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2018 Best in Class: Best Industry Advocate

Irwin Marine

Laconia, N.H. 

In New Hampshire, dealers such as Laconia-based Irwin Marine have always been able to register boats. But it was a cumbersome process at best. 

Boaters in the “Live Free or Die” state have three options when registering a boat via a paper system. They can register at a marina boat agent, visit a town hall that’s usually contiguous with a body of water, or register in person with the state. 

Irwin Marine pursued on-line registration for several reasons. Government officials finally realized that most people complete the registration process on weekends, when the state and local locations weren’t open. 

Additionally, marinas only receive $5 after completing a single application, an activity that wasn’t cost-effective. A solution was needed to speed the process and make things more efficient for all parties involved.

Individuals who had previously registered a boat would be mailed a renewal form, and they could either bring the form to a boat agent, who could do the registration, or they could mail it into the state. 

However, according to Irwin Marine President and General Manager Bruce Wright, most applicants would just walk into the dealership with last year’s registration, and staff handling the application would have to hand-write everything. 

At the end of the day, slow registration processing didn’t sit well with former Chief Operating Officer John J. Irwin, who is currently semi-retired from dealership day-to-day operations but is still working as a special projects vice president.

Over the last six years, Irwin Marine has been instrumental in spearheading a long-term advocacy effort on behalf of the New Hampshire Marine Trades Association to make the state’s boat registration process more efficient. 

Irwin worked cooperatively with elected officials, the New Hampshire Marine Patrol, the state’s information technology department, the New Hampshire Department of Safety and the New Hampshire Boat Registration Department in developing the state’s first marine agent online boat registration system. 

Irwin Marine is now able to register any recreational boat by accessing the state’s Municipal Agent Automation Project system, which was integrated into the computer network that serves all four Irwin Marine locations. 

Along with making the registration process much easier for its customers, the Top 100 dealership was able to slash associated labor expenses. The majority of marinas throughout the state are still using the manual system.

“In the past, we had a long line of restless customers waiting to register,” Irwin says. “Most of our Ship’s Store staff would be working non-stop at a registration desk. It took approximately 15 minutes to hand complete each registration.”

Now, using the state’s MAAP system, Irwin Marine generates an official registration in much less time. 

“Right now, a customer can come in and electronically register a boat in 3 to 4 minutes” he says. “On the back end, we put out a report at the end of the week, and the registration money that’s collected goes to the state via Automated Clearing House.”

Additionally, the daily administrative aspects of the hand registration process were cut down from hours to simply pressing a button at the end of the day. 

“Irwin Marine is proud to be taking a leadership role in developing this system,” Irwin says. “We will be expanding the state’s educational offerings to integrate this registration system into the Temporary 14-Day Boater’s Certification Program and will also be able to register boat trailers on line.” 

The Temporary 14-Day Boater’s Certificate is a popular educational program exposes that educates the “non-boater” to the world of boating. 

It teaches the boating safety requirements set forth by the state and is National Association of State Boating Law Administrators certified. 

After a person has passed a special online proctored exam, a certificate is printed off and is valid for only 14 days. 

The temporary 14-Day certification program is a very integral part of Irwin’s Marine’s extensive boat rental programs on Lake Winnipesaukee, which are based at Laconia and Alton Bay. 

“John worked for a long time to get them to accept that process, and we were one of three Beta test sites with the state,” Wright explains. “Now, after making a few key strokes, we can print a renewal or a registration, and it’s done.”   

 

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