Vietnam’s shipbuilding industry has the chance to chalk up a big win during the current pandemic if it is able to switch its production to mid-sized yachts, according to local industry experts.
Shipbuilding experts believe that the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has shifted private boat demand from superyachts to medium-sized yachts, a segment they say shipbuilding enterprises in Vietnam are capable of catering to.
Ha Long Shipbuilding Ltd., based in the northern coastal province of Quang Ninh, is looking to get in on the action with their production of a five-star medium-sized yacht for Australian cruise line Scenic Tours.
The company’s deputy general director Dam Duc Khang explained that the luxury yacht is designed to hold 50 cabins capable of accommodating 150 passengers and travel at a speed of 16 knots (29.6 kilometers) per hour.
Considering the ongoing pandemic, the yacht will be equipped with health equipment for disease prevention.
“There will also be a special isolation room in case someone on board comes down with an infectious disease,” Khang said.
There are no Vietnamese shipbuilding companies currently producing superyachts, but many in the mid-sized yacht segment, he added.
Competitive costs and quality commitment are two of the biggest advantages Vietnam’s shipbuilders hold over foreign competitors, prompting cruise lines like Scenic Tours to seek out firms like Ha Long Shipbuilding Ltd. rather than larger competitors in Norway, Germany, Russia, or China.
Richard Ward, general director of Ho Chi Minh City-based Corsair Marine International Ltd., agreed with Khang that building tourist boats and yachts from three to 200 meters in length will not only bring a huge amount of export revenue to Vietnam but also help the country develop its reputation for producing high-tech luxury products.
The pleasure boat industry is estimated to generate more than US$230 billion in worldwide sales by 2024, though Vietnam will have to significantly increase production if it wants to control more than just a negligible sliver of market share, according to Ward.
Several enterprises in Vietnam are currently contracted by international customers to build cruise ships for river travel, according to a leader from the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Association.
Ward anticipated that demand for heavy ships will keep surging despite many state-owned shipyards in Vietnam having been operating below their capacity, suffering losses, and incurring significant debt due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, recreational boat production worldwide grows about five percent per year, he said.
He also suggested that Vietnam use this opportunity to shift its production capabilities from large boats to medium-sized recreational vessels.
“The Vietnamese government needs to develop more appropriate policies for shipbuilders. Without a proper solution to the current lack of shipbuilding facilities and the locations to moor recreational boats, Vietnam will not be able to attract potential investors,” Ward added.