For the Record: Groups urge review of ethanol increase

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A broad coalition, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, is calling for a review by the Environmental Protection Agency of a petition to increase ethanol levels in gasoline.

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"American motorists and consumers cannot afford to have EPA's decision on whether to permit the use of ethanol blends higher than 10 percent in motor vehicle and smaller engines be guided by any factor other than sound and unbiased science," says a coalition of 13 organizations and trade associations.

Ethanol manufacturers want the EPA to increase ethanol levels in gasoline from 10 percent to 12, 15 or even 20 percent.

But the opposition groups say the possibility of more alcohol in the fuel could cause damage to motor vehicle and marine engines, fuel-handling systems, storage tanks, and pollution control and safety equipment.

"To date, there has not been sufficient testing of motor vehicle and non-road equipment engines, such as outdoor power equipment and marine engines, to determine whether any mid-level ethanol blend would meet current federal air-quality protection requirements or be safe for consumers to use," the coalition said in a statement.

New York drops luxury tax proposal

New York officials are not going ahead with a proposed 5 percent tax on boats of more than $200,000, which was included in Gov. David Paterson's original budget proposal.

"We're pleased that the legislature and the governor realized that this boat tax would not only fail to bring in revenue, but would significantly damage many marine businesses," said David Dickerson, NMMA director of state government relations, in a statement.

The NMMA, along with the New York Marine Trades Association and other allies, worked to have this proposal eliminated from the budget. Hundreds of letters and e-mails were sent to the governor warning of the consequences such a tax could have on the marine industry, the NMMA says.

"The impact of the proposed tax would hit New York marine dealers most immediately. About 38 percent of their sales are of boats 30-39 feet long, most of which retail for more than $200,000," the NMMA said in a letter to the governor.

"Loss of even 20 percent of these sales to neighboring states, or to decisions to not purchase a vessel rather than pay the tax, would lead to even greater layoffs than already experienced in the New York market," the letter stated.

The NMMA notes that area dealers also have experienced significant sales declines since the New York National Boat Show had its dates moved to December. In 2001, attendance was 95,000 and, at the most recent show, it dropped to less than 50,000.

NYMTA executive director Christopher Squeri said the tax would do nothing to increase the state's coffer because consumers will simply buy fewer boats or purchase them out of state. That will hurt everyone, from dealers to marinas and other waterfront businesses.

Boatbuilders settle hull-splashing dispute

Hell's Bay Boatworks reached an out-of-court settlement with Beavertail Skiffs in regard to the anti-splashing lawsuit it filed last fall against the Minnesota boatbuilder.

Though the exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Hell's Bay's president Chris Peterson says he was pleased with the results of the outcome, which he says included Hell's Bay receiving monetary compensation and that the current Beavertail designs would be discontinued and the molds destroyed.

"While no liability was found or admitted in the settlement, we feel that the results of the settlement should show the marine industry that marine intellectual property rights can be protected," Peterson said in a statement.

Beavertail president Mark Fisher says his company did not splash the hulls or infringe on patents or copyrights.

"What Hell's Bay has made it sound like in their press release is that they're completely happy with the outcome because they got monetary gain out of it, when the truth of the matter is [the agreement] says, 'No party to this agreement may declare that they won or prevailed in this lawsuit, or declare that liability was admitted by or found against any of the parties,' " Fisher told Soundings Trade Only.

Fisher went on to say that Hell's Bay paid his company to stop building the boats.

"For us it was a good time because we had built over 400 hulls out of that mold already, and we needed to replace our mold, so basically they got hornswaggled by a bunch of farmers up here in Minnesota to pay for all of our new molds," he says. "That's the truth of the lawsuit."

Dockwise reporting steady business

Fort Lauderdale-based Dockwise Yacht Transport says it has been busy despite the tough economic times.

In late February, DYT's 456-foot Super Servant 3 left Port Everglades for Toulon, France, unloading 18 yachts and loading one in St. Thomas, then moved on to Martinique where it loaded 18 more yachts, totaling 32 power- and sailboats for a final cargo value of $140 million.

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In early March, the second of DYT's fleet of semisubmersible transport ships, the 556-foot Super Servant 4, departed Port Everglades, heading to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, with another $140 million worth of yachts.

A DYT vessel "sinks" to a level where yachts can be safely maneuvered on their own bottoms into the ship's cargo hold.

DYT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dockwise Ltd. Since its maiden voyage in 1987, the company has transported more than 10,000 yachts to various destinations around the world.

Noted West Coast salesman dies

Earl Miller, founder of Ancor Marine and Fasco Fasteners, died Feb. 14 at his home in Sonoma, Calif. He was 83.

A Minnesota native, Miller joined the Navy at 17, and later attended the University of North Dakota. He and his family moved to California in 1956, where Miller started Anchorage Marine, the first of three businesses he would own.

He later founded the other two businesses, which are run today by his children.

Feds lay claim to Madoff's armada

One by one, disgraced financier Bernard Madoff's fleet of boats were seized by U.S. Marshals.

As news helicopters hovered overhead, Bull, a 1969 Rybovich 56 sportfishing yacht - reportedly Madoff's favorite - motored out of its covered slip at Roscioli Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale for a cruise down the New River to a U.S. Marshals impoundment.

On April Fool's Day, marshals seized Bull; Little Bull, a 24-foot Pathfinder stored on its trailer in a warehouse at Heritage Square Industrial Park in Palm Bay, Fla.; and the Madoffs' $9.3 million Palm Beach mansion.

The next day, they seized a 40-foot Shelter Island

Runabout, Sitting Bull  - a $430,000 sportfisherman similar to the one that singer Billy Joel owns - at the Montauk Marine Basin at Montauk, N.Y., on the tip of Long Island's south fork.

