IMBC 2013: ‘Things slowly getting better’

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Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call to marinas and boatyards in the Northeast and elsewhere, BoatUS’s Beth Leonard told sessions Thursday and Friday at the Association of Marina Industries’ International Marina & Boatyard Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Some 65,000 boats were damaged or destroyed in the October storm. The likely bill: $650 million for boats alone.

“It was an unprecedented storm,” she said — a nor’easter that teamed up with a 1,000-mile-diameter hurricane, the largest recorded in the Atlantic hurricane area, said the BoatUS director of technical services. “We truly hope this was a 100-year storm and we won’t see one like it again.”

However, given the changing weather patterns, she said, the Northeast needs to prepare for more, if smaller, storms. “It looks like they’re going to have to deal with things like this with more frequency,” she said.

Leonard announced a free webinar series jointly sponsored by BoatUS and AMI at 2 p.m. ET on March 5, 12 and 26 on, respectively:

• Sandy overview and what we’ve learned

• Securing boats on land

• Securing boats on the water

On the economic front, 2013 should deliver “steady improvement but nothing to cheer about,” said Maria Dolores Espino, an economics professor at St. Thomas University in Miami.

She predicted continued low interest rates and inflation and a modest growth rate of 3 percent. The emerging markets will show a healthier growth rate; Europe is likely to remain in recession. “The U.S. is leading the industrial nations in GDP growth,” she said. “It is leading the recovery.”

In other business, Marina Dock Age announced its 2013 marina awards. Westrec Marinas’ Sunrise Harbor Marina — a full-service megayacht facility with 2,500 linear feet of dockage for 22 to 26 yachts — won the small-marina award. Dillion Marina, a 300-slip marina on Dillion Lake in Colorado’s high country (elevation: 9,017 feet) won the large-marina award. Dillon gets 230 inches of snow a year, but last summer the marina, with its sailing school and yacht club, hosted 55,000 guests.

Jim Bronstein, of Marine Business Advisors, a marina and boatyard consultancy, reminded yard operators that they are in a tough business — capital-intensive, customer-intensive, regulatory-intensive, technically intensive and personnel-intensive. “The maintenance and repair experience drives the entire boating experience,” he said. “If it goes well, [boaters] stay in boating. If it doesn’t go well, they get out.”

A joint Marina Dock Age/AMI marina 2012 survey revealed steady improvement in the marina business. Eleven percent of the marinas that responded reported full occupancy; 14 percent had 95 to 99 percent occupancy; 24 percent had 85 to 94 percent; 19 percent had 75 to 84 percent; 20 percent had 50 to 74 percent occupancy; and 8 percent had less than 50 percent (4 percent had no slips).

Forty-four percent reported higher occupancy in 2012 than in 2011; 24 percent lower occupancy; 30 percent no change; and 2 percent “weren’t sure.” Forty-six percent reported revenue from leased slips up, 22 percent down, 32 percent no change.

Thirty-six percent of those surveyed reported transient slip revenue up; 27 percent down; 37 percent no change. Fifty percent reported dry-stack revenue up; 17 percent down; 33 percent no change. Forty-six percent reported fuel revenue up; 27 percent down; 28 percent no change. Fifty-two percent reported boat repair and maintenance revenue up; 16 percent down; 31 percent no change.

Fifty-seven percent reported used boat sales up; 48 percent restaurant sales up; 47 percent new-boat sales up; 47 percent boat rental revenues up.

Sixty percent reported expenses overall were up in 2012 over 2011; 14 percent declined; 26 percent the same. Fifty-seven percent reported insurance costs up; 56 percent utilities up; 48 percent capital expenditures up; 51 percent maintenance and repair; 41 percent staff costs.

The figures “kind of back up this trend of things slowly getting better,” said Kirby Scheimann, of Marinas International. “There is finally an air of optimism out there.”

— Jim Flannery

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