boat building in low-cost labor countries

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by hawkey, May 28, 2003.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Productivity - Not Rocket Science

    World class construction rates are on the order of 8-9 man hours / compensated gross ton. 20 - 30 is considered OK, but I worked at a US yard building small aluminum commercial ships that hit 13, so 8-9 is acheiveable. The compensation factor accounts for the complexity and size of the vessel, and for a big yacht is probably 5-10 (OECD would say 5, but in a pinch I'll buy 10, since a frigate is the highest surface ship listed at about 12 and no way a yacht is as complex or difficult as a modern combatant). This means that an MCA limit yacht, say 150' or so could have 25,000 - 45,000 man hours in it at world class rates - a labor content on the order of $2.5 M at Northern EU labor costs. Such yachts go for about $15 M, so there is either an awful lot of profit, or the labor productivity might not be where it could be.

    I looked at the numbers for a 65' custom sailing yacht and it came out at 650 MH / CGT (at 5.0). This is (I hope) not typical, but it does show that at least one guy is a bit off the best.

    There is all kinds of support for productivity improvements in shipbuilding. Unfortunately, unless it says "yacht" in bold letters, yacht builders aren't interested, but it's their loss.

    As I said above, there are some big opportunities if someone wants to take them.
  2. Chris Rapson
    Joined: Jan 2004
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    Location: Sydney

    Chris Rapson New Member

    Boatbuilding in the Philippines

    Dear All,
    My boat building experience is a 32' Hartley Ferro built in Sydney and a 6.5m Van der Stadt ZeeMin built in New Guinea.
    I have also looked at boatbuilding in a low cost environment and the following issues came up:
    1. Security - Low cost environments occur because laws are not enforced with the same rigour that they are in a high cost environment. It is quite possible that just before your boat is finished that one of the local bright sparks will offer to let you live if you just hand over the keys.
    2. Untrained Labour - Most of the low cost workers will have no idea about boatbuilding, and while they could produce a beutiful job if trained and encouraged this is a time consuming process.
    3. Materials - It is unlikely that all the necesary machinery and equipment would be available locally, so most would need to be imported.
    4. Local Boatbuilders - Those local companies that have the ability to build a boat also know how to charge a premium price. They are not going to stay in business by being cheap.
    5. Site Costs - Boatbuilding sites have unique requirements, in particular power and launching facilities. One place where I costed puting in power it would have been cheaper to buy and run a generator.
    I travelled through Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and I was not able to locate a suitable place for boatbuilding.
    However I want another boat, a big one, to retire on.
    I am currently looking at the Philippines, Manila region, Subic Bay or Olongapo in particular. This area may have the following advantages:
    1. Security - This area is a bit of a foreigner enclave. Plenty of people to talk to and to analyse possible problems.
    2. Labour - There are still workers in the area who worked for the Americans when they had bases there. The would speak some english and be used to working for western employers.
    3. Materials - The current free trade environment seems to be permitting impotation into the Philippines in a fairly secure manner.
    5. Sites - There may well be existing sites.
    I am planing to go to the Philippines sometime this year to take a look.
    The sort of setup that I imagine would be something along the lines of Bruce Roberts Marine Park in Brisbane (not seen) or Taren Point in Sydney. An informal group of boatbuilders in a sort of cooperative, possibly under comercial management.
    Has anyone had a look at the area or any experience of this sort of arrangement?
  3. Raykenn
    Joined: May 2003
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    Location: Mississippi

    Raykenn Member

    I would like to expand on Gonzo's comment about standards if I may. What is "standard" for us does not follow suit in the rest of the world. As an example, our electrical systems are generally based on a 110 volt service. In Europe and South America, the boats will most likely be wired for 220v service. Higher voltage, smaller current, smaller conductors. These smaller conductors could not handle the load placed on them by a 110 volt service. The convertors required to step up the voltage will be heavy, space consuming and expensive. I don't want to be a damp mop on your dreams, but before you go to a foreign builder there are a lot of questions that will have to be answered. Take nothing for granted no matter what the sales person says! His job is to fill contracts.

    Good luck

  4. Blether

    Blether Guest

    Hmm. You need to keep the cost down, but you want a brand new custom yacht, in fibreglass.

    What makes your requirements special enough that no existing yacht satisfies them ? Are your unique needs going to be common enough that the resulting boat will be in demand and the builder can defray the high cost of mould creation, over a series run ?

    What is your purpose and what is your budget ?

    In the Asia area, you might try - run by an Australian lady, based in Malaysia and Thailand - who may have recommendations.

