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Boating industry facing shortages, other challenges in SWFL

Posted at 8:31 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 12:48:38-05

NAPLES, Fla. — Boating is big business in Southwest Florida. The industry generates $753 million in economic impact for the area according to the Marine Industries Association of Collier County.

But like most businesses right now, the industry is facing a series of issues that’s causing a shortage of boats.

At the Naples Boat Show on Friday, dealers said that supply-chain issues mean there are very few boats to go around. There are more than 100 on display at the Boat Show, but most of them have already been sold.

“Most of our inventory that we’re looking at is order out 6 months, a year, two years, depending on the model,” said Jeremy Eck, general manager of the dealership The Boat House of Naples. “So come in, build a boat, choose all of your options, and unfortunately get in line and wait.”

Eck said The Boat House has very few boats in stock because manufacturers can’t make them fast enough. That’s partly because of a lack of supplies — but also because more people are buying.

“Demand has risen,” Eck said. “A lot of people are moving down, especially this area, looking to get on the water and enjoy what we have here in Southwest Florida. Because of that, it’s pushing our times out further and further.”

All aspects of the industry are affected.

Scot Fawcett owns Shiptronics, which sells and installs electronics on boats. He said it’s taking longer to do the work because he can’t get the parts.

“We can’t complete packages on boats,” Fawcett said. “We’re always missing something. We’re always waiting on something to actually complete the boat and finish it out.”

And when businesses do get supplies, they often can’t find people to install them.

“Labor is definitely our biggest issue,” said Bill Moore, who owns his own yacht management business. “It’s hard to find the good help. When you do, you end up paying more for them. And chances are I’m probably stealing them one of my competitors because that’s the only place you can find them.”

Fuel prices are impacting the industry as well.

Brent and Debbie Clover own Gulfshore Dockside, which delivers gas to boats. They say they’ve seen some owners change their boating habits because of a rise in prices.

“If they were going to go out for a sunset cruise every night this week, maybe they’ve decided just to do it on the weekend,” Brent Clover said.

Although it might take longer to get boats, vendors at the Naples Boat Show said they’re still staying busy. People are still buying boats in record numbers, they vendors said — they just have to wait a lot longer to get them.