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Agents seize U.S., Canadian boats in Mexican marinas

Marina

MEXICO CITY — When heavily armed marines and government tax agents stormed eight marinas on Mexico’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts, boaters thought they were witnessing a major drug takedown.

The mostly American and Canadian retirees found out that the target was actually them — couples spending their golden years sailing warm-weather ports in modest 40-foot boats.

After inspecting more than 1,600 vessels in late November, the Mexican government’s Treasury Department announced it had initiated seizure orders against 338 boats it accused of lacking a $70 permit. The office says it has four months to decide whether to release the boats or sell them at auction.

Many owners say they actually have the permit but were never asked to present it. Others say minor numerical errors in paperwork were used as grounds for seizure.

Some say they were away at the time and have never been officially notified at all, learning of the seizure only from local marina operators.

It is all part of a new effort by President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration to increase government revenues in a country with one of the worst tax-collection rates among the world’s large economies.

The push has drawn howls of protest from Mexicans upset about new sales taxes and levies on home sales. But few of the new measures were as unexpected or toughly enforced as what foreign pleasure boat owners call a heavy-handed crackdown over a minor permit, and they say it threatens a tourism sector Mexico has long sought to promote.

“They brought all these marines, with machine-guns and stuff …,” said Richard Spindler, whose catamaran Profligate was impounded near Puerto Vallarta. “These are just retired people, 50-, 60-year-old retired people, mellow people. It was way over the top.”

The document in question, known as a Temporary Import Permit, can be obtained from a Mexican government website and proves holders own their boats and promise not to leave them in Mexico or sell them here.

Many boat owners say they simply weren’t around when authorities came by and slapped liens on the boats barring them from leaving Mexico. They say officials have not told them how they could remedy the situation.

One boater said marina operators warned that anyone who tried to leave would be hunted down. The owner, who expressed fear that speaking out by name could bring reprisals, said officials had given no written notice of seizure on their boat, and they had learned of it second hand from marina workers.

Hundreds of boats did present their papers on time and weren’t impounded. Elizabeth Shanahan, who lives on her boat at a marina in the Pacific coast resort of Nueva Vallarta, said she had no trouble when authorities came through, and that fellow boaters who didn’t initially have their papers in order were given 10 days to comply.

“It is the responsibility of the property owner, be it a boat or whatever, to know the laws of the country in which they are travelling and visiting,” she said.

The Treasury Department and its tax agency refused to specify the size, value or nationality of boats that were impounded and did not respond to numerous requests for details or reaction to the boat owners’ complaints.

Because authorities put no notices or chains on targeted boats, some foreigners in affected marinas are uncertain if their boats are on the impound list and fear their vessels might be seized if they tried to sail away even if they had paid the $70 tax.

“This is killing nautical tourism in a worse way than drug trafficking, because it’s the government itself that is taking the yachts,” said Enrique Fernandez, a member of Mexico’s Association of Marinas.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mark C. Johnson, said in an email that U.S. officials are holding discussions on the issue with the Mexican government. Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development said it knows of three Canadians whose boats were seized.

Spindler, who has been sailing to Mexico for 36 years and publishes the sailing magazine Latitude 38, estimated that about 45 of the 53 boats at the marina where his boat was seized are owned by Americans or Canadians.

“Mexico wants and greatly supports nautical tourism,” he said, but warned that the heavy-handed approach could put the sailing sector at risk.

“I’m getting all these letters from people now going: ‘Well, that’s it. I was going to go to Mexico, I was a little scared before, but now I’m not going to do it for sure,“’ he said.

Paradoxically, Mexico may be punishing some of its biggest boosters — visitors who return each year and keep marinas and boatyards in work.

“This is the killer, these people are the greatest ambassadors for Mexico you have ever heard,” Spindler said. “It’s given Mexico a really black eye.”

Written by: MARK STEVENSON and AMY TAXIN The Associated Press
January 2014

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Waterway Bill that passes House could have benefits for boaters

ALEXANDRIA, Va.: A bill that the US House of Representatives just passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, has Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) seeing seeing potential benefits for recreational boaters.

