To celebrate its 10 anniversary, the European Boating Industry brought together leaders of its different countries’ boating sectors, members of the European Parliament, and European Commission officials recently in Brussels, Belgium.
Beyond the celebrations, the group held discussions and put together a wish list of issues that it hopes to tackle over the next 10 years. Its vision plan includes economic sustainability, environmental protection and industry innovation, according to a statement. The group also listed key priorities that include streamlining the EU’s single market for boat and engine sales, de-escalating the EU-US trade war, harmonizing qualifications across the industry, tackling environmental challenges and strengthening European industrial excellence.
“Our anniversary is a great time to look back at EBI’s achievements and celebrate ten years of advocacy for our sector,” said EBI President Jean-Pierre Goudant, during the opening keynote. “It is also an opportunity to emphasize the importance of our sector as an economic actor for the EU. Our members, many of them SMEs [small and medium enterprises], provide tens of thousands of jobs and are often the backbone of local communities and economies. As EBI, we will work to strengthen our sector through a truly European approach in close collaboration with the EU institutions and our stakeholders.”
The EBI represents 32,000 companies that employ more than 280,000 across Europe. Most companies are small and medium enterprises.
Tiziana Beghin, a member of the European parliament, highlighted the positive impact of recreational boating in Europe and her home country of Italy. “It is crucial for us as policy-makers to support this development and ensure that European companies can continue to grow by removing tariffs and trade barriers,” she said to the group.
The association then heard a panel discussion from government officials and industry participants on issues facing Europe’s boating industry. Several spoke about the importance of the European Green Deal and environmental sustainability across the industry, including programs for recycling old boats.
“Being sustainable is no longer a question, it is just about how to get there. Life-cycle assessment, eco-design, advanced production processes and materials are all areas to be investigated,” said Mirna Cieniewicz, a director with Groupe Beneteau. “We need more of this, together with the support from the EU institutions to ensure progress is made across all the Single Market for boats and their equipment.” Cieniewicz added that discussions would be ongoing with the EU and EBI.
Sebastian Nietupski, president of Poland’s marine trade association Polboat, said that the EU will need to reassess how it views boats. “As is happening with cars, bikes and houses, sharing is becoming the new norm and the same is true for boating,” he said. “The sharing economy has the benefit to make boating even more accessible, but it forces producers to adapt their
strategy in a new and wider way. A boat will not just be a boat — it will be a full-service package including financing and maintenance. This shift from product to service will be crucial for the EU to take into account when looking at its future industrial policy and extending the Single Market.”
Nearly all of the speakers spoke about balancing the growth of boating and environmental protection, including the oceans, by including associations like EBI.
“Integrated maritime policies, sustainable financial and investment flows, as well as ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning are all important means to ensure an environmentally sustainable development of blue economy,” said Dr Anne-Cécile Dragon, policy officer for the World Wildlife Federation for the EU. “WWF looks forward to working with the EU institutions and stakeholders, such as the European Boating Industry to make this a reality,” she said.