Metstrade set a number of records this year, increasing both its exhibitor and visitor numbers. Organizer Rai Amsterdam reported a 5 percent increase in visits across the three-day event, with 16,716 visitors representing 115 nationalities. The show also had more than 1,600 exhibitors from 50 countries, with 237 companies displaying for the first time.
The number of visitors from the United States was up 13 percent compared with last year, while Italian visitors rose 8 percent. More visitors from Russia (up 15 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (up 9 percent) meant that emerging boatbuilding countries were returning to the Amsterdam show for the first time in years.
“Metstrade 2018 was especially vibrant as it deployed a tried-and-tested concept against the background of a thriving marine industry,” said Irene Dros, maritime director at RAI Amsterdam, clearly excited about the “great vibe” at the show. “I heard many exhibitors saying they made multiple new contacts. There seemed to be a lot more networking going on this year.”
The sense of enthusiasm seemed to permeate Metstrade’s 12 large exhibit halls, which span 721,000 square feet. Only one of the more than 40 exhibitors Soundings Trade Only interviewed said they had a mediocre show.
Most comments were not just positive, but glowing.
“This year was really, really good,” said Nicolas Fata, OEM and export manager for Dolphin Charger in France. “I don’t say that every year. It was a fantastic show. We had the opportunity to meet all of our international distributors, but also fielded a lot of inquiries from companies in Japan, Poland and Scandinavia — places where we haven’t done business before.”
Dolphin Charger designs and manufactures power-conversion products for all types of boats. Like dozens of other companies, it used Metstrade as a new-product launchpad for its Prolite- and Protouch-series battery chargers, and AGM- and Gel-series batteries. The company had exhibited at Metstrade for 15 years, but launched the Dolphin Charger brand in 2015.
“Being here is about increasing our brand awareness as well as showing off new lines like our dedicated battery chargers for the outboard market,” he said. “It’s just part of our international marketing strategy. We know we have to be at Mets if we want to be a successful exporter.”
A number of American companies also make the Amsterdam event their exporting anchor for the year. The U.S. Pavilion had more than 90 exhibitors, with several dozen American companies in other halls. First-time U.S. exhibitors said they were impressed with the show.
Seann Pavlik, founder of Innovation Products in Fort Lauderdale, told Soundings Trade Only the day before the show opened that he hoped to sign one or possibly two European distributors to market his line of products. Pavlik wasn’t so sure if the investments in travel and exhibit space would pay off. He was keen to find distributors for his new iLatch, which received an honorable mention in the show’s Dame Awards.
After the show, Pavlik said he had received interest from a number of distributors: “We had several distributors from the same country wanting to handle our product lines.”
Cutting through the P.R. chatter
The Dame Awards carry a special charm for exhibitors who win or even earn an honorable mention. Sixty-three products were shortlisted for the awards, with six category winners and 23 honorable mentions.
Winning a category cuts through the PR noise of hundreds of other launches, giving attendees a small, manageable list of products to see.
For Triskel Marine, winning this year’s overall Dame Award could transform the company in almost overnight. The U.K. firm has been in business for 15 years but has built marine products for other manufacturers under private-label agreements. In the past decade, Triskel has been working on the Integrel power management system (see box below), which it unveiled at Metstrade.
The earliest versions of Integrel were backed by grants from the European Union, and were for testing the technology’s potential. A few years later, the U.K. government provided more funding that moved the product farther along.
But, six years in, Integrel was not market-ready.
“When we wanted to turn it into something tangible for the market, we found an American sponsor that helped us move through new-product development,” says Ken Wittamore, Triskel Marine’s managing director. “Our sponsors were not convinced that the marine market would provide them the scale they needed, but that gave us the opportunity to bring Integrel to market ourselves.”
Wittamore says winning the Dame Award was a game-changer for Triskel because few knew the brand. Suddenly, the small company had a new technology that nobody else was making, but everyone wanted. The team’s booth was swamped with engine makers, boatbuilders and others.
Thousands of units per year
“We’d originally thought of producing the units in dozens, but now we understand it will be thousands each year,” Wittamore says. “After this year’s Metstrade, it wasn’t a question of if, but how fast we want to grow the company.”
