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article imageCroatian Small Boat Building Days highlights successful industry Special

By Paul Bradbury     Apr 28, 2014 in Business
Split - Despite receiving no state assistance, the Croatian small boat building industry is thriving. Digital Journal reports from DHMB 2014.
From semi-submarines to luxury charter yachts, the impressive diversity of quality boats on display at the 6th Days of Croatian Small Boat Building fair which closed on April 27, 2014, had one thing in common — the producers were Croatian.
Croatia has a rich and proud ship building tradition, one which requires government assistance these days as competitiveness and the economic crisis have reduced the orders to a fraction of the heyday of ship building on the Adriatic coast.
The Croatian-built semi-submarine business has been a smash hit on the Adriatic  and exports to the ...
The Croatian-built semi-submarine business has been a smash hit on the Adriatic, and exports to the Caribbean are now under discussion.
While there are subsidies for the large shipyards, the small boat builders of Croatia receive no financial assistance whatsoever, and yet they still manage not only to survive, but to thrive. Small boat building can be a lonely profession, which makes the annual Days of Croatian Small Boat Building a popular event among exhibitors, not only for the chance to sell their work, but also for the camaraderie with boat building colleagues.
Depsite the mixed weather  the show attracted a large number of visitors.
Depsite the mixed weather, the show attracted a large number of visitors.
DHMB
The fair took place once more in the marina of the luxury Hotel Le Meridien Lav in Podstrana, just south of Split, an event attended by Digital Journal. During the event, there was time for an interview with Danni Matijaca, one of the event organisers and PR manager.
Croatian-owned  Croatian-built  Croatian-run. Navilux  the future of Croatian luxury charter on the ...
Croatian-owned, Croatian-built, Croatian-run. Navilux, the future of Croatian luxury charter on the Adriatic Coast.
Navilux
The Croatia Boat Show in Split is a well-known event internationally. Croatian Boat Building Days sounds a little more intimate - tell us more.
It is quite hard to compare the two. Our boat show only showcases boats built in Croatia, so the number of exhibitors is limited from the start. However, the atmosphere during the Croatian boat building days is very similar to a big family gathering. In the last 6 years we've gotten to know all the boat builders, they finally got to know each other by name and not only by their boat model (it may sound strange, but most of them didn't really know much about each other back in 2009), and most importantly, many of them started joint ventures after they met at the expo. Most of them keep coming back every year. Even if they don't have a boat to exhibit, they come from all over Croatia to catch up with their mates. Maybe it is us, maybe the great surroundings of Le Meridien Lav and the marina... Our small but energetic team has stayed the same since day one, and we must be doing something right!
Zorana Nevescanin  who at just 17  is the only female boat builder in Croatia.
Zorana Nevescanin, who at just 17, is the only female boat builder in Croatia.
DHMB
Tell us about the origins of the festival.
We started talking about the concept in 2008 after we visited several boat shows in the country and the region. We knew Croatia had over 80 small boat builders back then, but only a handful of them exhibited regularly. We started talking to all of them and came to the conclusion that we really should give them their own stage, a place where they would not be overshadowed by glitzy international yacht brands, and a place where everyone can see their products and try them. Six months later, after consultations with most boat builders and great cooperation with Le Meridien Lav, we opened our first edition, with 15 producers and around 30 boats. Now, six years later, most of them are still with us with new models, and I am especially proud to see new, young boat builders with plenty of enthusiasm and great boats which can compete with any foreign product available.
The 6th Days of Croatian Small Boat Building took place at exclusive Hotel Meridien Lav in Split.
The 6th Days of Croatian Small Boat Building took place at exclusive Hotel Meridien Lav in Split.
Croatia has a proud boat building tradition. What are the challenges of the small boat builder in the modern era, particularly after EU entry?
One of the biggest challenges, and this, unfortunately, has nothing to do with the EU, is getting our own country to recognise small boat building as an important industry and to stop treating it as an unwanted child. It may seem hard to believe, but most of the legislation, strategies, proposals only include large shipyards and small boat builders are never mentioned. It's as if we've forgotten that all our large shipyards were built on the age long tradition of old craftsmen and „kalafati“. We just have to remember what happened to the small boat builders after the infamous „excise duty“was introduced in 2009. More than 2000 people lost their jobs in just 12 months because of this measure. We almost killed the cow for one steak.
Luka Colnago  whose innovative aluminium boats have been exported to the Cameroon Coast Guard Servic...
Luka Colnago, whose innovative aluminium boats have been exported to the Cameroon Coast Guard Service.
The latest example is the 2020 Industrial strategy proposal which was composed by the Ministry of Economy in which; again, small boat builders are not mentioned. When we asked the Ministry how that was possible, they gave us an answer that the needs of the small boat builders were met in the electro and mechanical sections of this strategy. We are still trying to figure out how the two are connected but I'll let the experts dwell on that one. Along with this „invisibility“, small boat builders are faced with higher taxes than their EU competition, an influx of cheap boats from the EU which in many cases cannot compare when it comes to quality or maritime capabilities, but since we all have limited budgets, it is only natural that in most cases we go for the cheaper solution not thinking that the cost of maintenance and repairs due to cheap materials will end up costing us a lot more in the long run.
Adriatic Work Boats  whose aluminium patrol boats are exported as far away as the coast guard of Ban...
Adriatic Work Boats, whose aluminium patrol boats are exported as far away as the coast guard of Bangladesh.
Is EU entry a greater threat or opportunity for small boat builders in Croatia, and why?
EU entry is a challenge and an opportunity. There are no more customs, so materials are somewhat cheaper; however, without a clear strategy and a joint approach, it is going to be difficult to make an impact. Our boats receive quality and design awards every year, AD Boats with their Salona range of sail boats, Elan's recent achievement with their latest model, Adriatic Work Boats and Colnago are renowned for the quality of their aluminium boats so there is no doubt our boats can compete with international brands.
Despite government assistance for the shipbuilding industry  the small boat builders do not receive ...
Despite government assistance for the shipbuilding industry, the small boat builders do not receive any state support whatsoever.
More about croatia boat building, podstrana, Croatia, split croatia
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