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Model-year dilemma comes close to an end

Personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard suddenly descended unannounced on industry boat shows, starting at Miami, and began writing up violation notices on manufacturers for model-year infractions under the Code of Federal Regulations.

This actually happened several years ago. And, with typical government speed, it’s only now that the issue of model years might finally be defined in a way that reflects the realities of today’s marine industry. Moreover, it’s actually Congress that’s getting it done with recent passage by the House of Representatives of a Coast Guard reauthorization that included language defining the model year.

The existing codes say the model year begins Aug. 1 of each year. It’s been on the books for a long time, but the Coast Guard did not enforce it. When it suddenly decided to do so, the industry needed to find a new date and details that would be acceptable to all parties.

It was a long process for both the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas to reach an industry consensus on dates. But they did and agreed to move the start of the model year to June 1 (and the Coast Guard enforce it) and makes it a 14-month model year.

Specifically, then, June 1 to July 31 will be the model year if and when the Senate passes a Coast Guard reauthorization bill. The legislation also includes some changes to the weight tables for outboard engines.

Further, the legislation will give the Coast Guard the ability to provide exceptions for new models and larger boats such as new models introduced mid-year at, say, the Miami show and/or for large boats where the customer demands the next model year (but that can be no earlier than Jan. 2).

The regulations are the vehicle that codifies general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the various departments and agencies of the federal government. It might be hard to believe, but in this case getting Congress to act has proven faster than waiting for the Coast Guard to work through their regulatory process, according to NMMA vice president of federal and legal affairs Nicole Vasilaros.

Vasilaros has been spearheading the effort to make the new dates permanent. With House passage, she is now pursuing Senate staff to be sure the language on model year and engine weights is included in the Senate version of the Coast Guard reauthorization.

Initially, the model-year issue was a very contentious one between manufacturers and dealers. However, the final compromises hammered out will cover about 95 percent of the boats and the overall results are believed to be sensitive to both the needs of builders and dealers.

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