There are 37% fewer boats registered in the state now than there were in 2004

The number of registered boats and occupied marina slips on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has dramatically declined since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, despite efforts to reinvigorate the area following the storm.

When it reopened in 2011 with a US$20m facelift, there were high hopes for the 319-wet slip Gulfport Small Craft Harbor, but occupancy is still at just 42%.

“Our projection was we would be at about 75%. That would make us self-sustainable, and we have not reached 75% yet,” Harbormaster George Manemann told WLOX-TV.

With occupancy and revenues down, Manemann said, the financial situation is not critical in terms of meeting operating costs, but future plans of improving the marina are in jeopardy.

“Where we’re having trouble is finding capital to put into an improvement budget. We need to put money away for improvements and maintenance down the road,” Manemann said.

US Coast Guard numbers indicate there are 37% fewer boats registered in Mississippi now than there were in 2004. More public boat launches have been built. People appear to be more apt to trailer boats and use the ramps as opposed to spending money on slips in harbours. There are other factors that might contribute to the numbers being down at marinas across the region.

“People lost boats in Katrina, then the recession came along. People are less likely to buy the bigger boats that are in the water,” according to Manemann.

Daryl Rester from Texas lives on his sailboat at the Gulfport Municipal Marina. He noticed one interesting trend. “Not as many young people seem to be into boating, or sail boating the size that are in this marina,” he said.