“We have national highway and air transportation systems,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Coordinator David Kennedy. “This is the first time since 2007 that Congress is moving forward with a much needed transportation bill for our waterways, and boaters stand to gain from it.”

Recreational boaters will benefit from language in the bill directing the Army Corps of Engineers to target funding to emerging harbors, or those that ship less than one million tons of cargo annually. H.R. 3080 allocates 10% of the total amount of expenditures that go to waterway operation and maintenance costs to be used at these emerging harbors. While these harbors and waterways may not carry the millions of tons of cargo of the bigger ports, they play a vital role in supporting recreational boating and commercial fishing.

The bill also takes some innovative approaches to waterway development policy such as streamlining project studies and looking at all of the individually authorized projects in the Great Lakes Navigation System as a single comprehensive system that recognizes the interdependence of the projects. Additionally, the Corps is directed to assess the operation and maintenance needs of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, taking into consideration their benefits to recreation, commercial fishing and navigation.

“We’d like to thank the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.; Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV; Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-OH, and Rep. Tim Bishop, D-NY for their leadership in moving this legislation forward. We truly appreciate their understanding of the vital role that emerging harbors and shallow draft channels play in thousands of communities across the nation,” stated Kennedy.

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Sea Doo strikes back with hot new entries to watercraft!

2014-SEA-DOO-SPARK-3UP_ACTION-298x147Analyst says new Sea-Doo Spark a ‘game-changing’ intro

BRP unveiled its 2014 lineup of Can-Am and Sea-Doo models last week to kick off its dealer meeting in Orlando, and the results were impressive, BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson told industry magazine Powersports Business, a sister publication of Boating Industry.

“… We view the new lineup very favorably. Based on the reaction from dealers, we believe the 2014 lineup has several other game changing introductions, particularly in Can-Am Spyder Roadster and Sea-Doo Personal Watercraft, which could offer incremental upside to the company’s earnings going forward,” Johnson reports in a research note provided to Powersports Business.

The new value-priced Sea-Doo Spark ($4,999 MSRP) “we think has the potential to significantly re-energize this mature market,” Johnson said. “The Sea-Doo Spark line of PWCs will be the least expensive PWCs on the market, ranging in price from US$4,999 for the base 2-up 40HP model to US$7,199 for a 3-up version with a 90HP engine and intelligent braking system. This compares to current PWCs on the market range from US$7,999 for the Yamaha WaveRunner VX Sport on the low end to US$17,999 for the Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 310X. Prior to the Spark announcement, the base price range on 2013 Sea-Doo PWCs was US$8,399 to US$16,999.”

Johnson compared the potential of a value-priced Spark to the tremendous success of the Kawasaki Ninja 300 street bike for the motorcycle market.

“This motorcycle, valued priced at under US$4,500 was likely the best single selling motorcycle in North America in 2013 and sold out at many dealers by late June,” Johnson told Powersports Business.

Johnson added that BRP does expect the Spark to cannibalize 10-percent of sales within it’s current PWC line-up, but said is forecasting C$65-70 million in sales from the Spark against C$35 million lost.

Combined with improvements to the rest of BRP’s portfolio, Johnson rates the company as “Outperform”.

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New Florida Law Will Benefit Marine Industry

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The bill includes pieces of legislation from non-marine industry groups also, and was classifed as an Environmental Regulation bill. It contains the following provisions that are important to Marine Industries:

* Managed Public Mooring Fields – Provides for general permitting of mooring fields not exceeding 100 vessels ; removes availability of a general permit for public marinas, so all marinas will be subject to the standard permitting process. Mooring fields are environmentally friendly and more economical. This language is intended to be an incentive for local governments to consider mooring fields in their area as they will reduce seagrass scarring by providing a place for boaters to tie up their boats instead of anchoring in seagrass areas. Another strong benefit of mooring fields is the provide pump out facilities for vessels.

*Boat Show Leases – Allows for 10-year leases or consents of use for boat show owners; allows reconfigurations of temporary docking facilities within the lease area; simplifies lease fee calculations to be based on the size of the actual preempted area and period of the preemption.

