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Take Comfort

Author:
Jeff-Moser

Since I took over the editor-in-chief chair at Soundings Trade Only nearly two years back, acquisitions and consolidations have garnered copious coverage both here and in our daily e-newsletter, Trade Only Today.

From the powerhouse moves that
Brunswick, MarineMax and Winnebago have made in just the past few months to the news that Warbird Marine Holdings and Limestone Boats are adding established brands to their arsenals, the shift to addition by acquisition is a big part of the today’s boating business.

In all cases, the parent companies will usher new staff into the fold with their own systems, servers and the like. This may be the riskiest move they make.

After reading Kim Kavin’s truly frightening feature on cybersecurity (see “Are You Ready for Ransomware,” Page 34), I learned that a great deal of companies are sitting ducks for what could be a devastating cyberattack.

While high-profile ransomware attacks on massive companies are the ones that make the news, it’s the small- to medium-sized business that are most vulnerable. As cybersecurity expert John Sileo points out, it just takes a single person to let down his guard and click on a link, and an entire organization’s infrastructure can be crippled.

Planning a defense is a process that goes well beyond drilling employees to be wary of suspicious emails. Mark Oslund, director of standards at the National Marine Electronics Association, sees opportunity, saying robust cybersecurity measures are a way to protect companies and create niche roles within an organization.

If he were a boatbuilder, Oslund says, “I’d be thinking that the [IT] integrator is just as important as the fiberglasser. I’d have an IT guy for computers in the office, and I’d have an IT guy on the floor at every stage, ensuring that the components going into the boat are the latest technology with security in mind.”

Oslund says that NMEA’s OneNet standard for maritime data networking was designed with a closed security system that gives on-board networks an encryption layer to “talk” to a vessel’s other connected devices. As today’s boats become more connected than ever, Oslund says, having a robust security network will be seen as a desirable brand accolade in which buyers will take comfort.

And a new level of comfort is something today’s boaters are looking for in more than just cybersecurity. Take gyrostabilizers; they’ve come a long way in a relatively short time. A colleague reminded me that the early days for industry leader Seakeeper were not that far off, recalling founder Shep McKenney sweating it out at the Miami Beach Convention Center during that city’s February boat show, converting one disciple at a time.

A pair of Italian companies are now looking to make a name in the gyro market (see “On a Roll,” Page 42) with machines that offer modular assembly or air-cooling, taking a different approach that they hope will help them slow Seakeeper’s dominance in the space.

And with corporations big and small embracing a remote-work ethos, sat-com companies are at the ready. Diane Byrne talked to segment leaders Inmarsat and KVH (see “Connectivity Convenience,” Page 40) about a line of products that all but ensures boaters can work from anywhere.

By the time this issue makes it to your inbox or mailbox, I’d all but guarantee that another well-known, substantial brand — as well as a few of those successful, decades-old mom-and-pop outfits — will be under new ownership. I don’t have any inside information; as Bob Dylan aptly sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” 

This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue.

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