Marine industry reaching out to hurricane victims

NEW ORLEANS – The marine industry has a message for its members impacted by Hurricane Katrina: “Let us know what you need, and we will work to get you those items.”

So says Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

“It’s just a matter of communicating the specifics,” he explains. “For example, when the west coast of Florida was hit hard, we received requests for jack stands. You don’t get the Salvation Army delivering marine goods to help you get back into business.”

Herhold also recommends that those hit hardest by the hurricane go to their state capitals to file legislation giving grants to cover losses unreimbursed by insurance.

“We got $5 million from our state legislators for unreimbursed losses,” he said.

Industry answers NMMA’s call

The industry’s interest in helping the hurricane’s victims goes beyond its own members, however. An overwhelming number of recreational marine companies have offered to donate boats, motors, generators, communications equipment and other essential items to authorities involved in search and rescue efforts in states devastated by hurricane Katrina, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

NMMA was recently contacted by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco’s office and members of the Louisiana Congressional delegation asking for assistance in obtaining the critical equipment. The officials specifically asked for corporate level donations of search and rescue vessels for use by authorities in recovery efforts. Ideal vessels for the effort include pontoon boats, inflatables, personal watercraft, and other low-draft boats. In addition to vessels, relief workers also need generators, battery chargers, marine radios, and outboard motors. For safety and security reasons, the governor’s office is asking for corporate-level donations only and asking that private citizens with personal boats not come to the area.
Within hours of the request, companies were offering boats, engines, communications equipment and other products.

“The response from NMMA member companies shows the amazing generosity of the industry. This is a terrible disaster, and I am proud to be part of an organization committed to helping the relief effort. Seeing so many companies immediately come forward to help is inspiring to us all,” said NMMA Vice President of Government Relations Monita Fontaine.

NMMA is collecting offers from member companies and passing them along to the governor’s office. The governor’s office will then work with the participating companies to arrange for delivery of the donated products. The office has been overwhelmed with responses and is asking those who have come forward to be patient as they assess their needs and contact companies offering the needed vessels and equipment.

Among those companies responding to the request is Mercury Marine and Sea Pro boat company, which have joined together to ship more than $200,000 in boats and engines to support rescue efforts in New Orleans.

“We wanted to do all we could to help, and we wanted to do it immediately,” said Mercury Marine President Patrick C. Mackey. “This is truly a time of crisis that is difficult for most of us to comprehend. Many people need help, and this is an area in which we’re qualified and capable of making a difference.”

Marine engine manufacturer Mercury is shipping 10 inflatable boats with four-stroke motors to New Orleans for general rescue and recovery efforts. Additionally, Mercury has supplied engines for five boats donated by Sea Pro. Mercury and Sea Pro are owned by Brunswick Corp. The items were donated in response to a request from the Louisiana governor’s office on behalf of Louisiana Fish and Wildlife.

Sea Pro, which is located in Newberry, S.C., was quick to respond with five shallow-draft skiffs that will specifically meet the needs of the rescue and recovery efforts in New Orleans.

“We’re aware of the widespread damage created by this massive hurricane and the long-range ramifications it’s going to have on millions of people,” said Bob Beagle, president of Sea Pro. “We want to respond in a way that will help as many people as possible, and we happen to manufacture a boat type that is well suited for this type of rescue effort. Everyone here is not only wishing the best for all those affected, but we’re also trying to make a difference.”

Mercury Marine and Triton Boats are also rigging 10 boats and engines Friday for immediate use in the rescue efforts in and around New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The 40 hp FourStroke EFI engines were trucked overnight from Mercury’s headquarters in Fond du Lac, Wis., and arrived Friday morning at Triton’s aluminum boat plant in Prairie, Miss.

Technicians were standing by to rig the engines on 10 Triton 1648 SFB boats with the expectation that the units would be fully rigged, equipped with life jackets and other safety equipment, fueled and ready for service by noon local time. The boats are being put on trailers and picked up by officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency who have volunteered to tow the boats to the New Orleans area and aid in the rescue.

Consulting firm to assist yacht owners

In response to numerous calls received from owners of yachts damaged by hurricane Katrina, Fort Lauderdale-based marine consulting firm Port Royal Group Inc. has reactivated its Hurricane Help Center, it reported in a statement yesterday.

First created last year in the wake of hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, the Hurricane Help Center will aid yachtsmen in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, who are having difficulty with insurance claims and/or problems arranging for timely salvage and repair of their hurricane damaged yachts.

The Hurricane Help Center prepares damage surveys and assessments; assembles complete digital photographic records of damage; secures and assembles detailed estimates and repair quotes; acts as an intermediary between yacht owners and insurance companies, adjusters, and insurance company-hired surveyors; and arranges and manages repair and restoration of affected vessels by qualified boatyards and repair contractors. When necessary and appropriate, the center can also refer clients to associated legal counsel and provide relevant arbitration and litigation support.

According to Port Royal Group President Phil Friedman, “The single most important function that our Hurricane Help Center performs is to act in an intermediary capacity to facilitate expeditious resolution of problems. Our long-established, in-depth professional experience in virtually all technical and business aspects of boatbuilding and refit enables us to achieve rapid resolutions, ultimately to the benefit of all parties involved.”

As necessary, experienced representatives dispatched by the Hurricane Help Center will attend damaged vessels on-site in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

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