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2020: A Timeline

Changes ahead, changes behind: A long, strange year.

January 9 

World Health Organization announces mysterious coronavirus-related pneumonia in Wuhan, China.


January 15 

A Memorandum of Understanding with Transport Canada allows National Marine Manufacturers Associated-certified boats to enter Canada using American Boat & Yacht Council standards.


February 3 

United States declares public health emergency.

March 2020 

Many states begin to shut down to attempt slowing the spread of the coronavirus; most marine manufacturers have at least temporarily suspended operations.


March 2020 

Statistical Surveys Inc. reports that 2019 sales of niche but increasingly popular ski and wake boats sold almost 11,000 units, surpassing the once ubiquitous sterndrive bowrider category; sterndrive sales dropped to a historical low of 9,441 units.


March 20 

Regal announces it will shutter its 165,000-square-foot plant in Valdosta, Ga., and focus operations in its 500,000-square-foot world headquarters in Orlando, Fla. “This was a tough decision — unbelievably tough,” Regal CEO Duane Kuck said at the time. “There’s hardly anybody untouched by the impact of the coronavirus in one way or another.”


March 27 

Senate Passes Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill.


March and April 

The recreational boating industry began producing PPEs in the spring and continued into the summer.



The government rolls out the Paycheck Protection Program funding; the boating industry obtained more than $100 million in PPP between April and July.

April 20 

ICAST Show canceled; shifts to digital format. 


April 27 

The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a world pandemic.


April and May 

Most marine businesses have recommenced operations to some degree.



After an initial lag, new-boat sales strongly rebounded in May, up 59 percent compared to April and up 9 percent from prepandemic levels on a seasonally adjusted basis, National Marine Manufacturers Association reported.


May 13-14 

The NMMA hosted its American Boating Congress virtually for the first time, resulting in a record-breaking 900 attendees, 17 speakers, and top congressional and administration officials.


May 27 

U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000.


Statistical Surveys Inc. releases preliminary data showing that new boat registrations in June grew 20 percent year-over-year. Value-focused and entry-level segments performed especially well as people sought safe ways to recreate during the pandemic.



In a reversal of an ongoing decline — and indicative of the sudden crush of demand new boats during the pandemic — SSI reports registrations in the bowrider segment rose 12 percent after years of almost consecutive quarterly declines. Sterndrive bowrider registrations rose 8 percent, and outboard-powered bowriders jumped 50 percent.

June 15 

NMMA partners with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas to launch a national marketing campaign tailored to the pandemic called “Get On Board.”

June 30 

Newport International Boat Show canceled. 



Boat registrations soared, rising 4.1 percent year-to-date in all categories, and 25.2 percent year-over-year, according to preliminary data from SSI.

July 9 

Organizers announced that the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference will be held as a virtual event in response to the pandemic.

July 23 

A strategic alliance between NMMA and MRAA merged Grow Boating into NMMA.


August 1 

Groupe Beneteau rolls out an updated five-year strategic plan, which restructures management and seeks to shed four of its 12 brands, to effectively respond to hits taken during the global pandemic. Scarab was among the brands the group said it would eventually shed.


August 4 

The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law.


August 21 

The City of Annapolis canceled its two fall boat shows because of concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.

August 21 

Cannes Yachting Festival canceled.


Boat registrations for the month reflected the industry had more than recouped all of its initial losses due to the pandemic. Preliminary data from SSI showed new boat registrations rose 8.5 percent year to date in the main powerboat categories and 34.3 percent year over year. Every single category in the main powerboat segments was up at least 24 percent year over year; pontoons and bowriders were up 47 plus percent, and ski and wake was up 37.5 percent.’


Sept. 29-Oct. 2 

For the first-ever IBEX Online, nearly 3,000 visitors registered from 25 countries to take part. Over 1,650 exhibitor representatives participated from 474 companies, representing 10 countries.


Late September 

Southampton, Paris and Toronto Boat shows canceled.

October 15 

The industry secured $850 million in the federal government’s fiscal year 2020 budget for Great Lakes and Everglades restoration, marine sanctuaries and outdoor recreation projects.


October 27 

Metstrade 2020 — the world’s largest trade exhibition for equipment, materials and systems for the international leisure marine industry — shifts to an all-virtual format.

October 28 

A scaled-down version Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show opened, despite most large shows around the globe being cancelled, postponed, or held virtually. The show ran through Nov. 1 and was touted as a success.


October 29 

Info-Link Technologies Inc., a Florida firm that tracks new and used boat registrations, releases new data showing that almost all of the industry’s additional boat buyers through the pandemic were first-time buyers. The year will see roughly 25,000 more new boat purchases this year compared to last year — and more than 24,000 of those can be attributed to first-time buyers.

October 29 

The NMMA announced substantial cancellations and postponements to its boat, RV and sport show lineup for the first quarter of next year, including the Miami International Boat Show.

October 31 

The United States takes the global lead in cases of Covid-19, surpassing 8 million cases.

Nov. 3 

Informa postpones Miami Yacht Show.


Nov. 6 

The United States passes yet another grim milestone, logging 100,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day.

Nov. 7 

Joe Biden is declared winner of the presidential election after days of vote counting.


This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue.



Cox Expands Partnership with Gulf Yachts

The diesel outboard manufacturer said the agreement adds Bahrain and the UAE to Gulf’s territories in Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Lebanon.


Evoy Announces New Round of Capital

The Norwegian electric inboard and outboard manufacturer said it will use the funds to further develop its propulsion systems.


Newport Show Accepting Applications for Product Awards

The Newport for New Products program recognizes new boats, gear and more based on design, innovation and value to the consumer.


Freedom Boat Club Expands in Wisconsin

Parent Brunswick Corp. said it will open five new locations for this year’s boating season.


ABC 2022: That’s a Wrap

The American Boating Congress concluded Friday with an award presentation, discussions with representatives, a midterm election report from political analyst Charlie Cook, and a panel discussion about electrification.


Godfrey Breaks Ground on Expansion

The company said the additional manufacturing and warehouse space in Elkhart, Ind., will enable an increase in production.


Highfield USA Hires New President

The RIB builder said Christophe Lavigne will help develop the brand and operations in North America.