    DK yachts is a German-Malay venture in Malaysia that turns out beautiful racers and cruiser-racers, having got into carbon-fibre technology through projects to fabricate the domes for islamic temples. They're ISO9002 certified, and likely will beat a US yard on price.
  5. Chris Rapson
    Joined: Jan 2004
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    Location: Sydney

    Chris Rapson New Member

    The key word is Custom

    The reason that a custom boat is commissioned is because no available boat is suitable.
    I have been searching the for sale advertisments for my dream boat. The following problems have emerged:
    1. Most second hand boats are old. I looked at one ex racer where the cyclic loading of the lead keel, combined with "osmosis" had left the bottom a mass of crumpled fibreglass matt.
    Most of the equipment in an old boat is old, and would need to be replaced in a relativly short time.
    2. Many, many old boats are overpriced. If depreciation, cost of repairs, projected equipment replacement and shakedown and delivery are priced in they become very unattractive indeed. The owners price them on the basis of how good they look in a marina, but that is not where I would want my boat to be.
    3. The newer attractive boats are designed to a mass market, where the heaviest use is a weeks sailing. They are clean, light, fast and wet and move in a sharp manner. My need is for a large heavy cruising yacht that can go for years without a major overhaul. Every time my wife steps onto one of the smaller lighter yachts she looses all enthusiasm. And that is before leaving the harbour!
    4. If you build or commission a boat yourself you know everthing that has gone into that boat. You know how it works, and how to fix it.
    5. The boat that you build or commission yourself is a little like your own child. It is always loved more than someone elses.
  6. Hugh Miller
    Joined: Jan 2004
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    Location: London

    Hugh Miller New Member

    If the yacht is for a steel cad designed another alternative would be to go to a South africa shipyard.

    There is a good photostory on

    This is the story of Pelagic boat.
    I would very interested in hearing how the costs compare if you follow it up.


    Hugh Miller
  7. Neven
    Joined: Jun 2002
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    Location: West-Sumatra, Indonesia

    Neven Junior Member

    Cost effective building in Asia


    Please check out!

    ProMaritim -Maritime Gateway to Asia-.

  8. Thomas

    Thomas Guest

    Custom project

    Dear Madam,

    Just visit:

    Polish boatyard, they have built eg. for FE Hood from US.


  9. mik-48

    mik-48 Guest

  10. dincerd
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 17
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    Location: Turkey

    dincerd Junior Member

    an offer to build a sailing boat in Turkey


    i have heard that you re looking for building a sailboat.

    i m a naval archicet in Turkey and we re building many yachts ( fiberglass, wooden, classic sailboats, modern high speed crafts) and as u know the price in Turkey is more comfortable than the other countries. if u would like to contact with me pls write into my e-mail adress.

    best wishes
  11. warapotw

    warapotw Guest

  12. Skipper Jay

    Skipper Jay Guest

    Could ge get me an idea, of the following costs in Brazil for work on a 18m-Trimaran (Fibregalss ove wood) tht will pass your country later this year.
    HGaul out and launch on slipway?
    Laydays on the dry?
    Labor rate for stripping down to plywood and relaminating with FG and epoxy resin, painting bottom and topsides?

  13. Maciej
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    Location: Poland

    Maciej Junior Member

    Yacht yard in Poland


    Please visit our website:

    We have built ag 48Motorsailer and 52' Powercat for Ted Hood from Rhode Island.


  14. caribmon
    Joined: Nov 2001
    Posts: 24
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    Location: Netherlands - Brazil

    caribmon Junior Member

    Boatbuilding in Brazil

    We are an American managed custom boatbuilding operation in Brazil doing custom composite catamarans. Brazil Boats is currently building a Malcolm Tennant New Yorker 51 Power Catamaran.

    Wages are certainly much lower for both skilled and unskilled labour. With 18.000.000 million people less than three hours away in Sao Paulo there is no shortage of talent - as Brazil is building jets that compete with Boeing, just put a rocket into space and are enriching uranium.

    The great benefit of building in Brazil is the Drawback program, where we, as a boatbuilding company, can import marine products duty and tax free for for boats that will be sold outside of Brazil. With factory direct buying on big ticket items and OEM accounts with the major wholesale companies in Florida, the key products will not be knockoffs... We are also building to ABYC standards which exceed USCG in many cases. In other words, we can buy better than US boatyards in some cases.

    That combined with low cost labour means we can compete on the international market.

    What is wonderful about Brazil is the fact that we have access to some of the finest woods and excellent craftsmen resulting in a clean, professional finish. A wide pool of interior designers at rates much lower than Europe and the USA means one can utilise professionals who can aid and source the right products and people resulting in an ergomonic and professionally finished yacht.

    We protect our workers and are careful with disposal of toxic waste - yet, we don't have the EPA breathing down our necks which also saves a lot of money.

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2004
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