Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Could new slips bring
new tax revenue?

Have you heard of the National Marine Manufacturers Association?

If not, don't feel badly because most of NMMA's members probably aren't very aware of Hawaii's boaters either.

According to NMMA, its members represent more than 1,400 companies that produce every conceivable product used by recreational boaters, and something like 80 percent of the marine products used in North America are produced by NMMA members.

The organization provides its members with government-relations advocacy, marketing tools (including boat shows), quality assurance and industry-related statistical data.

For instance, NMMA has just released its latest U.S. Recreational Boat Registration Statistics summary. The summary provides its members a comprehensive breakdown and analysis of registered boats in each state in 2002, the Coast Guard's most recent report.

With these statistics, its members can determine not only if their companies are getting their fair share of the market, but if they are focusing on the best markets for their goods and services.

Ordinarily, the larger the market, the more likely the demand will be for both.

And that's why I doubt NMMA members spend much time considering our recreational boating market. As usual, Hawaii is at the absolute bottom of the boat-registration list -- number 50 out of 50 states.

While the U.S. saw an increase of some 154,000 boats registered in 2002 over the previous year -- and California, Michigan and Florida lead the nation, each with around a million registered boats -- the registered boats in Hawaii numbered only 15,445, just 268 more than in 1996.

Considering that the 49th-ranked state -- Wyoming -- has almost 13,000 more boats than Hawaii, this would be the last place in the nation I would expect a boating-related company to find attractive.

Never mind that our state's island archipelago has 1,052 miles of shoreline (just 358 fewer than Oregon) and Wyoming is land-bound and has a population less than half of ours.

When the NMMA statistics show that only one in every 81 residents here own a boat compared to one in 18 in Wyoming, the odds for sales look far better in cowboy country.

Am I the only one who thinks it odd that while our state's leaders continue to search for ways to become less dependent on tourism, they seem to ignore what surrounds them -- the ocean and the recreational boating industry it could support?

As nearly anyone involved in recreational boating here will tell you, Hawaii's environment is as good as it gets.

The tradewinds blow steady and the ocean's year-round warm, clear waters are teeming with life. So whether your love is fishing, sailing or just cruising from place to place, you aren't likely to be disappointed.

The only significant ingredient missing for boaters here is an infrastructure commensurate with the population. As it has been said about baseball diamonds, and as the Ko Olina Marina has proved, "if you build it, they will come."

I would imagine that a Ko Olina-like marina on Maui would have a waiting list long before the first slip was built, given that island's population growth in the last few years.

New slips equals new boat sales equals new marine product sales equals new business opportunities equals new tax revenues. Could it be that simple?

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at


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