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Arise: The new superyacht marina hubs

From helipads and private jet terminals to a ski chalet for crew, modern marinas offer far more than just a berth. Sophia Wilson explores the evolution of the destination marina

The primary purpose of a marina is practical – a place to refuel, restock, repair. However, over the past two decades the landscape of the industry has been revolutionised, with many marinas becoming destinations in their own right, designed to lure owners and entertain crew. These new destination marinas act as large commercial operations, complete with luxury spas, designer fashion labels, Michelin-starred restaurants and premium real estate opportunities. “Marinas have become much more than just a place to berth a yacht,” says Dan Hughes, chief operating officer of Camper & Nicholsons Marinas. “Owners, captains and their crew are looking for more. They need to feel special and looked after, with privacy and safety as standard. This then creates a reason for them to spend on the services and the experience that the marina offers".

The growth of destination marinas has seen them become central to the coastal communities in which they are situated. Porto Montenegro, which opened in 2014, is a prime example of this. Peter Munk’s multimillion pound investment has transformed a disused naval base into a thriving marina village – the site even boasts Montenegro’s first boarding school, Knightsbridge Schools International, and naval museum. “A full service, well managed and well marketed marina should become a hub for tourism generally, which draws spending and improves the economy of the locality,” says Hughes.

The number of new developments under construction – from the €650 million development at Portonovi, also in Montenegro, complete with the first One&Only hotel in Europe, to the 1.8 million square metre Dubai Harbour – shows there’s no sign of this trend slowing yet.

Despite the dramatic changes already experienced, the industry is braced for further developments. The biggest factor that is expected to impact on future marinas is the increasing size of superyachts. “Marinas must grow the number of large yacht berths available to meet the pipeline of yacht builds over 80 metres emerging over the next few years,” says Ignacio Erroz, general manager of OneOcean Port Vell in Barcelona. “There is a critical shortage of large yacht berths, which is only going to get worse.”

Hughes believes that a solution to the shortage of larger berths can be found through inventive modern architecture. “Removing redundancy in design and creating flexible space capable of berthing a wide range of yachts on the same berth gives the marina operator the ability to be flexible,” he says. Charles “Buddy” Darby, superyacht owner and founder of Christophe Harbour in St Kitts, agrees that technology will be an important factor in marina development.

“With advances in science, engineering and technology, the possibilities for marina architecture are exciting,” he says. “We’re starting to see the incorporation of shoreside innovations found on land, such as yacht stackers, and looking farther ahead, there’s no doubt robotics will play a greater part in engineering and maintenance and the services we can provide.”

Green credentials are also becoming an increasingly important factor for owners, captains and their crew. “Those marinas who provide not only facilities for collection and disposal of waste,” says Hughes, “but who also consider the promotion and protection of marine ecosystems in their daily operations are likely to score higher when decisions are being made on where to stop over with a yacht.” In St Kitts, Darby has seen a similar trend: “We are already seeing a greater response to protecting and restoring marine ecology,” he says. “As the marina industry grows, treading lightly is demanding more commitment and more attention.”

Future Destinations...

1. Dubai: Dubai Harbour

Designed to expand Dubai’s yacht capacity by 50 per cent, the 1.8 million square metre Dubai Harbour will incorporate a 135m tall lighthouse tower. Located alongside world-renowned Palm Island, the 1,400 berth marina, for vessels up to 85m, will also offer a cruise ship terminal, retail space, events arena, shopping mall and yacht club.

Scheduled opening: TBC

2. Italy: Cala del Forte, Ventimiglia

Just 8nm from Monaco, Cala del Forte marina will add 171 berths – ranging from 6.5m to 60m – to this packed stretch of coastline. Developed by Société Monégasque Internationale Portuaire, an organisation owned by the Monaco government, upon completion it will have a variety of shops, cafés and either a lift or funicular to take visitors to the historical Ventimiglia Old Town.

Scheduled opening: Q3 2019

3. Montenegro: Portonovi, Herceg Novi

Capitalising on Montenegro’s superyacht revolution, a new state-of-the-art marina is at the heart of a €650 million development at Boka Bay. Portonovi marina will be able to accommodate yachts up to 70m within its walls, with yachts up to 120m able to make use of seasonal berths located on the external wall. The development will also be home to a yacht club, created by Winch Design, and the first One&Only resort in Europe.

Scheduled opening: Summer 2018

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