Can marinas evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of superyachts?
While the Mediterranean and Caribbean will forever have their appeal, it’s time to take a closer look at how superyacht marinas can attract a new generation of yacht owners.
We recognise that much of our discussion revolves around the resources available to marinas, encompassing existing infrastructures and berths. Many marinas effectively manage with what they have. However, when it comes to demand forecasting, adapting services, and accommodating the requirements of owners, captains, and crews, do marinas adequately respond to the needs of superyachts?
Based on our conversations with some of the world’s foremost naval architects and yacht designers, the challenge to marinas is not just about space and availability. A pivotal consideration in pushing the boundaries of yacht design, particularly in designs exceeding 40 metres, hinges on how ports and marinas embrace new and occasionally radical concepts. Some designers choose to overlook these considerations entirely, opting for the creation of a yacht that is entirely ‘self-sustainable’.
Yet, the practicality of such an approach comes into question, especially considering that most owners of yachts over 30 metres spend a significant portion, ranging from 75-90%, of their time docked in marinas. How feasible is it for non-solar renewables to operate at full capacity, such as charging system packs when the yacht is not under propulsion?
The surging demand for superyacht berths
As the demand for superyacht berths continues its upward trajectory, we sought insights from owners, captains, and marinas to understand their experiences, challenges, and strategies for addressing evolving demands. Unsurprisingly, we encountered some challenging tales. However, the availability of premium superyacht offerings varies across regions, influenced by their existing infrastructures.
Take coastal Spain and the Balearic Islands, where truly premium offerings for superyachts are somewhat limited. Recent governmental changes in regulations governing marinas and ports have granted marinas more control over their assets. Leased and privately owned berths have reverted to the control of ports, reducing instances of exorbitant prices and enhancing overall control. Most marinas in the region are now positioned to foster more professional offerings.
Internationally, marinas also became more accustomed to accepting superyachts with larger beams than usual, recognising the industry’s trend toward wider and longer vessels. There are also multihull vessels that are taking up more beam space within the slips. Berth configuration is a key point–this flexibility is evident, especially in Caribbean marinas, where side-tie dockage can allow for hosting a 75-metre superyacht during the peak season or three 20-metre sport fishing boats in the summer.
Notably, debates with captains and management companies regarding berth widths for larger ‘explorer’ style superyachts have influenced some marinas to impose stricter regulations on maximum allowable beam per berth. In Europe, the South of France stands out as a benchmark for servicing and accommodating superyacht needs, offering exclusive benefits to yachts that make it a scheduled part of their cruising itinerary.
Other practical considerations come into play; with some projects likely measuring just under 80 metres for convenient anchoring within 300 metres off the coast in the French Riviera and other popular yachting destinations. New regulations mandate local pilots for superyachts 80-metres-plus arriving or departing from these areas.
One berthing solution proposed is the IGY Trident Collective, an exclusive, invitation-only membership program. Limited to a select number of superyacht owners, Trident members enjoy guaranteed dockage access and member pricing on marina services, including fuel, across IGY Marina’s 24 marina destinations globally—an enticing offer, particularly for owners seeking berths at hotspot destinations for key dates such as New Years Eve or high-profile events.
What defines a great marina?
Defining a truly exceptional marina involves a careful consideration of various elements. Geographical location emerges as a pivotal factor, influencing a marina’s suitability based on accessibility for airports and road transport, customs and immigration ease, and the capacity of neighbouring marinas.
At the pinnacle of marina excellence are world-class facilities seamlessly integrated with commercial zones offering fine dining, entertainment, and upscale retail, often complemented by luxurious residential developments or coastal resorts.
Expectations from yacht captains, crew, and owners have evolved to encompass essential amenities such as clean fuel delivered through high-speed pumps or in-slip fuelling, abundant shore power, fresh water, black and grey water disposal, reliable Wi-Fi, and 24-hour security. Additional services like fire safety measures, cleaning and laundry services, and complimentary waste collection are considered standard. Flexibility is key, encompassing various berth options, a boat yard equipped for maintenance and repairs, and a dry stack facility for convenient yacht storage. Proximity to chandleries, provisioners and marine service providers further enhances the marina’s appeal.
The most successful superyacht marinas prioritise crew-centric amenities, including well-appointed crew lounges, fitness facilities, proximity to crew accommodation, social meeting spaces ashore, and a calendar filled with fun social activities and local experiences.
