Japan eliminates barrier to large imported boats

CHICAGO – A change in Japan’s boat operators’ license requirements means American boat and accessory manufacturers should find an expanded market for their products in Japan, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported in a statement today.

Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has eliminated the "five gross ton limitation" from its boat operator licenses, effective today, a restriction that limited the vast majority of Japanese boaters to operating a craft measuring less than five gross tons (equivalent to approximately 32 feet).

Boaters wishing to operate larger boats were required to take time-consuming and very expensive boating courses, with the result that most boaters simply settled for smaller, mostly domestically manufactured boats, NMMA stated.

As a result of this measure, the number of boaters permitted to operate larger boats has been instantly increased by a very large factor.

“There are only about 6,500 boats over five gross tons in Japan out of a total of approximately 300,000 pleasure boats (not counting PWCs). Around 171,500 of these boats measure between 5 and 10 meters,” said Hal Offutt, manager of the NMMA Tokyo Office. “Many locally built boats have been designed to slide in just below five gross tons, but these boats are often compromised in some fashion. Many who would have bought one of these boats in the past are now free to buy a larger, better-designed craft. Since most of the larger boats in this segment are imports, American manufacturers could have a significant opportunity in Japan to increase their sales.”

NMMA’s efforts pay off

The NMMA said it has been pointing out for years that this five ton limit has acted as a barrier to US imports and made the elimination of this restriction a major goal of last year's negotiations in the US-Japan Small Craft Working Group, a body created by the US Japan Trade Forum to discuss and solve trade disputes between the two countries.

“This is by far the most important deregulatory measure taken by Japanese authorities in the marine sector to date,” said NMMA President Thom Dammrich. “We are very pleased by the action of MLIT's License Division and would like to compliment their officials for seriously considering our concerns and responding in a positive fashion.”

For years, NMMA has encouraged Japan to adopt international standards and eliminate the many unique and burdensome regulations that have the effect of limiting the size of the boating market and the opportunities for American manufacturers to sell their products in Japan, the association reported.

In addition to the elimination of the five ton limit, other successes to date have been the simplification of engine testing requirements, simplification of plastic fuel tank inspection requirements, the expansion of the definition of a pleasure boat to include boats up to 24 meters (around 78.5 feet), and other measures.

The NMMA said it continues to talk with Japanese authorities regarding simplification of Japan's unique inspection system for imported boats. For more information, contact NMMA Regulatory Counsel Cindy Squires at (202) 737-9766; csquires@nmma.org.

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