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Wednesday
Dec122012

What would global standards mean for marinas?

This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age – July/Aug 2012. 

How many of you reading this article are familiar with the International Organization for Standardization, more often referred to as ISO? Most likely your concerns are focused on keeping your business profitable during these trying economic times and not on some foreign organization.

If you have not heard of this organization, let me tell you a little about it. The organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and is made up of a network of the national standards institutes from 163 countries around the world, including the U.S. ISO bills itself as a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors of society.

ISO marina standards

By now you are probably asking yourself, why does this concern me? Well, as a member of the International Marina Group (IMG) of ICOMIA at our recent meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, our committee was presented with a draft of the proposed ISO TC 228/WG 8, Yacht Harbours—Minimum Requirements. This organization is attempting to produce a document that outlines the minimum standards by which a recreational marina will be built and operated.

According to ISO, “Standards ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability—and at an economical cost.”  This all sounds well intended, but anyone with any knowledge of marinas knows that no two marinas are alike, nor is their customer base. The question is, with such a diverse industry, how does a single set of standards apply? In my opinion, there is merit for standardizing products that serve an international market, but marinas?  Give me a break!

ISO does recognize the uniqueness of marinas, as stated in its introduction of the draft, “Recognizing that every yacht Harbour (i.e., marina) is unique, the purpose of this standard is to set out minimum requirements, which are suitable for all yacht harbours. Special attention has been given to user’s safety and environment protection.”

The introduction continues, “The aim of this international standard provides yacht harbour operators with a practical tool to: 1, promote health, safety and respect to the environment; 2, ensure the compliance with applicable laws; 3, help to the development of the yacht harbour industry, surrounding spaces and communities by sharing global practices; and 4, provide nautical tourists with harmonized information and services across yacht harbours and to give them a broad choice of offers regardless of their location.”

Globalization

In reviewing the current standards that are being proposed, if your marina plans were to follow the proposed ISO standards, I do not believe there is any governmental agency in this country that would allow you to build.  Our federal, state and local regulations that are required in order to get a marina permitted and operating are much more restrictive than those being proposed.  My concern is the trend in this country toward globalization of everything we do and where it could lead.

Here is my view on how this could play out for the marina industry, if industry standards are adopted: we have ISO, a well intended international organization, claiming to be non-governmental, which implies that it is industry driven and that knowledgeable marina experts are the ones developing these standards.

I am not going to judge the qualifications of the people developing these standards because the ones that I have seen being proposed for the most part are just common sense if you want to succeed in business.  The standards proposed in this first draft are broad and non intrusive, particularly for any marina here in the U.S. However, I fear that once an industry is targeted to have standards, there is no end and even though this first set of standards is general in nature, inevitably standards that are more intrusive will follow.

What is particularly concerning about this is the global nature of these standards. Also, governmental agencies have a tendency to take standards that an industry has imposed on itself and turn them into governmental regulations.  I can tell you from personal experience that a marina in Larnaca, Cyprus, does not have much in common with a marina on Lake Travis in Texas.

As you probably have gathered by now I am opposed to imposing standards on marinas, particularly global standards. I do not believe it is practical to have a single set of global standards for such a diverse industry as marinas. I believe the free market will determine what you need to do in order to have a successful marina. If you provide an inferior product or service, you will go out of business, or competition for customers will keep you making good business decisions. 

We have plenty of examples in this country of failing marinas because they did not pay attention to the needs and desires of their customers. No industry imposed standards will change how those marinas operate; regulations may just make their demise sooner rather than later.

Dennis P. Kissman is president of Marina Management Services Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached by phone at 561/338-5800 or via email: dennis@marinamanagement.com.

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What are some of the proposed ISO standards? As a marine contractor we are spending significant resources in solving ADA accessibility concerns.
April 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Peterson

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