Riding High

The British Marine Federation (BMF) is the trade association for the UK leisure, superyacht, and small commercial marine industry. The association has had a presence in the industry right back to 1913 and the start of the growth of yachting for pleasure in the UK. At this time the federation operated under the name Boat, Yacht and Allied Trades Association, but shared many of the same aspirations as today’s incarnation of BMF in terms of promoting and protecting its members’ interests, and addressing legislation.

Over the years the association has changed name several times before finally becoming the BMF in the 2003 re-brand. At present, the association represents 12 regional associations, 16 group associations, and over 1400 members including boat builders, service providers, equipment manufacturers, and their associated supply chains.

With the organisation’s membership ranks continuing to swell, including 16 new members in October 2012 alone, CEO Howard Pridding reiterates some of the benefits of this relationship: “We represent the voice of the industry to Government, agencies and key decision makers. Members also recognise the value in using the BMF logo which demonstrates that they adhere to our code of practice, and gives consumer confidence when buying from one of our members. Advice and service is a core part of our offering with a team of experts on hand to help members with a number of marine specific issues from technical and legal compliance matters through to business growth internationally and training. Furthermore, as the organisers of two forefront annual industry exhibitions: PSP Southampton Boat Show and Tullet Prebon London Boat Show which provide a vital UK sales platform and enable them to reach new customers, we offer our members an exhibiting discount.”

Having long championed the leisure sector, last year BMF moved into new waters with the launch of its constituent group association – BMF Commercial Marine. Launched at the 2011 Seawork exhibition, BMF Commercial Marine has been created to provide greater support to companies operating in the workboat sector. This is an area of the market that is rapidly expanding as a result of offshore renewable energy activities. The association is focused on working with companies that design and build commercial craft of up to 24-metre load line length, supply chain companies, and service providers.

From an initial involvement of 30 companies, in under a year BMF Commercial Marine had seen its membership triple to over 100 companies. These members range from workboat builders to surveyors and naval architects, as well as engine, electronics and equipment suppliers. In much the same way as BMF as a whole, BMF Commercial Marine exists to support its members through technical advice, stronger representation and promotion to Government and agencies, and a programme of national networking opportunities. In particular, the current interest in the offshore renewable market has created a need for a united force to ensure that the UK commercial marine industry sits at the forefront of renewable energy developer’s minds.

Over a year on, Howard outlines how BMF Commercial Marine has continued to integrate itself within the industry: “The BMF has fully engaged with the members involved in the commercial sector and is continually providing guidance and information on support available from regulatory intervention to wider business opportunities including export. Once again BMF Commercial marine had a significant presence at Seawork this year in order to support the membership at this critical show, which also succeeded in raising the profile of BMF further in the sector.

“At all levels the introduction of BMF Commercial Marine has been treated as a very positive step forward in terms of the future of the UK small commercial sector. The association acts as a universal voice for its members in raising the industry’s profile and addressing the issues faced by the vessel builders. It also creates a line of communication between its members and the industry decision makers, whilst opening up networking opportunities, both at home and overseas, which will help these companies thrive in a competitive marketplace.”

The BMF’s Technical team is working on a number of issues for the industry that impact on the leisure and commercial sectors such as the MARPOL Annex VI Tier III NOx emission requirements that are due to come into force in 2016. As a result of this work, just recently the MCA agreed to include charter vessels with a length of less than 24-metres in the exemption from these requirements. The association is also fully engaged in the update of MGN 280, the MCA’s code of practice for commercial craft up to 24-metres in length, which has been eagerly awaited by many of the industry’s commercial boat builders.

In terms of the other areas that the BMF is concerned about going forward, and how the federation is engaging with these, Howard says: “Skills are high on the BMF’s agenda and the shortage of engineers in our industry and others is a hot topic at present. In the next ten years many current engineers will reach retirement age leaving a skills shortage in the sector.

BMF is working with the National Apprenticeship Service and our sector skills council SEMTA to highlight apprenticeships to our members. We have also written, with industry input, a Marine Engineering Apprenticeship pathway which is available for marine companies to use in conjunction with colleges and training providers and is hoped will train the next generation of engineers.”

Another major step forward has been the BMF Supply Chain Initiative, which was first brought to the table in September 2011 with a seminar at the PSP Southampton Boat Show. Supported by Manufacturing Advisory Service South East, this acted as an open forum for a wide range of issues, but the immediate requirement was to provide a forum to develop relationships within the supply chain. “The aim of the initiative is to encourage and support closer collaboration and more effective business relationships between boatbuilders, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers. The initiative is steered and directed by an industry working group comprising major UK boatbuilders and supply chain companies,” begins Howard.

“To assist in this the BMF arranged a Supply Chain Conference in March 2012 sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board. This event attracted 90 delegates and 220 meet the buyer meetings were held in addition to a series of presentations from Government agencies and business support organisations. A similar conference is planned for March 2013, and at the same time the BMF is actively seeking Government support for this initiative and has developed a proposal with a view to securing funding,” he continues.

Looking to the future Howard concludes: “As the BMF, our challenge is to provide relevant services, ensure strong representational voice for our industry and run exhibitions that provide a sales platform for marine companies. The world has changed significantly over recent years and the BMF must be in a position to meet the changing needs of our members.”

British Marine Federation
Leisure boating trade association
Supports and promotes industry
New commercial department