At the METSTRADE in Amsterdam, we met and interviewed Piero Formenti, Chairman of the European Boating Industry (EBI), the association which represents the European leisure marine industry in Europe and worldwide. We met him after an important meeting where the council took stock of what has been done until today and what is going to be done in the next future.
After all, the association of the European boating industry operators has a highly important political and economic role: 48 million European citizens play water sports and the annual turnover of the sector exceeds EUR 23 billion. Founded in 2011, EBI currently includes over 7,000 companies from all sectors of the leisure marine industry based in Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
The meeting was strongly endorsed by the current EBI Chairman Piero Formenti ( who is also the Vice President of Ucina, Confindustria Nautica Italiana), the two VPs Jean-Pierre Goudant (a member of the Federation des Industries Nautiques, Fin), Piotr Jasionowski (Polboat) and the former chairman of the Bundesverband Wassersportwirtschaft E.V (Bvww) association Robert Marx.
” We’ve called this meeting to highlight the actions taken by EBY since its foundation” , Formenti explains, “ how we faced the darkest moments of the crisis and how we worked during the following recovery. Above all, we’ve wanted to show our partners the next map. We’ve therefore wanted to present our new operating structure along with our economic and financial management project to our members”.
One of the crucial moments of the meeting was the official approval of the budgets, the financial structures and the new Bruxelles-based offices by the chairmen of the various national associations and the announcement of a new figure, Ewa Tomczuk, who will support General Secretary Sandrine Devos in performing her daily institutional and communication roles. The final goal is, as usual, ” the safeguard of the European leisure marine industry“.
During the meeting, various issues were raised by the EBI members. First of all, the overall cost of the association and the possibility to come back to the supervision of Icomia (International Council of Marine Industry Association), the international trade association representing the global marine industry since 1966.
” We maintain excellent relations and a constant contact with Icomia” – Formenti says – ” we both enjoy a service level agreement (a special official commitment where particular aspects of the service, including quality and responsibilities, are agreed between the service provider and the service user) which helps us to maximize our efforts, exchange information and instruments in order to make the overall boating industry grow”. Nevertheless, there are times when autonomy becomes essential, especially when specific interests are involved. The Chairman explains: “We can’t embarrass the American or Chinese representatives when we defend our European interests: how can the non-European members react in the event of heated debates over issues such as commercial exchanges, duties and national legislative measures? We want to avoid any embarrassment while maintaining our decision-making freedom”.
The various presidents present at the meeting ( Ucina was represented by Marina Stella on behalf of Carla Demaria) reacted positively and appreciated both the project and the growing path of the association. Driven by this enthusiasm, they even supported the decision to create an annual format flanked by an itinerant conference. ” This year, we’ve organized three meetings in three different moments of the yachting calendar in Italy, France and Germany, that is in Rome, Paris and Düsseldorf. Now, we’ve decided to organize a series of itinerant conferences which will be take place at the various boat shows all around the world next year”, Formenti explains.
Being both the Chairman of EBI and the VP of Ucina, Piero Formenti is used to institutional contexts and, at the end of the interesting meeting, he helped us to understand the real meaning of EBI’s activities, its success and major achievements. More specifically, the European association has recently achieved two important results:
«The first one is the physical location of our central offices: Bruxelles. They are located just 500 meters away from the European Parliament and we can therefore monitor its activity promptly and carefully. Constantly informed on the political initiatives and decisions in the field of marine industry, we are always willing to defend the European boating compartment. The second result is the official recognition of EBI by the European policy: today, when both the Parliament and the European Commission think about something related to the marine industry, they consider EBI as their first interlocutor: we are the voice of the European leisure marine industry”.
Commenting the organizational dynamics of EBI and, above all, the decision-making role of the former chairman within the association – a feature which is not commonly found elsewhere – Piero Formenti states:
« Our goal is to have a cohesive team which works towards common objectives. For this purpose, the co-operation with the VPs and the Chairman who has preceded me is essential: he knows the past and his supervision is an extraordinary help. Equally essential is the presence of members like Carlos Sanlorenzo of the Spanish Asociacon Nacional de Empresas Nauticas (ANEN) as well as the support from some national associations, such as Ucina, Fin, BVWW and Polboat. They have all understood that our commitment is fundamental and that results are significantly more important than our immediate visibility”.