* Boat Show Permits – Directs DEP to issue special events permits, which run concurrently with the consent of use or lease of government property and which also allows movement of temporary structures within the lease area.

* Seawalls – Adopts the federal standard for restoration of seawall restoration. This does not eliminate anyone from occupying lands owned by the Board of Trustees or Water Management District. The language increases restoration of a seawall from it previous location from twelve inches to eighteen inches. This does not affect the permitting requirements of Chapter 161 and DEP rules.

* Multi-family Docks – Adds dock fee reductions for certain multi-family docks so they are more fairly treated as residential docks than commercial docks. This is a fairness issue. This bill treats condo owners with a dock the same as a single family homeowner.

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New Mobile App Provides Free Nautical Charts for Recreational Boating

MyNOAACharts, a new mobile app from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was released this week for Android tablets. The app has built-in GPS capabilities to allow users to find their location on NOAA charts and will be in a beta test until Labor Day weekend. At that point the NOAA will evaluate usage and user feedback to see if development should continue. For those not using an Android tablet, NOAA also offers free PDFs of the charts at http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov .

As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, NOAA is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, will be released on May 20.

MyNOAACharts, which can be used on land and on the water, has GPS built-in capabilities that allow users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has “geotagged” some of the major locations–embedding geographical information, such as latitude and longitude, directly into the chart so it is readable in the app–and provides links to appropriate federal regulations. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play™ app store.

“Easy and workable access to nautical charts is important for boating safety,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of Coast Survey. “I’ve seen a popular t-shirt that has a ‘definition’ of a nautical chart splayed across the front: ‘chärt, n: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit.’ As creative as that is, a boating accident can kill. Keeping a nautical chart on hand – to avoid hitting something – can save lives.”

The beta test for MyNOAACharts will expire this Labor Day, Sept. 2. Coast Survey will then evaluate usage and user feedback to decide whether to release a finished version of the app.

“Expanding the app across a multitude of platforms, ensuring easy accessibility to over a thousand charts and nearly 5,000 pages of U.S. Coast Pilot, will take considerable resources,” Glang said. “We can do it if the boating community likes the app. We truly want the users to let us know if the app meets their needs.”

Boaters without an Android tablet should not despair. The Office of Coast Survey provides free BookletCharts, which are 8 ½” x 11” PDF versions of NOAA nautical charts that can be downloaded and printed at home. The U.S. Coast Pilot is also available in a free PDF version. Those products, and information for purchasing other nautical products, are available at http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

Important notice for commercial mariners: The mobile app MyNOAACharts and the BookletCharts do not fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

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Honda Marine Launches All-New BF2.3 Portable Outboard

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Offers Lightest Weight in its Class

ALPHARETTA, Ga., April 16, 2013 – Honda Marine introduces the new BF2.3 horsepower (hp) four-stroke engine, one of the company’s smallest and most lightweight engines. Replacing the existing Honda BF2 model, the Honda BF2.3 portable outboard engine incorporates a host of Honda-exclusive technologies that provide increased value and benefit to consumers.

The new Honda Marine BF2.3 engine features bold new styling – indicative of the innovative design motif for all Honda portables and outboard engines. A sleek, aerodynamic shape and a refined new color and decal scheme provide for a modern appearance. Inside this striking new package is a truly improved engine product that optimizes performance, saves fuel and keeps emissions to a minimum.

“The new Honda Marine BF2.3 portable outboard is deceptive in its small stature,” said Alan Simmons, national manager, Honda Marine. “Beneath the engine’s compact and attractive exterior lies a technologically advanced design that lends itself to enhanced performance for a better boating experience. Without question, the Honda BF2.3 is a powerful, dependable and fuel-efficient giant.”

Lightweight, More Powerful and Fuel Efficient

Based on a commercial-grade Honda GX series general purpose engine, the new BF2.3 outboard supplies the same rugged and consistent power that many small industrial and residential power products rely on to help people get things done. The four-stroke, overhead valve, single cylinder Honda engine delivers smooth operation, easy starting and dependable performance in even the harshest of environments. Honda Engines are legendary for their ease of operation and best-in-class engineering and technology.