Scanstrut, another U.K. company that won the Dame Award in 2017, also saw brand recognition continue into this year’s show. Its award-winner last year was a kit that would instantly convert a sailing dinghy into a sailboat for people with disabilities, including paraplegic sailors.
Scanstrut received an honorable mention this year for its ROKK Wireless 12/24V waterproof wireless charging station, a product with broader OEM appeal.
Tom Reed, Scanstrut CEO, was among the exhibitors who said this year’s Metstrade was the best ever for his company. “We’ve been coming for 15 years, and this show has the single biggest impact on our business,” Reed says. “Beyond the usual production orders, we get custom projects from the show that keep us busy well into the next year. The flow of visitors to the booth was nonstop, and there seemed to be better OEM representation.”
Two Italian manufacturers, both suppliers to the superyacht world, also reported unusually strong shows, perhaps in part because organizers expanded the Superyacht Pavilion to three halls this year. Whether it was a greater number of yachts in build or the pavilion’s larger space, more yacht builders, designers, superyacht captains and even commercial shipyards showed up to see the new products and technologies.
“The quality was so much better this year,” says Rosanna Capitani, who handles marketing for Palagi Marine Lights. “People were really focused on the technical aspects of our lights and looking for opportunities to use them in new designs. The type of attendees seemed broader than the previous year.”
Palagi introduced its Netto “lightliner,” which provides subtle, targeted LED interior lighting that is reminiscent of an upscale art gallery or Michelin-starred restaurant.
Giorgio Besenzoni, CEO of Italian equipment maker Besenzoni, also noted an increase in quality among visitors: “This show is our benchmark among trade shows to see how the yachting business is doing. This year, shipyard activities are on the rise.”
Besenzoni had two booths, one in a main hall with the Italian Pavilion and the other in the Superyacht Pavilion, dedicated to Besenzoni’s new Unica brand.
“We saw new customers and historical customers,” Besenzoni says. “Even our competitors were shameless in coming to see our new products. Business, in general, is growing for everyone.”
The company introduced multiple products, including a remote-controlled telescopic gangway, a folding sunroof and the Unica SP 602, which has LED lights underneath each step.
Lumishore also showcased its new Smart Lighting, the world’s first DC-powered LED lighting system, which won its category in the Dame Awards.
Chris Myers, national sales manager for Lumishore USA, called the show “overwhelmingly” busy. “We saw multiple OEMs from the U.S., a sign that builders are going way out of their way find competitive advantages for their boats,” Myers says. “The conversations were very intelligent — not what we get most times at trade shows — focusing on how to put together systems and introduce efficiencies to their building processes.”
Tony Robertshaw, managing director of IMDS, an Amsterdam-based firm that represents U.S. and other equipment manufacturers exporting into the European Union, said his company was so busy he is considering reducing the number of appointments scheduled before the show, and devoting more time to walk-up visitors. Robertshaw nearly missed an important “delegation” from a UK boatbuilder.
“We were seeing higher-ups from many OEMs, so it was clear they were sending more staff than usual,” Robertshaw says. “When you meet the purchasing manager, you’ve just jumped three steps ahead in the decision-making process.”
IMDS also received unsolicited visits from boating industry representatives from far-flung countries including Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan.
“We were also seeing visitors from the commercial marine industry,” Robertshaw says. “These guys have learned if they want to see the latest superyacht products that might have applications in commercial marine, this is the place to come.”
Dros says two-thirds of this year’s exhibitors have reserved space for next year’s Metstrade. “That speaks volumes.”
Mets’ Biggest Winner
Dozens of products from around the world were entered into the Dame Awards, but only one was named overall winner: Triskel Marine’s Integrel power-management system.
Integrel aims to replace boat generators by channeling spare engine capacity into house systems or batteries. As spare capacity increases or decreases with engine revs, the system adjusts power generation. Integrel is like an alternator on steroids.
“But such high power needs to be handled carefully,” says Triskel’s website. “Our system controller is programmed with information about the propeller and engine, plus the main elements of the boat’s electrical system. That allows the controller to calculate in real-time exactly how much additional load can be added to bring the engine to its most efficient point at any given speed.”
Integrel is expected to move into production this year after 10 years of development.
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue.