by Jeni Bone
Despite conservative predictions for the mining sector in 2013,iron ore prices raced to a 8-month high in the last days of trading for 2012 after data showed that stockpiles of the commodity at China’s ports continued to fall. Even if you don’t have shares, it’s positive news for recreational boating.
According to Mining.com, the benchmark import price at China's Tianjin rose by 5%, the highest since end-April, and up 65% from September lows.
According to SteelIndex, December was the strongest month since April 2009, when the market data firm first began tracking daily spot prices.
This picture is very different from the one just a few months ago when analysts including the respected Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, the Australian government's official forecaster, were predicting a dire performance for 2012 (average $123/tonne) and this year ($101/tonne).
Locally, marine industry pundits confirm there is a correlation between the good fortunes of the Australian mining sector and recreational boating, 'though not as strong as its relationship with housing and construction', points out Don Jones, CEO of Marine Queensland.
Jones, who has forged close links with the Queensland mining companies and contractors, and has launched the Mackay Boat Show in response to north Queensland demand for boats and marine products, says that when the construction industry prospers, sales are strong.
'That is true especially with trailerable craft,' he explains. 'When tradies are employed and the housing market is buoyant, boat sales follow.'
Impacting on boat sales in Queensland is the Fly In, Fly Out custom, which means boats and cars have less appeal as personnel are transient. Then there's the latest initiative of mining companies: compulsory financial advice for employees and contractors, which Jones believes may be deterring people from buying such toys!
'Miners still love their V8s, PWCs and boats especially around Mackay, Gladstone and Townsville, but they are being encouraged to be more prudent in their purchases,' says Jones, suggesting the big companies are preparing their people for the predicted bust that invariably follows the boom.
'That certainly has dampened sales in these regional centres, but they are still pretty strong.'
The crowds came and boats were sold at the Mackay Tinnie & Tackle Show.
Jones surmises that WA may enjoy some added support for boating with the isolation and fewer facilities in the West.
Lisa Coyle , General Manager at BIA WA asserts that mining in that state is powering on, as is the housing and construction market, which is only growing, and the correlation is strong.
'The Fly In, Fly Out phenomenon is not having the impact it may be having in Queensland,' she says. 'Jet skis and PWC and trailerable pleasure boats and fishing boats are in demand from this market.'
Rottnest Island - boating paradise
She adds: 'There is plenty of development happening all over the state and the resources boom is still going strong. House prices and rentals are high, and demand is rising with 3,000 people a month moving to WA. Consumer confidence is growing, and while people are still conservative, thanks to a negative mainstream media, they are starting to spend.'
And while boat registration figures are rising annually, averaging 5-15% growth each month, manufacturing is in a slump and many builders are either diversifying or closing down.
Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show 2010.
'Importing is killing the local industry. Many in the recreational boating sector in WA are hanging on by either doing work for the gas and oil sector up north, or doing fitouts.'
The mining sector is vital to the WA boating scene. The BIA WA promotes its marine events and boat shows through RedFM and the charter flight companies’ magazines.
The bi-annual Rottnest Convoy - March and November - attracts around 60 boats and Coyle reveals that '50% of people involved are miners, the Fly In, Fly Out market. The event is marketed to new boaters looking to learn the skills and meet people.'