Boating industry faces unprecedented threats

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The number of threats faced by the boating industry in the legislative and regulatory arenas – and the seriousness of those threats – is now greater than at any other time in its history, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

For that reason, the association is stressing the importance of participation in its annual American Boating Congress (ABC).

“ABC is about getting members of the boating industry to come here and be forceful advocates along with us here in the Washington, D.C. NMMA office, to get people to recognize the boating industry is an important American industry employing American workers,” said Scott Gudes, NMMA’s vice president of government relations, in an interview yesterday.

Not only does the event, scheduled to take place April 27-29 at the L’Enfant Hotel in Washington, D.C., give the industry an opportunity to learn more about those legislative and regulatory issues most likely to impact its businesses, it’s also a chance for the industry to join together in educating Congress about its concerns – and therefore be more effective than the sum total of members’ individual efforts.

“It’s important to make sure members of Congress understand the importance of the boating industry,” Gudes commented. “And ABC is organized in such a way to make it more effective than if you came [to Washington, D.C.] alone.”

Permitting tops the list

Among those threats, the most urgent is the federal boat permitting issue, which some refer to as ballast water.

“If we don’t get a legislative fix by September, all boats will have to have a national or state permit for incidental discharge,” explained Gudes. “That includes washing your boat or running your bilge pump. It’s absolutely unfathomable. We’re working hard to get legislation passed by Congress to restore our recreational boating exemption from permit requirements of the Clean Water Act. We need members of the boating community to come to Washington to make that argument forcibly with legislative members.”

Other boating industry concerns include water access, tax reform, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act and the nexus issue, he added.

“The state tax nexus issue is huge,” said Gudes. “It’s not just about the boating industry. It affects a number of industries. Several states have suddenly decided they are going to tax manufacturers based on business activity in states in which they don’t have a brick or mortar presence. A number of boat manufacturers have had their boats impounded at a state line and been told, ‘You have to pay us $40,000’ or more. It’s literally highway robbery. There are at least two pieces of legislation being put forward to try to address it.”

A new ABC

Organizers of ABC 2008 are trying to grow the event by widening its appeal and attracting more high-level speakers from the administration and Congress than ever before. They’ve also reduced the cost of registration to $250.

“ABC is about the total boating community,” commented Gudes. “Boat manufacturers are an important part of that, but it’s not just about boating manufacturers. Marinas, dealers and boating organizations are a part of that too.”

For that reason, the topics of the event’s sessions are diverse, from a look at advances in marine weather forecasting and a window into future Congressional tax policy to an overview of marina and boatyard challenges and a session on exporting. Speakers include top officials and executives from the American Petroleum Institute, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Marine Sanctuary program, UBS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In addition, several senators and congressional speakers are expected to present, and political commentator Charlie Cook is scheduled to headline the Marshall Funk NMMA Boat PAC Dinner and Awards Presentation.

“It’s an ambitious ABC, very business focused and results focused. We’re asking participants to be promoters, ambassadors for the industry,” said Gudes. “When a manufacturer, marina or dealer comes to see members of Congress, they take note and listen. With a focused message, we all together become that much more influential in Washington. And what happens in Washington can impact your bottom line.”

For more information on or to register for the 2008 American Boating Congress, visit

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