When the superyacht industry wants a little help in pushing its message to the world, it turns to ICOMIA. The International Council of Marine Industry Associations has been speaking up on behalf of recreational boating since long before yachts became 'superyachts'.
In 1966, fourteen marine industry associations with a global vision co-founded the new organization. It is similar to the International Superyacht Society (ISS) but on a much larger scale, packing a lot more clout than any of the superyacht-specific associations can muster on their own. Through partnership, the industry is able to reach a much wider audience.
It has become increasingly apparent in the past several years that these types of relationships are integral to helping the industry shape its own environment. Instead of sitting back and waiting to see what is offered to them, many have felt it is important to stand up and speak out over regulations they consider unnecessary and invasive.
And while it’s important for the industry to do this on its own, it is also important to have allies in important places. ICOMIA has a close relationship with the European Union, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). In fact, ICOMIA is one of two industry associations with representation at the IMO – a considerable advantage in protecting industry interests.
“This is why ICOMIA is absolutely crucial for the future of our industry,” says ICOMIA Secretary General Tony Rice. “We need an organization to address all the issues that in any way deny or restrict the free flow of our industry’s products into the world markets. This is not just confronting hostile regulation but also developing standards that have universal recognition and acceptability.”
And within the superyacht sector, it has helped do just that through its Superyacht Refit Group, which works with repair and maintenance yards. The group has established a Code of Practice, which outlines professional working standards and specified environmental practices – another key part of ICOMIA’s mission.
Through its working groups and its Clean Marinas Program, the organization has helped foster a sense of responsibility toward the environment based on pragmatism. After all, who wants to cruise through a polluted sea?
It is through this cultivating this realistic philosophy that ICOMIA has built its reputation.
ICOMIA's mission and function
Boating veterans Tom Webb and Bill MacKerer founded ICOMIA in 1966 during the sixth Congress of the International Federation of Boat Show Organizers. It has grown from fourteen member associations to thirty-five industry associations across thirty-three countries.
Any nationally-recognized industry association can become a member, with two types of memberships available: Full and Sustaining. Full Memberships are only for marine industry associations, while Sustaining Memberships are offered to companies, organizations and publications within the industry.
“Vital issues concerning the industry are discussed in the various committees that deal with everything from technical issues to environmental developments,” says ICOMIA’s Communications Manager Barbara Fountoukos. “Each member can make her or his voice heard and has the opportunity to receive assistance or advice from their fellow marine industry associations.”
Peter Methven is the current president of ICOMIA. He is an Officer of the British Order, having been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for services to the recreational marine industry. He served as president of the British Marine Federation for three years. His role “requires a global vision,” he says. “And it is my intention to ensure ICOMIA continues to deliver relevant, valuable information to its members.”
Cleaner marinas, cleaner seas
The overarching concern regarding the protection of the sea is largely pragmatic. ICOMIA’s Environment Consultant Albert Willemsen says the recreational boating industry needs to be proactive on environmental issues because the long-term health of the industry depends on clean, attractive waterways.
“My personal feeling is that recreational crafts are a perfect example for sustainable recreation,” he says. After all, without the naturally beautiful scenery – the coral, the beaches, the clear water – there isn’t much pleasure in pleasure boating.
This is why ICOMIA has worked hard with its Clean Marinas Program, which was established in 2008. Through this, it encourages marinas and shipyards to meet an internationally recognized set of standards. It is currently active in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
“We developed sustainable production systems and facilities,” Willemsen says. “Keeping the waterways, the canals, the rivers clean with holding tanks and receptacle facilities at the marinas to empty the holding tanks; it doesn’t have to be very costly or difficult. And sometimes you can integrate the waste-treatments systems for treatment of biofouling and treatment of bilgewater.”
At the moment, international laws and regulations are all over the place – even among EU member states and among individual states in the US.
“We need international regulations – an international approach,” says Willemsen. “It’s fine having environmental regulations – it’s good for the future, it’s good for humans, for humanity…But still we are working in an international business…That’s the reason I’m always stressing that we need, more or less, a universal approach - which is not always easy and possible.”
ICOMIA helps to spread this message through its tri-annual World Marinas Conference, which regularly draws over 400 delegates, speakers and exhibitors from around the globe. The upcoming 2014 conference will be held in Istanbul on the 2nd-4th of June, with the following conference to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
As recreational boating expands its reach, so must ICOMIA, says Fountoukos, which is why it is reaching out to developing markets like Brazil.
In a global industry, it’s important to have some sense of uniformity that can be relied upon. Yachts transit the world and wherever they go, there are new and different laws to abide by.
On an international level, ICOMIA lobbies national governments and international organizations, says Fontoukos. These include the EU, IMO, US Environmental Protection Agency and ISO.
Through ICOMIA’s full-time consultative seat at the IMO, it's able to represent the recreational marine industry’s interests and keep the rest of the industry informed. It provides detailed reports after each IMO meeting and has been at the forefront of protecting superyacht industry interests.
At the moment, ICOMIA is working on several fronts, says Fountoukos. The IMO’s Tier III nitric oxide regulations are looming and ICOMIA has worked to bring together yacht builders, engine manufacturers and classification societies to work at the same table. The group initiated three studies to provide robust and objective data on the technical, social and economic impact this will have on large yachts.
It is also working to make the transition into the revised Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) as smooth as possible. “ICOMIA’s Marine Engine Committee worked actively with the bodies involved securing the principal issues in the revised RCD, which include more stringent engine exhaust emissions limits,” says ICOMIA Technical Manager Patrick Hemp.
And while ICOMIA works with governments in an effort toward standardization of laws and regulations, progress at an international level is often impeded by conflicting interests.
That’s why ICOMIA has also worked to change things from within the boating industry.
ICOMIA pushes standardization throughout the recreational boating industry. By working with the ISO, it ensures that products are safe and reliable.
ICOMIA financially supports the development of ISO boat building and marina equipment standards, so that countries can then reference them when setting their own criteria.
Through ICOMIA’s Superyacht Division, members are able to meet and discuss issues within this specific sector of the industry. It has helped develop a unified approach to the International Labour Organisation’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 and sought out exemptions and delays of other restrictive regulations.
In addition, Willemsen regularly updates an Environmental Legislation Guide, which outlines various environmental legislation and regulation and their implications on the industry. He translates these into practical procedures and standards.
“The guide outlines general themes, strategies and policies, and the latest from the IMO,” says Fountoukos. It is divided by region and theme, covering issues like loss of biodiversity and antifouling guidelines, underwater noise, engine exhaust emissions, recycling guides, and international standards on waste.
Partnering for the future of the yachting industry
As the superyacht industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s important that it learns from the past. More important are the lessons offered up throughout the last five years than the preceding twenty.
It has become abundantly clear that the industry can’t exist in a bubble and that partnerships are essential in establishing a strong foundation and a platform from which the industry speaks to the world. As ICOMIA agitates for the marine industry on a global stage, pushes for cleaner seas and makes legislation less complicated and intrusive for the rest of us, it becomes obvious why this influential organisation is in such demand.