It’s January. Right now, most of the country is hunkered down by the snow and blistering cold. For most of us in the colder regions of the country, warm weather may seem like the distant future. But regardless of where you reside, if you enjoy outdoor activities on the water, there’s something you need to keep in mind.
Recently, I joined colleagues from the NICB’s Manufacturers Information Group at the Boat, Sports & RV Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The annual event is billed as a one-stop marketplace and provides outdoor enthusiasts and dreamers alike an opportunity to see the latest and greatest offerings. Prices run the gamut from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand, or over $1 million. Other watercrafts such as kayaks or Jet Skis offer an even lower price point.
But why is the NICB concerned about boats and other watercrafts, you might ask? Because, like many other investments and property, they may be targets for thieves and fraudulent schemes.
While the typical visitor may have been touring the boats in search of deals and features, we toured them in search of HINs (Hull Identification Numbers). Similar to automobiles, boats also have identification numbers placed on them by their manufacturers. These HINs contain characters and numbers, information that assists law enforcement in recovering stolen boats. Since August of 1972, every marine vessel that is made or imported for sale in the U.S. is required to have a HIN. We wanted to see where and how these HINs were placed, not for aesthetic reasons, but rather to assess how easily thieves might possibly remove or alter them.
A 2013 report by the NICB indicated that there were 5,780 watercraft thefts reported in 2012. That equates to about 16 thefts per day with the spring and summer months having the most active periods for thefts. So what, if anything, can be done to help guard against theft and fraud schemes?
The NICB and NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) have partnered to create a boat database to enhance the efforts of the United States Coast Guard, law enforcement and NICB personnel to identify thefts and related fraudulent schemes.
Currently, the database contains over 661,000 boat records received directly from the boat manufacturers. Data collected include: year of manufacture; hull identification number (HIN); brand; model; length overall; hull material; propulsion type; fuel type; and vessel type. For investigative assistance, NICB Member Companies and law enforcement partners are encouraged to contact the NICB’s Investigative Assistance Group at 1-800-447-6282 x7002 or 847-544-7002.
For consumers, whether you spend $1,000 or several hundred thousand for your boat, it’s more than just a recreational craft. It’s an investment. Like any other investment, you need to protect it from theft. For more information on how to protect your boat, the NICB offers these helpful tips and video.