MIAMI — The marine industry has an American story to tell, NMMA president Thom Dammrich said at the State of the Industry breakfast Thursday on opening day of the Miami International Boat Show.
Ninety-three percent of boats sold in the United States are built in the United States. Ninety-seven percent of boating businesses are small businesses. Seventy-three percent of boat owners have household incomes of less than $100,000.
“Boating is not just for the wealthy,” he said. “Boating is primarily a middle-class American lifestyle. We have a great American story to tell. We need to tell it and tell it united as an industry.”
Light-vehicle and recreational-vehicle sales are back to almost 90 percent of their prerecession peaks. Recreational boating sales are a little under 50 percent of their prerecession peak, but the industry is catching up, Dammrich said.
New powerboat, sailboat and personal watercraft sales totaled about 202,000 units in 2012. Sales were up 5 percent, to 212,000, in 2013, and he expects new-boat sales to increase another 5 to 7 percent in 2014.
Adding to that used-boat sales, which were1.2 million units in 2012, and Dammrich said there’s a message in the numbers: “The American public still loves boats,” he said. “They still love getting on the water. Things are going in the right direction.”
Another good sign: The industry remains a net exporter. It exports more boats than it imports, and except for Australia, the economies of the industry’s main overseas customers — Canada, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Brazil and Germany — are expanding.
Dammrich said weather and Washington, D.C., or more precisely regulation emanating from the nation’s capital, are the industry’s two biggest risks in 2014. On the plus side, after a brutal winter, the unscientific but often spot-on Farmers’ Almanac is predicting an early spring and a hot and dry summer after forecasting bitter cold and snow for the Midwest this winter.
“We should have perfect boating weather” this spring and summer, he said.
On the Washington front, he said every member of the industry should join the NMMA in Washington, D.C., for the American Boating Congress May 5-7 to advocate for boating on issues such as ethanol, evaporative emissions regulations, reauthorization of the Sportfishing Trust Fund and preserving water access.
Dominion Marine Media named David Rockefeller Jr. of New York City, founder of sailorsforthesea.org, as its YachtWorld Hero for 2014 for his work in involving boaters in advocacy for a clean ocean.
Sailors for the Sea has involved more than 100,000 sailors — most of them through regatta organizers — in subscribing to clean practices on the water, such as forgoing bottled water, using refillable containers for drinking water, controlling paper pollution, composting landside at regatta headquarters and controlling energy use.
Rockefeller, a sailor for 60 years, said the five biggest issues facing the oceans are: carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which changes the pH of the oceans; plastic and other garbage that get tossed into the oceans; liquid pollution from both point and non-point sources; overfishing and the decline of fish stocks; and rising ocean levels.
“The oceans are in big trouble,” he said. “We [sailors] are not the problem, but we can become part of the solution” by advocating for the oceans and raising awareness about their plight.