Certifying Change

Skip Burdon: President/CEO – American Boat & Yacht Council

An inevitable consequence of progress is change. Some changes result in improvements and innovations that we all can applaud. Others … well, let’s just say time will judge whether their much heralded benefits ring true.
There is one change, however, I can confidently state represents real progress for our industry — without a downside—and that is National Marine Manufacturers Association Boat & Yacht (B&Y) Certification program.
Previously, NMMA’s B&Y Certification program required all certified craft to be manufactured to both U.S. Coast Guard regulations and to 33 of the American Boat & Yacht Council’s 67 comprehensive industry standards.
But why only 33? If ABYC has developed almost two dozen more applicable standards, why, then, aren’t they all part of the program?
Well, there are sound reasons. But under a new agreement between ABYC and NMMA, many more standards will be phased in between now and 2007, which I believe will strengthen the overall program.
The enhancements that have been made to the B&Y Certification program will ratchet-up not only its quality and value to the manufacturer, but also its notoriety and value for dealers, repair yards and the boating public. And, if your products are not currently NMMA Certified, I believe the following improvements to the program should signal your serious reconsideration to participate.
In addition to the inclusion of at least 85 percent of the ABYC standards (not all standards apply to new construction products, while others are under revision), I am convinced that the following key improvements will have the net effect of delivering a higher quality, safer product to the boating public:
• NMMA recognizes ABYC as the final authority for formal ‘requests for interpretation’ of ABYC standards.
• NMMA will ensure that all B&Y Certification Inspectors have obtained ABYC Standards Accreditation and ABYC Electrical Certification by 2005.
• ABYC will regularly audit the B&Y Certification program and issue recommendations to NMMA for implementation.
• ABYC will expand its standards development process to keep pace with changing manufacturing and communication technologies while working to harmonize ABYC standards with international standards following the ANSI process.
• NMMA and ABYC will actively co-promote the B&Y Certification program on behalf of participating manufactures, dealers and other industry sectors.
So, what are the bottom line benefits for various industry sectors and the end-customer? For manufacturers, the program ensures that their products meet a basic set of minimum standards for safety and quality, resulting in reduced exposure to unnecessary risk and liability. By having their products certified, boat builders and manufacturers are protecting themselves and their customers from the likelihood of product safety issues, which can be devastating to both parties. Simply put, it is a sound business decision.
While the boating public may not have had a high level of awareness of NMMA Certification in the past, that is about to change. Our goal is to have boaters consider certification as part of their purchasing decision. Through active promotion by NMMA and ABYC, customers will be driven to products displaying the NMMA B&Y Certification label – an industry sign of trust, quality and safety.
For dealers who offer boats and yachts with the NMMA B&Y Certification label, instant credibility will be added to the product, from both a quality as well as a safety perspective. In conjunction with ABYC certified technicians to service, maintain and upgrade the product, participation will send a clear signal to the customer that the dealer has a “total package” offering – one stop shopping. And, I therefore ask dealers to encourage their manufacturers to participate in the program. The bottom line is that it will help you sell product.
The obvious benefits for repairers and surveyors again revolve around the maintenance, repair and installation of equipment in accordance with industryaccepted standards.
Insurers and underwriters, the NMMA B&Y Certification label should encourage you to seek-out and provide policies for these safer, quality-built products, and I even suggest should encourage you to create value-added or discounted programs for owners of craft that are “NMMA Certified Using ABYC Standards.”
Progress brings change and growth. As a long-time family boater and marine industry supporter, I believe safety and quality, coupled with an enjoyable boating experience should be our collective goal. I believe this program will enhance boating, prevent harm and may even save lives. ABYC is committed to the NMMA Boat and Yacht Certification Program, and I believe that the industry should be, too.

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