Industry » Features » British Marine Federation: Over 100 years of service

British Marine Federation: Over 100 years of service

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The British Marine Federation has been supporting the pleasure yachting and leisure boat industry in the United Kingdom since Edwardian times. If you’re looking for proof, just take a look at the association’s rather onerous original name: the Boat and Yacht Builders’ and Proprietors and Allied Trades Protection Association.

The name itself was longer than most modern elevator pitches.

However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. Throughout the years the British Marine Federation (or BMF) has changed in many ways, aside from taking on a much sleeker moniker. It has modernised and adapted to the times in a variety of ways, not least of which has been the establishment of two of the most successful boat shows in the world – in London and Southampton. 

However, in all those years, the main focus of the association has remained true to its original goals.

“The aim of the association included the promotion and protection of its members and the promotion or opposing of legislation,” says Howard Pridding, BMF’s Chief Executive. “This representational role today still lies at the heart of the BMF’s mission, along with delivering high quality services, benefits and commercial activities.”

The association’s success is evident in the high level of its membership. Currently there are nearly 1,600 member companies, says Pridding, a number which represents some 73% of the entire leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry in Britain.

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“By representing three-quarters of the industry, the BMF has gained great influence in supporting the growth of the marine industry,” says Pridding.

It is, therefore, perhaps no coincidence that the yachting industry at times feels like it is controlled by Brits. That’s because the British have been organised from the very beginning with a powerful and effective association that has benefitted greatly from industry support.

Through promotion, legislation and services, the BMF has been a stalwart representative of yachting in the U.K. And just one year after celebrating its centennial, the BMF appears to be every bit as influential as ever.

From the docks, to the Lords

The Boat and Yacht Builders’ and Proprietors and Allied Trades Protection Association (known more commonly by its easy-going acronym: BYPATPA) was founded in 1913. By 1915, they were involved in a successful fight in the House of Lords to allow for public access over the River Thames in Richmond.

Over the ensuing decades, the BMF grew and expanded. It lobbied on behalf of minimum wages for skilled workers, it played a central role in the coordination of Admiralty Contracts during the Second World War, and it developed a cross-party political lobby to help the industry weather any and all possible governmental storms.

Howard Pridding“Over the last 101 years, there have been many milestones for the marine industry that have been aided by the BMF and that have helped shape the industry we see today,” says Pridding, who has been with the federation for 21 years.

“Last year it was an honour for me to be Chief Executive at the time of BMF’s centenary and to follow the work of the previous CEOs,” said Pridding. “Not only was it an opportunity for me to look back on the BMF’s past but also to look forward to how we can progress our work for our members and the marine industry that we support.”

Throughout the years, the association changed its name several times – always shortening and making it more succinct along the way – until in 2008 it finally landed on the British Marine Federation.

It is the leading trade association in the U.K. for the leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry. It represents nearly 1,600 member companies, and individuals from around 4,200 businesses, with a collective turnover of around £2.85 billion.

Working hard for the industry

The BMF now has a full-time team of more than 50 individuals who work within the policies and business strategy set by the Management Board, which is overseen by the BMF National Council.

Given that its members are involved in an array of business ventures in a variety of regions, the BMF is divided administratively into 31 groups and regional associations. “These cover one particular sector of the industry, such as the BMF Boatbuilders and the Marine Trades Associations,” says Pridding. “Or they will represent a particular geographic region, such as BMF East Anglia and BMF Scotland.”

All of these group and regional associations maintain their own level of autonomy and pursue their own particular goals. However, the BMF itself is focused on oversight and larger, industry-wide initiatives.

Each year revolves around two big events: the boat shows.

The London Boat Show takes place each January, while the Southampton Boat Show is held every September. Both shows are run by BMF’s exhibition organising subsidiary, National Boat Shows.

“They offer an ideal platform for showcasing members and the strength of the industry, both being in the top 10 boat shows in the world,” says Pridding. They also provide the setting for the association’s key annual meetings and key events, such as the publication of the BMF’s annual state of the industry statistics at the London Boat Show.

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“We also use our boat shows as a platform to showcase the success of our industry to politicians and the media,” he says.

This is one way in which the BMF promotes and lobbies on behalf of the industry. In addition, its representatives are “continuously meeting with hundreds of MPs and government officials to raise the profile of the industry and seek opportunities for members,” says Pridding.

One of the newest methods of achieving this is through the BMF Manifesto, which was released for the first time in January, says Pridding. “It is to be used by us and our members when talking with government officials and bodies,” says Pridding. “It clearly sets out the policies the industry would like to see delivered by the next government to support jobs, growth and innovation in the U.K.’s marine industry.”

It pays to be a member

In addition to these larger-picture initiatives, the BMF provides tangible support to each of its members. They provide a variety of services on areas such as technical, training, international development and statistics, as well as commercial benefits and legal and business support.

“The BMF has a full-time team of experts in their fields who are on hand for any member who has a question or just wants advice and support,” says Pridding. “Many members simply see us as an extension of their team – particularly perhaps in areas where they have skills gaps.”

Information and advice is only a phone call away on everything from regulatory and environmental issues, all the way through training and recruitment – even representation on legal and financial matters.

“Today the BMF awards over £25,000 in training grants to members and runs five industry qualifications for the Marina, Boat Sales and Electrical and Electronics sector,” says Pridding.

Full BMF membership also grants a member free membership to a BMF regional association and to other groups and associations relevant to their business.

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Always adapting, looking ahead

Every year, the BMF Management Board holds a two-day strategic meeting to ensure that it and its subsidiary associations are meeting their members’ needs.

“As an organisation, we have to be flexible and prioritise to support the industry,” says Pridding. “Recently we have led the revision of apprenticeships in the industry and developed a supply chain initiative to develop relationships between boatbuilders and marine equipment manufacturers.”

Through these meetings and initiatives like the BMF Manifesto, the association is staking its claim for the industry. It is stating in no uncertain terms exactly what the industry needs to thrive and it is placing itself at the forefront of positive innovation.

In that way it is constantly keeping an eye on the future in order to fulfil its mission statement: “We will lead and promote our industry and work with our members to achieve sustainable growth in a competitive global environment, through the provision of world-class goods and services.”

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