In early 1988, the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) took the initiative to ensure that its members became directly involved in the proposal for a directive for recreational craft. This was finally made possible after ICOMIA was accepted as an observing member at the European Union (EU) meetings in Brussels.
For several years, direct input to the draft directive came via ICOMIA's Technical Committee and later ICOMIA's Certification Committee.
Recreational boat certification was a special concern in the mid 1990s because the European Association of Classification Societies (EurACS) was also an observing member at the EU meetings and naturally wanted to impose its certification procedures and price levels on the boating industry. Of secondary concern, especially to the USA and other countries outside the EU, was the requirement that certification can only be conducted by European certifiers. This led to the perception and wide criticism of a "Fortress Europe."
The EU suggested following that by using a planned Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA), other non-EU countries may also be able to provide this certification. Non-EU countries were sceptical about implementation of this approach. This was the first formal introduction that non-EU countries received about the proposed certification procedures. The proposal drove many EU and non-EU organisations to active responses. At the outset, the EU's position was that only those organisations which were already involved in boat certification could be accepted as a certifier, according to the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD). Thus, for an organisation to become involved in certification activities, it must already have a marine certification program underway in Europe.
Lars Erik Granholm, who was born in Finland in 1934, emigrated to the USA in 1961. He is a naval architect by trade and is involved in setting up the NMMA boat and engine certification programmes in the U.S.A. He proposes that the Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) together with the European Union manufacturer organisations help to form a global organisation to certify recreational boats for the EU.
On 1 September 1989, NMMA requires engine certification services to be offered as a condition of membership eligibility. The NMMA engine certification programme is underway and well accepted by the industry.
In early 1990, the NMMA Board supports Granholm‘s proposal to form an organization to certify recreational boats for import into the EU.
The first IMCI Board meeting is held in a hotel at Brussels Zaventem airport on 10 November 1992. Many of the original members and their representatives are still on the IMCI Board and continue to provide valuable assistance. The minutes of the first meeting are extremely short.
It is expected that the European Organisation for Testing and Certification (EOTC) will provide certification criteria and approvals. Discussions with EOTC result in the recommended approach being to form “Agreement Groups” to establish common procedures that can be used for product certification comprised of a minimum of three European certification organisations per industry field.
The „International Marine Certification Institute“ (IMCI) is founded, comprised of 2 members of staff at the head office working with 4 Inspectors in 4 countries. IMCI is registered in Belgium as an international non-profit organization on June 24, 1993. The IMCI certification programme starts with invoice # 1001 dated 8 August 1993.
A new ISO standard (ISO 8665) for engines is completed. This leads to the NMMA Board of Directors asking IMCI to take over the NMMA engine certification programme in November 1993. This decision gives IMCI the financial impetus it needs and IMCI becomes established as a credible European Union certifier. IMCI is not yet an accredited Notified Body and can therefore only issue „pre-certificates,“ according to the procedures in the early draft of the EU guides.
IMCI takes the initiative to form the Recreational Marine Agreement Group (RMAG) and applies for recognition by EOTC. It is anticipated that with these procedures in place, IMCI (and others) will be able to show it is qualified as a certification entity and should therefore be officially approved by the Authorities. The founding members of RMAG are IMCI, Register Holland, VTT, and NMMA, as well as the EU Commission and public and industry representatives. Lars Granholm is elected to take over the chair of the RMAG. The group has 12 meetings and is responsible for writing the first set of Guidelines for Recreational Craft. It takes three years for the RMAG to achieve EOTC recognition. The lengthy approval process is necessary, because EOTC also grants NMMA full membership and NMMA becomes the first U.S. certification organisation to receive EU recognition. Having granted RMAG recognition, EOTC widely publicises and references RMAG to demonstrate that no “European Union Fortress“ exists.
Sometime later, EOTC‘s role changes to only administering non-directive certification programs (voluntary certification), and the EU starts administering directive-related (mandatory) certification. In an EU meeting soon after the introduction of this change, the industry is encouraged to form a new cooperative group comprised of potential EU certifiers and as a result the EU mandated Recreational Craft Sectoral Group (RSG) is formed. The EU now obligates all certifiers to be part of the RSG, whereas membership in RMAG remains strictly voluntary. IMCI is appointed as the first Technical Secretariat of the RSG. The first version of the RSG Guidelines document, which is based on the RMAG Guidelines, is drafted by the RSG. The RSG Guidelines still exist today and is updated annually in June.
The first IMCI Logo is created by the spouse of the Canadian Director of IMCI.
IMCI moves into Rue de Trèves in Brussels while having the need for more space.
