A boatyard owner in Baddeck says the federal government is destroying his business by imposing a tariff on boats owned by non-Canadians using his facility for storage over the winter.

Henry Fuller, who owns the Cape Breton Boatyard, said Canada Border Services Agency officials visited his business last week and told him that a tariff of up to 15 per cent of the value of the boat will be imposed on boats owned by foreigners.

Fuller said he's losing customers who have stored boats with him for 18 years.

"As far as I can see, the guts have been ripped out of it," he told CBC News.

"I already have my customers who are planning to take boats back to the United States now. They don't have any choice."

Fuller said he's been told the rule has existed for a while, but now enforcement is stepping up.

According to the Canadian regulations, extensive repair work over the winter months can be permitted — but Fuller said foreign boats are allowed to have only limited work done in Canada for safety reasons. The boatyard generally takes care of painting, winterizing and installing electronics and that's considered maintenance rather than repair work.

"I've been told the work that has been outlined is not enough to leave the boat here in Canada and that work was our bread and butter here at Cape Breton Boatyard for the 37 years that I've run this place," Fuller said.

"If they only let two American boats stay here, 14 have to leave."

John Bethell and his wife, Helen, are from Massachusetts and have stored their boat at the Cape Breton Boatyard every winter since 1993.

He said their boat is worth at least $200,000 and they have no choice to move their boat back to the U.S. because a tariff of 15 per cent — $30,000 — is too steep.

"We either had to pay a huge amount of money to the Government of Canada or, in effect, just get out of here," said Bethell.

Fuller wants Mark Eyking, the Liberal MP for Sydney-Victoria, to take a message to the federal government.

"They are not friendly to small business endeavors in rural marginal economies and I have five to six employees here, disemployed," said Fuller.

"Where are they going to go. Are they going to go west? Are they going to go on welfare? I have no idea."