3, Mar 2021
5 min read

Whilst Covid-19 has devastated families, businesses and industries across the globe, the impact to the Marine industry has received less press attention and debate. With Brexit, globalisation, climate change and the after-effects of the pandemic, the sector is facing a combination of future challenges and opportunities.

VHR’s Marine recruitment specialists reveal the current state of the Maritime, superyacht and shipbuilding sectors, and discuss their predictions for the year ahead.


3 Marine Industry Predictions for 2021

1. Covid-19

The United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development reported in November 2020 that global Maritime trade had plunged by 4.1% as a result of the pandemic.

To the disappointment of enthusiasts and participants around the world, most 2020 season yacht races in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and North America were cancelled in the first half of 2020. Yachting race disruptions continued to plague fans and organisers, with the cancellation of the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in December last year. The movement of large vessels through different restriction zones, shipping of large pieces of equipment and travel of multiple thousands of competitors and fans remain problematic in pandemic times, and will see the industry make revolutionary adaptions to ensure safety and continuity all round.

Whilst the short-term outlook for the sector is much the same as other industries, industry leaders are optimistic of prosperity in the near future. UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi advises, ‘The global shipping industry will be at the forefront of efforts towards a sustainable recovery, as a vital enabler of the smooth functioning of international supply chains. The industry must be a key stakeholder helping adapt ‘just-in-time efficiency’ logistics to ‘just-in-case’ preparedness.’

The United Nations expect Maritime trade growth to return in the coming months and even expand by 4.8% in 2021. However, the UN highlights the need for Maritime transport to brace for permanent change and prepare for a transformed post-pandemic world.

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a four-month plan to ease restrictions, British Marine leaders are anticipating industry-specific advice for the UK to follow soon.


2. Brexit

Whilst fishing rights have been hotly debated in the past few years, other aspects of seafaring have been largely under the radar, however could see similar impact. Both European and British Marine sectors are set to see significant changes to ways of working following Brexit, and changes to freedom of movement, recognition of professional qualifications and trade rules will affect some countries more than others. The UK hosts 5,000 leisure, superyacht and small commercial Marine businesses alone, employing around 33,000 people who generates multiple £billions every year. The entire EU employs 88,000 people in the Maritime sector, with Spain employing almost 40% of people working in European sea-related activities.

The Spanish and British industries have set up close communication and are partnering on the best ways to navigate the new rules and reduce impact to the commercial Maritime and tourism sectors. The Asociación Nacional de Empresas Náuticas (ANEN), the country’s national association of nautical businesses, is immersed in negotiations with Spanish authorities to protect recreational boating, which will be damaged by red tape for British tourists holidaying in the country, and the end of British skipper qualifications being recognised for us on recreational and charter-hire boats.

Months after the official Brexit date, the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine remain concerned about a lack of clarity from the Government over how the UK’s departure from the EU will affect the British Maritime and Yachting industries going forward.

In February 2021, industry leaders are seeking clarity over the following:

  • Repatriation of Vessels – The one-year grace period granted in October 2020 will not be sufficient to repatriate all relevant vessels, due to Covid-19 quarantine and travel restrictions, the European Schengen area immigration restrictions, insurance requirements and the length of sailing season. The RYA and BM are seeking a three-year extension on the repatriation grace period.
  • VAT – On 17 December 2020 the UK Government announced a position confirming that EU boat owners would be liable for VAT on import from 1st January 2021 if they had never owned their boats in the UK.
  • Ireland & Northern Ireland Protocol – Guidance around the status of boats located in Northern Ireland since 1st January 2021 and the reporting requirements for boaters are ambiguous.
  • Second-Hand Boats – All second-hand boats coming from the EU will now be 20% more expensive due to UK citizens’ reluctance to bring their vessels back to the UK to sell them due to the risk of having to pay VAT.


3. Sustainability

The Marine industry has been well ahead of climate change recognition and adaptation when compared with other transport and sporting sectors, and 2021 will see the industry’s sustainable efforts move into overdrive around the world.

Ships currently transport around 90% of world trade whilst accounting for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the effects of the pandemic proving that the world can adapt to reduced reliance on Aviation and develop more innovative and efficient transport methods, the Marine sector is ideally positioned to maintain and accelerate its status as an environmental innovator. Electric vehicle technology, smart ports using analytics to reduce emissions, ow-sulphur fuels and ocean clean-up projects such as seabins will continue to see increased investment in 2021.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) are currently discussing short-term draft amendments from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that would require the reduction of carbon emissions from ships by 40% by 2030. If passed, the IMO regulations will require shipbuilders, owners and events organisers to adjust their operations and equipment and introduce more environmentally-friendly processes.

The recent United Nations announcement of a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will support Marine businesses to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health. The coming year will see ocean stakeholders unite worldwide – virtually and in person after the relaxation of travel and social distancing restrictions – behind a common framework to tackle climate change in the industry internationally.


Grow Your Marine Business in 2021

Looking to grow your workforce as your business gets back on track in 2021? Find out more about VHR’s permanent and contract Marine recruitment services.


Discover 5 Ways to Keep Recruiting Internationally After Brexit.



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