Another Record-Breaker?

Metstrade is on pace to have 1,600 exhibitors in Amsterdam this year, beating last year’s record
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The exhibit halls, reconfigured for more booth space, could hit capacity this year.

The exhibit halls, reconfigured for more booth space, could hit capacity this year.

Sustainability, the workforce and other industry initiatives will highlight this year’s Metstrade. The world’s largest international marine equipment trade show takes place Nov. 19-21 at RAI Amsterdam Convention Center. The show is organized by RAI Amsterdam in association with the International Council of Marine Industry Associations.

Organizers expect a record 1,600 exhibitors across the center’s multiple halls. In late July, 1,500 companies had registered for the show, the same number as last year. Beyond the commerce that takes place between exhibitors and attendees from more than 50 countries, organizers have turned the 31-year-old event into an educational forum on new technologies, as well as a thinktank for issues impacting the boating industry.

“We regard Metstrade as the ultimate platform to bring together all the unique minds in the industry,” says Irene Dros, maritime director for Metstrade. “Our main aim is to create a new kind of energy that will optimize business and promote innovative developments linked to the world’s challenges.”

The challenges include workforce development, digitization and the circular/sharing economy, as well as sustainability issues, such as emissions, GloFouling (the transfer of harmful aquatic species through biofouling), biodiversity, clean oceans and other efforts (see accompanying story). “Essentially, the goal is to provide many possibilities and offer refreshing insights so our attendees and exhibitors can stay ahead of the crowd,” Dros says. “We want people who attend to become the frontrunners in their companies by making use of the information we provide.”

The international component is one of the show’s main draws. About 87 percent of the exhibitors are not from the Netherlands, and 16 percent are new companies. Last year’s show had visitors and exhibitors that represented 115 nationalities. “It was a very good show,” Dros says. “The vibe was upbeat, and I heard from many exhibitors that many new contacts were made. There seemed to be more networking going on.”

Ernie Ellis, president of Sea-Fire Marine Systems, says the 2018 show ranked among the top five his company has attended over the last 20 years. “It was really strong last year,” Ellis says. “We had many meetings with existing customers and new leads from a lot of other countries. That included the U.S., Finland, South Africa, Estonia, Saudi Arabia, China and even Kazakhstan. Everything seemed to come together for this show. Mets has never really disappointed, and I’m sure the same will happen this year.”

The Superyacht Pavilion is a connecting point for equipment makers, shipyards and, increasingly, environmental groups.

The Superyacht Pavilion is a connecting point for equipment makers, shipyards and, increasingly, environmental groups.

Of the 40 exhibitors Soundings Trade Only interviewed, there were no complaints about last year’s event. “We saw dozens of customers, and everyone seemed happy with the show,” says Alberto Osculati, executive director of Osculati spa, an Italian distributor and manufacturer of marine equipment. “We had many meetings, and I don’t remember hearing any grumbling.”

RAI reports that 78 percent of last year’s attendees were “decision makers,” and 92 percent said they would return this year. “It also seemed like there were many more young people last year,” Dros says. “That’s a very positive signal for our industry going forward.”

Organizers say the Young Professionals Club, for industry employees younger than 35, continues to grow. The club had networking and matchmaking opportunities, as well as a canal-boat trip one night.

The Boat Builder Awards also offers a social component. Organized by IBI magazine, the awards are presented at a gala dinner at the Maritime Museum in downtown Amsterdam. The annual awards are in their fifth year.

The DAME Awards, which recognize innovation across the industry, are a seminal event for Metstrade. Held before the show opening, last year’s main award went to Triskel Marine Integral, which introduced a lightweight, new-technology generator. Awards were presented in five categories, with 22 honorable mentions.

The Superyacht Pavilion is a connecting point for equipment makers, shipyards and, increasingly, environmental groups.  

The Superyacht Pavilion is a connecting point for equipment makers, shipyards and, increasingly, environmental groups.  

Triskel Marine managing director Ken Wittamore called the award a “game-changer” for his company. After the announcement, the small U.K. company’s booth was swamped with engine makers, boatbuilders and others. “We’d originally thought of producing the units in dozens, but now we understand it will be thousands each year,” Wittamore said after the show. “It became a question not of if, but how fast we want to grow the company.”

Metstrade has several areas devoted to industry innovation. The E-nnovation Lab, launched last year, shows new developments in electric and hybrid technology. The I-nnovationLAB stage hosts experts, from inside and outside the industry, on emerging technologies. Last year, there were multiple group discussions on sustainability and green initiatives.

This year will include more sustainability discussions. “We intend to continue placing sustainability at the forefront of our activities, as Metstrade encourages and advocates for ways to implement more environmentally friendly practices throughout the industry,” Dros says.

A Water Revolution

The show has partnered with the Water Revolution Foundation, with a mission to drive sustainability in the superyacht sector through collaboration and innovation. It’s the first strategic trade show partner for the foundation. “For years, Metstrade has provided the physical platform for what Water Revolution aims to promote in terms of technical solutions, and stimulated the adoption of these,” says Robert van Tol, executive director of Water Revolution Foundation. “They clearly understood what Water Revolution is out to achieve and why what we are doing is so important.”

The show’s Superyacht Pavilion allows clear communication between the large-yacht sector, show organizers and Water Revolution Foundation.

For 2019, Metstrade will update some of the pavilion layouts. The Material District, which displays 125 raw materials, now has its own location. It was previously located in the center of the Construction and Materials Pavilion. “This will give the Material District the recognition it deserves, but also allow more exhibitors into the CMP area,” Dros says. “Demand was high for the space, and it will enhance the pavilion’s innovative character.”

The Marina and Yachts Pavilion announced a partnership with PIANC RecCom, the Recreational Navigation Commission of the World Association of Waterborne Navigation Infrastructure, to host PIANC’s Marina Design Training Program. The course will focus on design fundamentals for marina owners and operators, including refurbishments and new projects, as well as trends in marina design.

PIANC RecCom also will hold an open session to discuss marina adaptation needs to service the growth of boats powered by electric propulsion. The PIANC Marina Excellence Design Jack Nichol Award, recognizing excellence in the design of modern recreational boating facilities around the world, will be presented during the show. The pavilion will have more than 65 exhibitors from 17 countries.

Metstrade is set to be another record-breaker this year. “We’ve reached our 2018 levels, and with more than three months to go, we’re forecasting that we’ll exceed 1,600 companies for 2019,” she said. 

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.

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