Docks Expo Focuses on Best Management Practices and Future Challenges

Marine industry experts, manufacturers, and service providers gathered in Nashville this past December to network and build business relationships at the 2023 Docks Expo. The annual conference, presented by Marina Dock Age, was held December 5-7 at Music City Center. Overall attendance increased by 11% compared to 2022, along with a 20% increase in exhibitors on the trade show floor. Marinas from across the country, including Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Georgia, and Texas attended the event, along with international representatives from Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Slovenia, Hungry, and Spain were also in attendance.

Marina Dock Age also presented the awards for the 2023 Marina of the Year. To read about the recent upgrades and best management practices at Hurricane Marina, this year’s large Marina of the Year, turn to page 14.

Opening Session:
Achieving Market Rates
Greg Weykamp, president of marina and waterfront engineering firm Edgewater Resources, LLC., delivered the opening session at the conference, and focused on why marinas need to evaluate what they are charging their customers. Weykamp shared strategies on how marinas can determine their true value and how to justify rate increases without upsetting customers. “Owners and operators need to understand that boaters are willing to pay for quality,” he said. “Marina owners shouldn’t apologize for charging boaters.”
Weykamp recommended that marinas should conduct surveys of their boaters to learn their habits and determine what they are looking for in a facility. By asking them what they want, and introducing new amenities or services, marinas can then make small increases every year. “If you do a 1.5% increase each year, your boaters will grumble, but they will stick around,” he said.

Weykamp suggested that marinas consider creating new opportunities based on their customers’ needs. “If you want to welcome transient boaters to your marina, consider adding short term transient docking,” he said. “Then they can stay for the day and spend some money at your facility.”

Having open communication is also key to increasing rates. When planning for a renovation, marina owners should make the plans known to the customers. “Show your plans. Show your boaters how their money is being invested. It is important to be open and honest about where the money is going,” he said.

Advancements in Design
Advances in technology and marina design were big topics at the annual conference. Exhibitors unveiled their latest products on the trade show floor and attendees were able to participate in product demos to gain a firsthand look at new offerings. Other education sessions focused on the latest standards in marina electrical equipment, well-designed and cost-effective wave attenuation systems, and how social media can help maximize profits.
Ron Schults and Brock Petrak with Edgewater Group addressed severe weather occurrences and highlighted the marina design criteria for withstanding storms and surges. Dan Rutherford, director of claims and risk management at One80 Intermediaries, led a panel discussion on marina structures and insurance valuation. Matthew Roper, marine practice leader at One80 Intermediaries; Lori Sousa, president of Sea Land Insurance Corp.; Mason Sears, sales and marketing at SF Marina Systems; and Josh Maxwell, engineer at Bellingham Marine shared their expertise and offered insight on how marina structures are priced and valued based on design, innovation, and structural assets.

2023 Young Leader Awards
Marina Dock Age and the Docks Expo also recognized the men and women nominated for the 2023 Young Leader Awards. These awards are presented to men and women under the age of 40 who have made significant contributions to the marine industry and who aim to shape its future. This year’s winners are:

Bill Brandon
Vice President
Washburn’s Boat Yard

Trevor Bryant
Ports Distribution and Logistics Manager
Poly Lift Boat Lifts

Matt Delaney
Boat Yard Supervisor
Brunswick Landing Marina

Leigh Diemert
General Manager
Oasis Marinas

E Edens
St. John’s Yacht Harbor

Alexander Gershowitz
General Manager
Sam’s Star Island Yacht Club

Celina Silva Heindl
Office Manager/Events Coordinator
Port 32 Jacksonville

Ryan Hinely
Vice President
Bluewater Bay Marina Complex

Robert Hodovanich
Dockmaster and Owner
River Harbour Marina

Alyssa Jones
Marketing Manager

Brittany Joslin
Office Manager
Dock and Marina Services

Alejandra Lira-Pantoja
Coastal Engineering Specialist
Edgewater Resources, LLC

Destinee Perdue
Vice President of Marine Operations
HarborWalk Marina

Will Richards
Regional Project Manager
Safe Harbor Marinas

Michael Ruffolo
Senior Engineer
Dockhand Services, LLC

Rob Schnabel
Business Development Manager
Oasis Marinas

Haley Sheehan
General Manager
Loggerhead-The Boathouse Marina

Andrew Vaughan
Eagle Floats/EPS Sales/Company
Eagle Floats by Hendren Plastics