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How Well is Your Boat Made? - Why NMMA Certification Matters

Published By: Jonathan Lee

By Robert Newsome    
Vice President, Engineering Standards,
National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

Buying a new boat is an exciting experience, filled with almost endless possibilities of cockpit configurations, cabin interiors, and accessories. You have the ability to make your new boat unique to your personal preferences.  While you are in the midst of these choices, there is another important factor to keep in mind, one that goes far deeper than looks alone: the builder’s choice in building to voluntary industry standards.

You’ve undoubtedly seen the NMMA Certified logo and its notorious checkmark as you climb onboard a majority of boats. This signifies that the boat’s manufacturer has undergone a rigorous process and inspection by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and ultimately gained the exacting certification. What you may not know however, is the depth of the technical requirements and extensive work by the boat’s manufacturer to achieve this for their customers. 

Standards Beyond the Minimum
Before a boat is placed on the market, Transport Canada requires that the boat be built to a set of regulations called TP 1332, Construction Standards for Small Vessels. These regulations cover areas such as fuel systems, capacity, ventilation, stability and electrical systems – clearly all very important elements of a boat. Where industry standards come into play is picking up where regulations leave off. Not only do these standards expand on those areas covered by federal regulations, but they also cover systems on your boat that are unregulated: seat structures, visibility from the helm, re-boarding, anchoring and mooring, handholds, the list goes on.

In North America, the standards are set by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), and cover more than 50 systems and elements of boats and yachts. These standards not only cover design factors of a boat, but often require validation in the form of installation and performance testing.

If you do nothing else, find out if the manufacturer builds to these industry standards, how they go about ensuring they are all met, and how they can prove it. There is however an easy way to know for sure: NMMA Certification.

Tested. Inspected. Respected.
When marine manufacturer makes the important decision to pursue NMMA Certification of their boats and yachts, they are embarking on a comprehensive journey to ultimately ensure they are providing boat owners a product that meets industry standards. This process involves detailed model applications, verification of system and installation testing, and at the heart of this program, the physical inspection.  So when you buy a certified boat, you gain the confidence of knowing your boat manufacturer went above and beyond with you in mind.

NMMA certification starts with model applications to validate the testing of critical components such as fuel tanks and bilge blowers, and verifies the persons, weight and powering ratings of applicable boat types. The core of the program however is the annual physical inspection by a highly trained NMMA inspector to ensure the boats meet the latest safety and construction standards. 

Each model year, NMMA certification inspectors visit manufacturers to conduct an annual inspection to the ABYC standards. What is more impressive is that these standards are continuously being expanded and enhanced, so NMMA Certified boats are always certified to the current versions of those standards.  Even if a boat model does not substantially change from one year to the next, the inspection is still required to make sure the boat meets the latest versions of the ABYC standards.

Armed with extensive knowledge, a comprehensive checklist and a few tools of the trade, the inspector climbs on board each boat and gets to work. They measure the distance between fuel fills and ventilation openings so fuel vapors do not enter the boat, verify the installation of fuel lines and electrical conductors to ensure they are protected from chaffing, and check to make sure batteries are installed so that any incidentally spilled battery fluid would be contained. Even optional systems, such as air conditioning and potable water are inspected in their entirety to confirm any components are compliant and the overall system is installed appropriately. All of these are things you would typically not notice or think of, but ensuring they meet standards provides you with an even higher level of product safety. This process goes on until the boat is inspected against the nearly 800 items on the checklist that summarize the thousands of pages of the ABYC standards.

Following the inspection, the manufacturer is provided with a report of any variances to the standards that may exist.  The manufacturer must then demonstrate and document that any changes were made or testing completed before they are granted certification for that model year. Only after all of this is the manufacturer granted the designation of NMMA Certified for that model year of products.

When you buy an NMMA Certified boat or yacht, you gain the confidence of knowing your boat meets the applicable ABYC standards, and that means better peace of mind. As you shop for your new boat or yacht, look for one of the more than 185 boat brands that have made the commitment to ensure their products are NMMA Certified. Look for the NMMA Certified logo on the boat or see the complete listing at