In the early-mid-1990s IMCI is the only European certification body offering advanced certification which, naturally, brings scepticism and criticism from some competitors. The Belgian Authorities have no accreditation system in place and are concerned that IMCI has a small number of staff and does not use fulltime Inspectors. At its meeting on 20 May 1996, the EU Commission has a special agenda item to discuss IMCI‘s approach to certification and whether this approach is in line with what the EU anticipated. The IMCI model is discussed in detail, and in the end the Belgian Member State representative is satisfied and accepts IMCI as a Notified Body. This is a very significant decision for the industry. Not only can Belgium proceed with notification of organisations other than large classification societies for certification of boats and their components, but several other countries such as France and the Netherlands also follow this example and proceed with notifications of their own new small Notified Bodies. Thus the classification societies‘ exclusive grip on recreational craft certification in Europe is broken. It is worthwhile noting that during IMCI‘s early years, the majority of the EU administrative procedures, documents, organisations and oversight are still being developed and nothing has been completed; no Directive, ISO standards, Notified Bodies, or cooperative agreements. IMCI‘s early participation and key roles in ICOMIA, RMAG, RSG, and ISO make it possible to be in a good position in each of these organisations as they gained strength and focus in the marine industry.
„DIRECTIVE 94/25/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 16 June 1994 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to recreational craft“ comes into force on 16 June 1996.
The notification of IMCI is granted by Belgium on 3 July 1996. IMCI pre-certificates are reissued as CE certificates to confirm compliance of the products with the new legislation. All pre-certified manufacturers make a seamless transition to full certification.
The first IMCI website www.imci.org is launched.
Lars Granholm retires as the IMCI Managing Director at the end of 1999, at which time he is appointed Chairman of the Board for the following 4 years. Ulrich (Uli) Heinemann, a naval architect, is appointed as the new CEO. Uli had been working in Brussels since 1996 as the General Manager. Prior to that he was a freelance yacht designer.
IMCI grows and moves to a bigger office at Rond-Point-Schuman square opposite the EU Commission’s Berlaymont building.
Because the amount and the complexity of data is increasing rapidly IMCI creates and launches an own Database.
IMCI growth necessitates the move to a much bigger office in the Rue Abbé Cuypers. This office is still the registered address of IMCI.
Lars Granholm receives the prestigious NMMA Chapman Award for his lifetime achievements in the marine industry.
„DIRECTIVE 2003/44/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 16 June 2003 amending Directive 94/25/EC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to recreational craft“ is signed.
The certification programme is initially tailored only to the needs of the German boat market by the German experts groups VBS of BVWW in Cologne, Germany. Later IMCI is developing it for international applicability based on an EN 45013 quality manual (QM). When EN 45013 is replaced by EN ISO 17024 the QM is changed in line with the new standard which is appreciated by the recreational craft industry. The market requires this European Union level certification, because the official recognition of an expert by a national court or by a professional organization has no bearing or significance outside that country.
IMCI begins certification of companies/retailers based on an in-house standard of BVWW in Cologne, Germany. In the years that follow IMCI develops this standard further and also uses it internationally. The certification offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the quality of a company/retailer and to make it visible its customers. The certification covers four different fields: Boat Specialized Trades, Accessories Specialized Trades, Boat Service Specialized Trades and Motor Service Specialized Trades.
Belgium, now equipped with a system of accreditation, grants IMCI on 26 June 2003 accreditation as a certification body according to EN 45011.
IMCI starts certifying yacht harbours meeting minimum criteria developed by the German Tourism Association (DTV), Bonn; Association of German Marinas (VDSH), Cologne; German Boating Association (BVWW), Cologne; German Automobile Club (ADAC), Munich and IMCI. The system is later aligned with ISO 13687 parts 1 to 3, developed by ISO TC 226 WG 8 chaired by IMCI. The certification system is equivalent to systems used for hotels, restaurants and campgrounds. It is an assessment scheme in regards to quality of comfort and service, etc. but not technical safety.
IMCI again needs more office space and opens the IMCI Intelligence Centre in Eynatten. Although Eynatten is in Belgium it is much closer to home for staff, living in Aachen (Germany), which includes most of the Head Office staff.
IMCI sales reached 1.8 million Euros (compared with 275,000 Euros in 1996).
IMCI management feels the need of a facelift of the IMCI Logo. The new logo shall show all elements of the initial one but appear more precious.
In the autumn of 2013 Directors, Inspectors and the head office team as well as numerous guests celebrate IMCI’s 20th anniversary. The festivities take place in Malta, the smallest Member State of the EU, complete with powerful cannon shots.
The IMCI sub-website www.bluestarmarina.org is launched. It serves the boater as well as the yacht harbour provider.
The second „DIRECTIVE 2013/53/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on recreational craft and personal watercraft and repealing Directive 94/25/EC“ is signed.
The „Recreational Craft Directive 2013/53“ gets fully into force. Many manufacturers are in the need of new certificates. Work load at IMCI is at a maximum.
The IMCI website www.imci.org gets a new look and feel and is relaunched.
IMCI hosts the ICOMIA Congress 2018 and in conjunction with the congress celebrates its 25th anniversary.