Can Marinas Adapt To Changing Superyacht Needs?

The Challenge To Marinas Is Not Just About Space And Availability.

We know that a great deal of what we are about to talk about here pertains to what marinas have at their disposal. Both in terms of existing infrastructures and berths. And many do very well with what they got. But when it comes to demand planning, evolving services and accommodating owners, captains and crews… Do marinas adequately address the changing needs of superyachts?

We often speak to some of the worlds top naval architects and yacht designers. And a huge consideration in how they push yacht design boundaries (particularly in yacht designs over 40m) sits in how ports and marinas handle their new and sometimes radical thinking. Some will often completely disregard these considerations and look to design a yacht which is completely ‘self-sustainable’. But how practical is this really, as they also tell us that most owners of yachts over 30m spend between 75-90% of their time on their yachts in the marina? How is it possible for non-solar renewables to operate fully? For example, to charge systems packs properly when not under propulsion.

The demand on superyacht berths continues to rise 

Therefor, we asked owners, captains and marinas their experiences, difficulties and what they are doing to handle future and changing demands. As you would expect, we heard some horror stories. But generally regions vary in their depth of superyacht offerings, again depending on their existing infrastructures.

To illustrate, in regions like coastal Spain and the Balearic Islands, it is mostly limited in truly premium offerings for superyachts. Recent government regulatory changes in the way marinas and ports handle berths and moorings gave the marinas more control of their ‘own’ assets. And berths with leases and private ownership returned to the control of the ports. Of course, there are still cases where berths or moorings remain in private hands. But generally with most marinas in the region, this puts an end to ‘pirate prices’ and controls. And above all, it gives opportunities to develop more professional offerings.

Marinas also became more accustom to accepting superyachts with larger beams than usual. We have many examples of cost and operational debates with captains and management companies based on 1.5 berth widths for larger ‘explorer’ style superyachts. These types of demands led to some marinas being much stricter about the maximum beam allowed in one berth. In Europe it seems that the South of France continues to set the standards in how to service and handle superyachts needs. With often exclusive benefits to visiting yachts who make it a scheduled part of their cruising calendar.

What the Marinas Say

A question which is often ‘asked’ of marinas is what value do they bring to the superyacht visitor when spending time sitting in? Major efforts are ‘built-in’ to marina developments at the design stages for superyacht offerings. Like the basics of on-berth bunkering and provisioning services. Water pontoons for services and cleaning. And Michelin Starred restaurants and exclusive boutiques. Owners commented to us that sometimes it’s difficult to find a restaurant which is ‘better’ than the chef they have on-board their own or a charter yacht. Maybe this could also be a matter of taste. But we feel this just demonstrates the level of standards the superyacht fleet offers to owners and charterers.

So, other than the obvious benefit of sitting next to some of the worlds most beautiful port-side towns and locations, it seems marinas need to try harder to attract the big yachts each year. If you don’t have a Grand Prix on your doorstep with Formula one cars racing past your bathing platform at 200kph, as you do in Monaco. Or you berth next to one of the worlds most exclusive nightclubs like Lio in Ibiza. What will make owners get into their tenders while sitting anchored in a quiet bay, to sit on a berth in a marina paying the rates, other than the need for fuel provisions or water?

Marinas across regions which don’t have the luxury of a high profile events on their doorstep, will often look to create their own by developing a program of summer events to attract ‘wondering’ superyachts to a berth for a series of nights on their water, rather than 20 nautical miles down the same coastline. With marinas booking some of the world’s most popular music acts. Or creating art and cultural fairs to marinas lobbying sports and cultural ministers to obtain ‘host city’ status for sporting events tours like Americas Cup. 

It seems that with their development planning, marinas are not just focused on optimising revenues for space and availability within their existing infrastructures. But it is clearly also crucial how their promotional and event planning works to attract valuable superyacht revenues.

Long Story Short

It’s difficult to do this subject and the marinas justice in such a short blog. Also there are so many different approaches in attracting the superyacht fleet to particular marinas. But we are still left asking – will marina berths and moorings always remain a function of owning the superyachts or can they become something more, maybe even perhaps a destination? This is an important question which we are sure many marina development companies had at the top of their commercial and retail development planning for many years. But is it really achievable?

We would love to hear your views and experiences. Also, if you are in charge or involved in any of the new marina development projects underway, we would love to hear from you.