Crucially, the linchpin of any marina facility lies in the provision of high-quality service. In-house agents, supported by knowledgeable on-the-ground staff, ensure swift resolution of any issues that may arise, enhancing the overall experience for yacht owners, captains, and crews alike.
Yacht owners, managers and captains still make marina choices, or have preferences even when on fixed itineraries, driven by deals, relationships, operating costs or simply and most importantly the owners desires and preferences!
Future fuels: Preparing marinas for infrastructure development
We believe it’s important to explore the potential of future fuels for the superyacht fleet such as hydrogen, methanol and battery power. It’s a complex area–there are technological and regulatory frameworks, infrastructure limitations, public awareness, and market acceptance and availability. Most marinas don’t have bunkering facilities or infrastructure, and there are no agreed fuelling regulations for leisure craft.
ACI Marinas, who have the largest chain of marinas in the Mediterranean is positioning itself for an energy transition, precisely thanks to the ‘Hydrogen Valley North Adriatic’ project. Their aim is for the ACI marina Opatija in Ičići to be the first ACI marina, where the entire hydrogen value chain would be developed, including production of energy from renewable sources, energy storage, energy efficiency measures and usage of hydrogen in the water transport sector.
Like any emerging technology, there will be early adopters across the sector followed by a larger group of companies and investors who prefer to witness the technology tested extensively before adopting it. As soon as the boat building industry picks a fuel (e.g. hydrogen), further development and implementation of infrastructure will move into place and demand and production will grow.
Shipyards are taking more of a focus on their supply chain strategy and sustainability practices. According to Sanlorenzo’s ‘Road to 2030 Responsible Growth Business Plan’, they’ve been keeping a close eye on the IMO and EU regulatory path ways to apply green technologies: their Bluegame BGM65HH (Hydrogen-Hybrid) will be the first ever motor yacht powered by fuel cells and a Volvo hybrid engine. With Sanlorenzo’s acquisition of Simpson Marine, they’re anticipating a production increase to support revenue growth.
Another example is H2-Enterprises who has been working on their Liquid Organic, Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) energy system for over a decade and are in talks with Dubai-based shipyards to develop LOHC-based hydrogen-powered yachts.
As we’ve noticed at SEA Yacht Group, a new generation of yacht owners is looking to test the capabilities of yachting lifestyle and marina facilities. The imminent surge in electric boat adoption signals a shift in the marine industry, with analysts projecting the global electric boat market to surpass USD$7.8 billion by 2028. Northern European countries are at the forefront of this market, with the largest supply and interest from buyers (source: Electric Boat & Ship Market Size Share Analysis – Growth Trends’ Forecasts 2023-2028, Mordor Intelligence).
Marina owners and operators find themselves at the forefront of this transformation, necessitating a robust charging infrastructure. Considerations include upgrading grid connections, installing charging hardware, and establishing sufficient fast charging stations to facilitate the transition to electrification. This includes enhancing shore power infrastructure at dockside, potentially requiring circuit modifications based on the scale and number of electric yachts accommodated.
Charging electric propulsion systems poses a significant challenge for both boaters and marinas. Two primary approaches exist: high-powered DC systems for quicktop-offs during brief stops and longer-term, level-two AC systems. Aqua Super Power Batteries, renowned for efficiency and rapid charging capabilities (20 to 90 minutes), enable yacht owners to enjoy extended outings without lengthy downtime. In contrast, traditional shore power may extend beyond three days.
To enhance the user experience, marinas and fleet managers should consider real-time monitoring and information of charging facilities with all-round management via mobile applications, akin to the convenience offered by Dockwa for slip booking. Furthermore, marinas may need to adopt dynamic pricing strategies, to optimise the delivery and pricing of electric power. This adaptive approach ensures that those willing to pay more for expedited service can enjoy a premium experience.
Upgrading the workforce, particularly technicians, becomes imperative to cater to the unique diagnostics and software updating requirements of electric boats. In the US, compliance with electrical codes, such as the National Electrical Code 555 and the National Fire Protection Association Standard 303, are paramount for safety.This applies to all areas on the water accessible to boats, including restaurants, waterfront bars, and fixed or floating piers.
