10.03.2016

Many gaps to fill in the boating sector

ALTHOUGH THE BOATING SECTOR ALREADY EMPLOYS HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE, THERE ARE STILL LOTS OF GAPS TO FILL.

Despite the fact that Saint Martin is an island, the sea is insufficiently exploited, and it is full of economic opportunities, gathered under the term ‘blue economy.” Boating, meaning all water sports and leisure activities, generates significant economic revenues and deserves further development.

Bülent Gülay, president of the METIMER Association, evaluates the current number of employees in the boating sector to about 1,000 people across the island, in addition to 50 sole traders and a hundred temp technicians. Ranging from professional instructors in water sports (surf, kite-surfing, sailing, jet ski, diving...) to engineers, technicians, or craftsmen (mechanical, painting, electronic, structural...) including navigation, trade...

The French side is affected by huge deficiencies including everything related to high technologies (electronics linked to satellites, navigation instruments such as GPS...) and to the cold chain (refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning). Consequently, the Dutch side benefits from a large share of the market. This could be avoided by investing in new projects.

According to Bülent Gülay, also representing the FIN (French Federation of Boating Industries), the area is missing a large center where boats could dock directly to the wharf for repairs, which would include all professional craftsmen. "If we could develop Galisbay properly, we could also renovate large yachts. Whenever a boat is sold, the new owner wants to change everything, and that work costs millions of euros," he added. He would like to create a boat show, and has been working for a long time to set up a committee dedicated to this endeavor. Saint-Martin as a whole has no shortage of possibilities but needs to be brought up-to-date.

Estelle Gasnet

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