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Bringing Boating to Capitol Hill

Sustainability, innovation, electrification and policy-making were all on the agenda at the American Boating Congress
Courtesy NMMA, Rarrarorro - Adobe Stock

Following the American Boating Congress gathering in Washington, D.C., in May, it is crystal clear that a spirit of innovation is alive and well in the recreational boating community. Companies of all sizes were in attendance to restate their commitment to the next generation of boating, one that amplifies the industry’s long-held dedication to environmental stewardship and conservation.

Our work to build on this responsibility is well underway, and the industry has taken steps to focus on the next generation of boating via product line enhancements, policy imperatives and expanding accessibility to new boating technologies.

Recreational boating leaders are working diligently to make product lines more sustainable. From incorporating recycled materials into manufacturing processes to exploring next-generation propulsion systems, member companies in the National Marine Manufacturers Association have shown a clear desire to explore new frontiers. At ABC 2022, a first-ever product showcase displayed a firsthand look at the industry’s commitment to advancing conservation and environmental stewardship — demonstrating the latest in electric boat battery life, as well as improvements in biofuels and fuel efficiency for traditional engines.

In conjunction with the product showcase, ABC attendees heard from a panel of industry and non-industry representatives regarding the opportunities and challenges facing the recreational boating industry’s transition to next-generation technologies. Moderated by NMMA’s Callie Hoyt, representatives from Ingenity, Brunswick, Yamaha and Torqeedo discussed what they have seen in propulsion innovation efforts, and fielded a wide range of questions.

According to the panelists, educating consumers about product evolution, particularly in electrification, presents a challenge. Ingenity’s Sean Marrero noted that there are electric boat myths, and companies need to tell the story of how they can have long battery lives while removing the noise of traditional engines. Several speakers discussed pathways to affordability, and made the connection to the automotive industry, which has emphasized access to fuel-efficient and electric vehicles. These challenges and opportunities are real, and we are leading on the solutions to propel our industry forward.

Legislators and the recreational boating industry continue to work together to create a policy landscape that balances the need for recreational access with the imperative of maintaining clean air and clean water. Industry advocates educated policy-makers and their staff on Capitol Hill about how boating and fishing stands as the true powerhouse of the outdoor recreation economy. We told the story of how boaters and anglers are America’s original conservationists.

Additionally, the NMMA honored U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., a tireless advocate for recreational boating in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, as Legislator of the Year. Mace is a key sponsor of the Prepare Act, which promotes community readiness for climate-related events, and has championed many of our industry’s policy priorities throughout her first term.

Further, ABC attendees heard from members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about their work to pass a new and improved Water Resources Development Act this year. The NMMA has worked tirelessly to incorporate provisions that would fully fund Army Corps of Engineers recreation projects, creating safe, accessible and sustainable waterways.

It’s clear that the recreational boating industry is preparing for the future. To underscore this commitment, the NMMA has begun the process of benchmarking our progress as an industry. This spring, the association requested feedback from member companies about how they are improving their environmental footprint and promoting sustainability. Common themes from respondents included waste reduction and the establishment of clear environmental controls. Many have begun to track and reduce emissions from facilities, but there is always work to be done. We are proud that our members are hiring dedicated sustainability professionals to meet the demand for climate initiatives, and we look forward to working with the industry to advance these efforts.

All of this underscores the industry’s commitment not only to clean water and an environment we can be proud of, but also to a realistic view of how we can contribute to a greener economy and environment. Looking ahead, the NMMA will continue to emphasize the importance of building on our progress while focusing keenly on the next generation of boating. We are already eagerly awaiting ABC 2023, and can’t wait to see you there. 

John-Michael Donahue is vice president, North American public affairs, for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

John-Michael Donahue is vice president, North American public affairs, for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue.

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