Marine businesses have voice on oil spill task force

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The state of Florida convened a task force to assist businesses affected by the Gulf oil spill.

The Governor's Gulf Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force includes representatives from various state agencies, such as the departments of emergency management and environmental protection, as well as representatives from state industries affected by the spill.

Frank Herhold, outgoing executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, represents recreational boating's interests to the group.

The group met Wednesday in Pensacola, Fla., Herhold said, and is looking at action plans and what can be done to stabilize the situation in the short term, as well as what can be done to help businesses in the long term.

"We're going to be living this for quite some time," he told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

Herhold said he's on a BP claims subcommittee that is working to ensure businesses "are made whole and the lights aren't turned off." As of June 22, he said, BP has paid out $123 million in claims to businesses throughout the Gulf region.

"BP is doing everything they can to make the direct recipients of the oil spill impact as whole as possible," he said.

Herhold said he plans to question the company as to how far up the food chain it will reimburse companies for losses. For example, can a manufacturer who sells products in the Gulf region be reimbursed for a loss of sales?

"It's an environmental disaster second to none, and the recreational marine industry is sharing the pain," he said.

John Naybor, who owns three Pensacola marinas - Island Cove Marina, Palm Harbor Marina and Yacht Harbor Marina - said he's feeling the impact from the spill, despite the fact that he's about five miles from the Gulf in Bayou Chico, which is off Pensacola Bay.

In May, about three or four boats left his marinas and another dozen or so left in June. His three marinas have about 225 slips.

"Thirty percent of our customers are fisherman, so we have one-third of our customer base that can't use their boats for fishing. If you can't use your boat, then you start making adjustments. Is it worth paying all that money to keep your boat if you can't use it?," he told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

He's also had sailboat owners take their boats out of the marina, though sailing has been fine in the bay.

Naybor said BP is paying him slip rental fees for each boat that leaves his marinas, as long as that slip is empty. Last month he invoiced them about $800, but that's gone up to about $8,000 this month.

BP is also reimbursing Naylor for oil absorbent booms he's putting around boats if his customers request it.

"[Last year] was the worst year we've had since the recession and 2010 was just starting to pick up," Naybor said. "We had a very short four-month period where our sales were actually going up, we were filling up with boats and it was starting to get back and everybody was starting to get the feeling that this was going to be the first good season of recovery and then this hits and then it just flattened out in May, and in June it started to nosedive in the other direction again. People are starting to panic a little bit.

"We're all pretty banged up entering into this thing," he added. "If we were all in great health and things were great, I'm sure people would not be nearly as distressed as they are."

— Beth Rosenberg

b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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