NEWS NOTES

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New boat sales

down 19 percent

Year-to-year retail boat sales were down sharply in September, in part because of the unusually destructive hurricane season, according to preliminary figures from Statistical Surveys Inc.

Registration data for the month shows a decline of 19 percent from September 2003 figures in the fiberglass 14-foot-and-up category, according to the report. Aluminum boat sales were down 7.4 percent. Statistical Surveys says the figures are based on reports from 13 states, or 42 percent of the U.S. market.

Sales in storm-battered Florida were down 40 percent. South Carolina, which also saw hurricane damage, had a drop-off of 20 percent.

Other big boating states included in the data are California, Washington and Texas.

A Canadian tariff

could hit boating hard

The cost of U.S.-built boats will double in Canada and sales north of the border likely will decline if the Canadian government implements a plan to charge a 100-percent surtax on goods imported from the United States, industry leaders warn. The surtax would apply to sailboats, powerboats, inflatables and canoes, among other products.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association opposes the plan and is asking its members to contact their dealers in Canada and urge them to voice their opposition. “This surtax would be devastating to U.S. boat manufacturers that export vessels to Canada,” says NMMA President Thom Dammrich. “It would double the price of all American boats sold over the border, eliminating our competitiveness in the Canadian market.”

The NMMA says the surtax is a retaliation for the Byrd Amendment, a law that allows duties collected from anti-dumping and countervailing to be given to U.S. firms that petition for tax relief. The amendment, named after Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), was challenged by a number of countries in the World Trade Organization. The WTO ruled that the amendment violates their trade agreements and member countries can retaliate against the United States. Canada also intends to levy tariffs on many other imported U.S. goods. www.nmma.org

Brunswick CEO presses dumping allegations

If U.S. pricing policies for Japanese outboard manufacturers are allowed to continue, the names Evinrude, Johnson and Mercury could disappear from the U.S. marketplace, according to Brunswick Corp. chairman and CEO George W. Buckley.

In a Dec. 1 statement detailing why Brunswick has pressed its federal price-dumping allegations against Japanese outboard manufacturers, Buckley also contends dumping was “a significant contributor” to the demise of Outboard Marine Corp. in 2000.

Dumping is when a company exports a product at a price lower than it charges in its own market. Phil Dyskow, president of Yamaha Motor Corp. USA’s Marine Group, says pricing margins are illegal only if the U.S. industry is harmed by those margins. He says Brunswick and its Mercury Marine subsidiary will have to prove to the International Trade Commission that the companies were financially injured — after reporting big earnings gains all year.

After hearing testimony in December, the ITC was expected to issue a ruling sometime in February.

Boating stats

available online

Most statistical research available on the recreational boating industry now can be viewed at one Web site, developed by the Recreational Marine Research Center.

The Recreational Boating Research Network, at www.boatingresearch.com, includes more than 1,200 past studies that are accessible for researchers and anyone interested in boating industry statistical information.

“This is the first effort to consolidate and collect all existing research on the recreational boating industry in one location,” said Jim Petru, NMMA market research director, in a statement. “As much as 80 percent of the information on the site is accessible to anyone who registers as a member of the Recreational Boating Research Network.” (There is no cost to register.)

Development of the Research Network was funded by a Coast Guard grant, which was endowed to the Recreational Marine Research Center to improve current statistical information on recreational boating.

New ADA regulations could affect chartering

The Department of Transportation is looking for industry comments on how a new regulatory proposal might affect the marine charter industry.

The National Marine Charter Association says the DOT is planning to propose new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for small passenger vessels. Some of the issues that could affect charter outfits include vessel sizes, barrier removal and program accessibility, shore to vessel transition, access to on-board facilities and economic considerations.

NMCA says it will be filing comments on behalf of the charter industry, but also encourages individuals to submit comments. To file online go to dms.dot.gov (docket number OST-2004-19700). Comments on the proposed ADA regulations must be filed by March 28. www.marinecharter.org

West’s new chief exec

comes by way of 49ers

West Marine has tapped Peter Harris as chief executive officer, effective Jan. 3. Harris, who succeeds retiring CEO John Edmonson, most recently was chief executive of the San Francisco 49ers football team. He previously served as chief executive of FAO Schwartz Inc. and of the department store unit of Lucky Stores. Harris also will become a member of West Marine’s board.

Based in Watsonville, Calif., West Marine has 365 retail stores in 38 states, Canada and Puerto Rico, and records more than $660 million in annual sales. www.westmarine.com

— Written and compiled by JoAnn W. Goddard