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Transient boaters drop $154m in Md.

The out-of-state boaters come and go, but when they sail away from Maryland they leave behind $154 million a year, according to the Marine Trades Association of Maryland. A study in 2004 by the trade group, the state’s Department of Natural Resources along with the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program, found that boaters spent this much on fuel, slip fees, food, entertainment and other cruising expenses.

“This study is just the first step in measuring the economic impact transient boaters have in the state,” says Ted Ruegg, president of the MTAM. “Based on this data, we will begin to explore options to expand Maryland’s $2.1 billion boating industry.” He says those options include encouraging transient boaters to make Maryland their home port, and use the state’s boatyards for their maintenance and repair work. The organization also wants a review of Maryland’s boating laws.

The study included a survey of owners’ Coast Guard documented vessels registered in other states, asking why they chose those states and not Maryland, says MTAM executive director Susan Zellers. “Those who paid attention to taxes said that played a big role” in their decision, she says. Most important, however, in choosing a home port was proximity to their homes, she says.

“This is a good start,” Zellers says. “We know people are coming through here and they are spending money when they come through here.” The next step is “sitting down with the state and asking whether we are doing anything [through state regulations] that is keeping boaters from coming here.”

Existing state laws levy a 5-percent tax on boats registered in Maryland, money that goes into the Waterway Improvement Fund, which in its existence has put $200 million into 3,000 public boating access projects, according to the state. The work has included channel markers, dredging, work on public landings, and the state’s Clean Marina program. The tax money also funds the Natural Resources Police and the purchase of local fire and rescue boats.