One day later, French authorities seized a $7 million 89-foot Leopard sport yacht, also named Bull, which Madoff kept in Cap d'Antibes, France.

Madoff, who pleaded guilty March 12 to swindling investors out of $50 billion in a long-running Ponzi scheme, has given the court a list of his and wife Ruth's assets totaling $823 million. He faces 150 years in prison.

Brunswick CEO: fewer boats will sell this year

Sales of recreational boats in the U.S. could decline by more than 20 percent this year, Brunswick CEO Dustan McCoy said March 10 at a Raymond James institutional investor conference in Florida.

McCoy says powerboat sales volume may fall below 150,000 units from 196,000 boats in 2008, Dow Jones newspapers reports.

"We're choking off the new boats going into the pipeline, so the dealers can get rid of the old product," McCoy says. "When the economy comes back, both the dealer network and we will be a lot more healthy."

Defender rewards workers for record sales year

Waterford, Conn.-based Defender Industries gave cash awards to its employees in mid-March for its continued success in 2008.

Despite the economy and decline in the marine industry overall, the family-owned marine outfitter and catalog retailer achieved a record-breaking 2008, with sales growth of 11.3 percent, the company announced.

"Defender's Success & Profit Sharing Program rewards all our employees proportionately for their individual and collective contributions to our success," vice president and co-owner Stephan Lance said in a statement. "They deserve to be rewarded for the phenomenal work everyone does each day that is responsible for our record sales and overall success."

This is the third consecutive year the company has shared profits with its staff. Defender increased staffing levels during 2008 to support the increased volume and maintain service levels, and is hiring again to support the continued growth, the company says.

Boatbuilder planning expanded operations

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue says catamaran builder HC Composites plans to expand its Tarboro, N.C., operations, which will create 120 new jobs in the next three years.

The company will invest $2.65 million in the expansion. The announcement was made possible in part by a $130,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.

"Boat manufacturing is an important part of our economy and the state's heritage," Perdue said in a statement. "Our skilled work force and top-ranked business climate are among the many reasons that homegrown companies such as HC Composites continue to flourish and expand in this great state."

HC Composites, which does business as World Cat, manufactures catamaran fishing boats in Tarboro, where it has headquarters and employs 60 workers. The company is purchasing Glacier Bay Catamarans of Seattle and plans to consolidate operations by relocating the cruising power cat builder to Tarboro.

MRAA supports effort for estate tax relief

The Marine Retailers Association of America is supporting recent efforts in the U.S. Senate to provide permanent relief of estate taxes.

The Taxpayer Certainty and Relief Act of 2009 was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. The bill aims to make permanent 2009 levels for taxation of family possessions and property, including farms, ranches, marinas and small business properties. The language also would index exemption amounts for inflation.

Under current law, estates are taxed at a top tax rate of 45 percent on values more than $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples. In 2011, the estate tax is scheduled to revert back to pre-2001 levels with an exemption of $1 million and a 55 percent tax rate.

MRAA has sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee supporting inclusion of the Baucus estate tax provisions in the budget resolution, which is a key bill that sets the guidelines for congressional action on appropriations and tax code changes.

"The goal of MRAA has long been full repeal of the estate tax," MRAA chairman Ed Lofgren said in a statement. "We understand the government is operating in an environment of budget concerns and full repeal may not be possible this year. We have joined with approximately 50 other small businesses, farming and ranching organizations to support congressional action this year before the very unpopular tax reverts back to 2001 levels."

MAATS moving to Orlando after long stint in Vegas

The Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show is moving to a new venue this year. Held in Las Vegas for the last eight years, MAATS 2009 will be held July 15-17 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

"We expect 2009 to be a pivotal year for MAATS, with exhibitors bringing extremely fresh, innovative products to help our industry and the boater adapt to the shifting boating environment, focusing on everything from the eco-friendly to the affordable," said Ben Wold, executive vice president of the NMMA, in a statement.

Exhibit space is still available for this year's show. For information, contact sales manager Joanne Miller at (312) 946-6245.

Sale of Boater's World assets approved

A bankruptcy court judge in Delaware approved the sale of the assets of Boater's World.

On March 15, Ritz Camera Centers, the parent company of Boater's World, entered into a "stalking horse" contract with a joint venture comprising Great American Group WF, Hudson Capital Partners, SB Capital Group and Tiger Capital Group, according to court documents.

Under the terms of the baseline-bid agreement, the bidder was to agree to pay the debtor a "guaranty percentage" of 30.1 percent of the aggregate retail value of the merchandise included in the sale. In exchange, the debtor agreed to pay a break-up fee of $495,000, according to court records.

The debtor conducted an auction March 17 for the assets and a joint venture comprising Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners was the successful bidder.

The successful bidder agreed to pay for the Boater's World assets a guaranteed amount equal to 38 percent of the retail value of the merchandise included in the sale.

Ritz Camera Centers filed for bankruptcy protection in February. In court filings, Ritz says selling the business and/or assets of its Boater's World Marine Centers is necessary to maintain Ritz's "long-term viability and successful reorganization."

Cummins trims work force at N.C. plant

The Cummins Rocky Mount Engine plant in North Carolina laid off nearly 400 employees in March.

The company cut 180 permanent full-time employees and 210 temporary full-time employees because of sagging engine sales, according to Mark Land, a spokesman for Indiana-based Cummins Inc.

"Given the state of the economy, we've seen demand for all of our products fall significantly in the last three or four months," Land told Soundings Trade Only. "Cutting people is the last thing we do. We take a lot of other steps first to reduce costs."

The company has cut 1,500 salaried workers worldwide, about 2,500 hourly workers and about 2,700 temporary workers since last October, Land says.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue.

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