EBI marks 10th anniversary with a plea to the EU to show leadership in the years ahead

EBI President Jean-Pierre Goudant

EBI president Jean-Pierre Goudant in Brussels

Europe’s boating sector lobby has marked its 10th anniversary with a plea to the EU to show leadership in the years ahead in boosting Europe’s single market, easing transatlantic trade frictions, encouraging innovation and reversing climate change.

At a recent discussion event with EU officials in Brussels, European Boating Industry (EBI) stressed its members are the economic backbone of many communities in Europe’s maritime and coastal regions.

“We’ll work to strengthen them and our sector … in close collaboration with EU institutions and our stakeholders,” said EBI president Jean-Pierre Goudant.

According to the EBI, the EU’s boating industry comprises builders, equipment manufacturers, trade and service providers – 32,000 companies in all, employing 280,000-plus people.

High on the agenda of the Brussels-based EBI is EU-wide harmonisation of boating sector skills.

Today, charter and other companies complain non-recognition of skills among EU nations drives a shortage of skilled workers. EBI also urged the EU to tackle climate change, strengthening European industrial excellence and de-escalating EU-US trade frictions.

Philip Easthill, who recently took over as EBI secretary general, said getting “economic and environmental sustainability right is crucial for our sector to grow and provide jobs.”

Europe’s “blue economy”, according to EBI data, generates more than €500bn a year in revenues – 4% of the EU’s annual economic output.

EBI celebrated its 10-year anniversary at a high-profile event in Brussels earlier this month attended by IBI. Tiziana Beghin, a Member of European Parliament, opened the proceedings with an introductory statement highlighting the positive impact of the recreational boating industry in Europe and Italy, as well as its relevance for the EU institutions.

Moderated by journalist Jennifer Baker, the debate brought together Felix Leinemann (European Commission, DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), Mirna Cieniewicz (Groupe Beneteau), Boguslaw Liberadzki (Member of European Parliament), Sebastian Nietupski (Polboat) and Dr Anne-Cécile Dragon (WWF European Policy Office).

Following the event, EBI secretary-general Philip Easthill said: “We are committed to strengthening our work with the EU institutions, our members and stakeholders in order to contribute to common challenges at European level. We look forward to advancing discussions around trade, environment, circular economy, skills and the Single Market in our second decade. Getting economic and environmental sustainability right is crucial for our sector to grow, provide jobs and further develop. Clean and healthy oceans and seas are the lifeblood of our industry.”

Felix Leinemann (Head of Unit, European Commission DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) - “In the context of the European Green Deal, we will need to balance growth in nautical tourism with sustainability. I appreciate EBI’s commitment to work with the Commission on several sustainability elements: climate change, circular economy, respect for the environment, and especially our cooperation towards developing a European concept for the recycling of end-of-life recreational craft.”

Tiziana Beghin (Member of the European Parliament) - “The recreational boating industry is a key economic activity and employer for many regions across Europe, including the region of Liguria where I come from. Key for the industry is its export orientation where the EU has an overwhelmingly positive trade ratio. It is crucial for us as policy-makers to support this development and ensure that European companies can continue to grow by removing tariffs and trade barriers.”

Sebastian Nietupski (President, POLBOAT) - “One of the major challenges for our industry is that customers are getting older and younger generations have a different approach. As is happening with cars, bikes and houses, sharing is becoming the new norm and the same is true for boating. The sharing economy has the benefit to make boating even more accessible, but it forces producers to adapt their strategy in a new and wider way. A boat will not just be a boat - it will be a full-service package including financing and maintenance. This shift from product to service will be crucial for the EU to take into account when looking at its future industrial policy and extending the single Market.”

Mirna Cieniewicz (Director, Groupe Beneteau) - “Being sustainable is no longer a question, it is just about how to get there. Life-cycle assessment, eco-design, advanced production processes and materials are all areas to be investigated. We need more of this together with the support from the EU institutions to ensure progress is made across all the Single Market for the boats and their equipment. Having contributed to the creation of European Boating Industry as first-ever Secretary-General 10 years ago and now working for Europe’s largest boatbuilder, Groupe Beneteau, I am delighted to participate in these discussions at a European level within EBI.”

Boguslaw Liberadzki (Member of the European Parliament) - “The boating industry has a positive economic impact for Europe as I have clearly seen at the example of my own country Poland. As Member of the European Parliament, my vision for the coming years is to support and develop the boating industry and ensure it can thrive and grow across Europe. Ensuring coherence between sustainability and providing the basis for growth is the duty of the European Parliament and all EU institutions.”

Dr Anne-Cécile Dragon (Policy Officer, WWF EU) - “The coming years are crucial to protect our ocean and the resource base on which a sustainable Blue growth depends. Integrated maritime policies, sustainable financial and investment flows, as well as ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning are all important means to ensure an environmentally sustainable development of blue economy. WWF looks forward to working with the EU institutions and stakeholders, such as the European Boating Industry to make this a reality.”