Luxury yachts, fancy sail boats, and high-tech sailing equipment are making a splash at Taiwan's first International Boat and Watersports Show.
Jointly organized by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council and the UK-based Formula Ten Corp., the four-day event, which kicked off yesterday at the Taipei World Trade Center Hall 1, features 86 companies representing 136 local and overseas vendors.
The event is quite significant for Taiwan which, in the 1980s, ranked among the world's Top 5 producers of mega yachts, TAITRA said in a statement. At the time, Taiwan's yacht exports reached US$200 million, it added.
"A lot has changed since then. Most makers were forced to relocate their yards (to China) due to (rising) labor and land costs, and the appreciation of the New Taiwan dollar; but those same pressures were a blessing in disguise," TAITRA said.
"It compelled makers to retool with upgraded technology and when matched with a highly skilled workforce, let them churn out the most (technical-rich) mega yachts." The latter refers to luxury boats exceeding 80 feet in length.
To Jan Klumpenaar, sales manager of Holland-based Victron Energy B.V., the international boat show gives him the chance to strike some deals with Taiwanese boatbuilders and system providers.
"(Holland's industry is) mainly into custom-built boats at the moment because the cheaper boats are mostly built outside (of Holland)," Klumpenaar said.
The Netherlands, famous for its lakes and inland waterways, has a lot of boatbuilding expertise to share with Asia's vendors, he continued.
"We are looking for native boatbuilders, probably dealers who deliver systems and packages to (boat makers)," said Klumpenaar.
"Taiwanese boatbuilders are selling a lot (of boats) to the U.S. We can offer them battery charging systems that are more high-tech, more advanced than (the ones being produced by the) Americans at the moment."
Klumpenaar's team already had some success in Taiwan. One of Victron Energy's customers is Horizon, one of the country's biggest boatbuilders, said the executive.
"We have already sold (our battery chargers) to different companies here in Taiwan but we hope to do better," Klumpenaar said.
The local exhibitors represented at the four-day show include Horizon, Jade, Ka Shing, Tachou, Tayana, Johnson, President, and Cruise Line. Global yacht brands including Azimut, Benetti, Riva, Beneteau, Sea Ray, Lagoon, Wauquiez, Hunter and MacGregor also signed up for the exhibition.
Vendors specializing in watersports and boatbuilding equipment are also present at the show, peddling propellers, stainless steel accessories, water-proof stereos and engines to name a few. Diving equipment and sportswear manufacturers are also featured at the boat show.
Even British carmaker Land Rover felt at home at the aqua-themed exhibition.
Occupying a huge booth at the TWTC, the producer of premium sports utility vehicles is displaying its state-of-the-art Discovery 3 - the luxurious SUV is even lugging a fancy yacht - at the boat fair. Land Rover set up its dealership branch in Taiwan nearly three years ago.
Held on the sidelines of the boat exhibition was Asia's biggest yacht industry symposium. Today, the "Yacht Builders' Forum" will be held on the second floor of TWTC Hall 1 featuring speakers from New Zealand, Australia, and England.
Water Safety Clinic sessions are also scheduled until Sunday. The speakers are James Chen ("Mixing watersports: How to do it safely), Greg Nolan ("Safety while surfing and windsurfing), and Martin Baker ("Safety while motorboating and dinghy-sailing).
The exhibition is also not short on entertainment. The program features the CORUM Admiral's Cup Watch Show, Deck House Five, a Viking traditional dance, Ocean Breeze, and a Chinese quartet.
Show hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free for foreign buyers and trade members. An admission fee of NT$100 is charged to non-trade related visitors.