This March, at the 2018 Taiwan International Boat Show (TIBS), visitors flock to Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, from all over the world to see the impressive amount of yachts manufactured in the area. Typically, this formula is reversed: As the world’s fourth largest producer of yachts measuring 78 feet in length and over—behind Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey—yachts pour out of Taiwan to customers all around the world, with the U.S. as their largest market by far.
Some of the largest Taiwan builders include Alexander Marine Co. Ltd. and Horizon Yacht Co. Ltd. Their presence was felt over the four-day show with in-water exhibits that captivated local buyers.
Kaohsiung itself is home to 22 of the 36 pleasure-boat builders in Taiwan, and accounts for more than 80 percent of the industry’s total output, according to event supporter Taiwan Yacht Industry Association. It is the hub in southeast Asia for yacht builders, experts and artisans—a sprawling industrial port city in the South China Sea. So it only makes sense that if you want to find the pulse of the yacht industry, both local and regional, you travel here.
Gallery: Taiwan 2018
That’s exactly what I did. Following in the footsteps of U.S. yacht owners before me, I made the journey to Taiwan to see these boats for myself, in build, before they were released to the public. That included two yard visits: First at Fleming Yachts, makers of passagemakers, and the other at Ocean Alexander.
A trip to Fleming’s Tung Hwa yard just outside of downtown Kaohsiung revealed the builder’s commitment to using Burmese teak and employing skilled artisan craftsmen and women. They employ just over 200 workers, who account for everything from stainless to cabinetry to wiring—built and installed onsite. A test tank allows each of the four Fleming models—a 55, 58, 65 and 78—to be “launched” to review a vessel’s systems and equipment before being shipped. A total of approximately 18 Flemings are built each year.
At Ocean Alexander’s yard, in Kaohsiung, I was able to get an exclusive first peek at the newest model from this builder, the 90R, as wiring and plumbing was being implemented. Ocean Alexander also employs skilled workers to build most of its high-quality interiors, evinced by the 90R and other models in build.
A walkthrough of the 90R’s unfinished hull revealed some incredible features without needing too much imagination. Those included Ocean Alexander’s standard main-deck master, a glass enclosed beach club, massive floor-to-ceiling windows and a full 22-foot beam main deck. Carbon fiber had been added to the enclosed bridge design of Hull No. 1—a first for the builder. With two layouts to choose from—enclosed and open bridge specifications—I was both envious and unenvious of future owners: what a choice they would have to make!
With advances in technology and added support from local government, TAITRA said Taiwan can look forward to steady growth in yachts and luxury marine craft, which means more models being built like the 90R (making her debut stateside at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show in October). At number four in the world of largest producers of yachts—two spots up from only a few years ago—Taiwan’s builders are worth keeping an eye on, certainly from afar. But close up, too, if you can make the trip.