Specifically, the new BF2.3 delivers 15 percent more horsepower than its predecessor, the BF2. The BF2.3 still is the lightest outboard in its class, weighing just 29.5 pounds without propeller. Lighter weight translates into an easily transportable and maneuverable outboard, making trips to and from the boat a simple task.

As was the case for the outgoing Honda BF2 portable outboard, the new BF2.3 remains the most fuel efficient engine within its competitive set. While delivering best-in-class fuel economy, the engine also has been designed with the environment in mind, reducing emissions levels from the outgoing model.

Additional Features and Benefits, Ease-of-Use

A new, larger internal fuel tank allows the BF2.3 an increase of 12 percent in fuel capacity (as compared to the BF2), resulting in longer overall running times. Specifically, the BF2.3 can operate up to 60 minutes at full throttle on one tank of fuel. Since the tank is internal, it encourages easy removal and portability in its one-unit design.

For convenience, a centrifugal clutch on the new engine creates superb smooth idling capability. In relation, this clutch automatically engages the propeller above idle speed when the twist grip throttle is advanced.

Important to boaters is the ability to run in the shallows, and the BF2.3 does so with ease. Since the outboard does not require a water pump, clogging or damage from weeds or sand never are concerns.

Beginning summer 2013, the new Honda BF2.3 portable outboard engine will be available at Honda Marine dealers nationwide. All new Honda outboard engines sold for recreational use, including the new BF2.3, offer an industry-best True 5-year, non-declining limited factory warranty that is the same on the last day as it is on the first.

Honda Marine exclusively features four-stroke outboard engine technology for high fuel efficiency, quiet operation, and low emissions. Honda’s outboards share the same unparalleled durability, quality, and reliability of its legendary automobiles. With models ranging from 2.3 to 250 horsepower, the full line of Honda Marine current production models all certify to California Air Resources Board (CARB) 3-Star standards, ensuring their availability and regulatory compliance in all 50 states.

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Brunswick consolidates yacht production, suspends manufacturing in Merritt Island, Fla.

Brunswick-Boat-Group
Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC) announced today that it will consolidate its yacht and motor yacht production at its Palm Coast, Fla., manufacturing plant. As a result, Brunswick will suspend manufacturing at its Sykes Creek boat manufacturing facility in nearby Merritt Island, Fla., at the end of June. The Brunswick Boat Group’s (BBG) Product Development and Engineering center, located adjacent to the Sykes Creek plant, will remain in operation. In addition, BBG will continue to utilize the existing customer reception facilities, sales and customer service offices, and wet slips located on the Merritt Island campus.

The Sykes Creek plant, which currently manufactures Sea Ray and Meridian yachts and motor yachts from 51 to 61 feet in length, currently employs approximately 205 people in manufacturing. The Company is evaluating job opportunities for Sykes Creek personnel to help transition production to Palm Coast or at other BBG manufacturing facilities for those employees who are interested and able to relocate or commute.

“This action allows us to reduce production costs and shorten production cycle times of yachts. Further, the transition is planned so that we can take full advantage of initial retail demand for our new yacht models that we are bringing to the marketplace over the next two years. Concurrent with the transition, comprehensive marketing materials will be provided to our dealer network to support the pre-sale of the new yacht models under development. We can still support significant sales growth in these segments, as our post-consolidation manufacturing footprint will retain capacity to compete in a market in excess of 2.5 times current worldwide demand for yachts and motor yachts,” said BBG President Andy Graves.

“Difficult as it was, this action was a necessary step to match capacity with market demand, position Sea Ray for success with new yacht product development programs, and work toward our near-term operational and financial objectives,” Brunswick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dusty McCoy said.

When the entire consolidation is completed, the Company estimates that this action will result in annual savings of $3 million – $5 million beginning in 2014. Restructuring and impairment charges of $6 million – $8 million are expected to be recognized as a result of this action in 2013.

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