A recurring question that often surfaces in discussions about marinas revolves around the intrinsic value they provide to superyacht visitors during their stay. In the initial stages of marina development, significant emphasis is placed on integrating amenities tailored for superyacht experiences, encompassing essential services like on-berth bunkering and provisioning, water pontoons for services and cleaning, and the inclusion of excellent restaurants and shopping boutiques. Owners have shared that finding a shore side restaurant surpassing the onboard yacht chef or charter yacht chef can be a challenge. However, this dynamic merely underscores the exceptional standards set by the industry for owners and charterers alike.
Beyond the sheer allure of being situated near some of the world’s most picturesque port-side towns and locations, marinas face the task of continually enhancing their appeal to attract large yachts. The imperative is clear: marinas must become more innovative, offering a compelling array of activities and events to keep their clientele engaged. Today’s yacht enthusiasts seek more than just aplace to dock; they crave an experience.
In the absence of having a Formula 1 Grand Prix with cars racing past the bathing platform at 200kph, as witnessed in Monaco or Abu Dhabi, or being adjacent to renowned nightclubs like Lio in Ibiza, marinas must strive to entice clients. The challenge lies in providing incentives for owners to leave the tranquility of a quiet bay, where they are comfortably anchored, and opt for a marina berth, even beyond the necessities of fuel and other provisions.
Marinas, therefore, must evolve into destination hubs, offering not just a berth but an immersive environment that captivates and exceeds the expectations of superyacht owners.
Yachting and the Experience Economy
Owning or chartering a yacht is not just a financial decision; it’s an emotional one. With younger UHNW individuals increasingly valuing experiences, we are seeing a younger generation of buyers who are reshaping the market landscape.
These discerning individuals prioritise experiences, products, and services that resonate on a deeper level. For them, alignment with broader ESG initiatives, cultural excursions, and participation in charitable or philanthropic activities hold significant sway.
Marinas, particularly those without the allure of corporate trade shows or high-profile events at their doorstep, are increasingly crafting their own programs. The goal: entice wandering superyachts to berth for extended stays, rather than cruising miles down the coastline to another port. Engaging activities, such as live music and art and cultural fairs, have become instrumental in creating these appealing environments.
Some ports are fortunate to have ‘host city’ status for major sporting events, like sailing in Marseille for the Paris 2024 Olympics or the 37th Louis Vuitton America’s Cup in Barcelona. During the 2023 MYBA Charter Show, Marina Port Vell’s partnership with the America’s Cup was discussed in an informative press conference. Declared as the Preferred Marina for Superyachts, speakers including Ignacio Erroz, General Manager of Marina Port Vell, and Leslie Ryan, Event Director of the cup, shed light on the plans for the Superyacht Programme, the Race Village and the Fan Zones.
Similarly, marinas like Yacht Haven Grande Miami at Island Gardens become central hubs during cultural events like Art Basel Miami. Located just minutes from the Miami Beach Convention Center, the marina hosts some of the largest vessels during the art fair, which showcases over 200 top art galleries and more than 4,000 artists.
In essence, the development planning of marinas extends beyond optimising revenues for space and availability within existing infrastructures. Equally crucial ishow their promotional and event planning, coupled with destination marketing, works harmoniously to attract valuable superyacht revenues.
Crew facilities at marinas
Delving into the evolving landscape of marinas, it’s imperative to consider the invaluable perspective of yacht crew. The facilities and social activities provided for the crew often distinguish one marina from another.
Porto Montenegro marina takes crew amenities to the next level by offering free membership for all crew from visiting boats to The Crew Club. This exclusive club provides a myriad of activities and entertainment, including sunset BBQs, access to the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club Sports Club, and Winter Games.
Port Vauban in Antibes, recognising the importance of crew well-being, extends an array of activities tailored for captains and their crew. From the IYCA crew lounge to coffee networking mornings, the marina ensures that the crew experience is enriched beyond the routine.
On the shores of West Palm Beach, Florida, Rybovich Marina stands out with its exceptional crew facilities. Boasting a welcoming crew lounge, access to an outdoor swimming pool, and close proximity to various sports activities, restaurants, and bars, it creates an environment that prioritises the comfort and leisure of the crew.
In the evolving narrative of yachting, marinas are not only judged by the berths they provide but also by the quality and provision of amenities and socialising events offered to the dedicated crew.
Marina and infrastructure evolution
In the dynamic landscape of superyacht marina development, ensuring longevity is paramount, considering the substantial investment involved. No owner desires their marina to become outdated shortly after completion. Hence, marina designers are tasked with the critical mission of “future-proofing” projects against evolving trends in the expansive large-yacht market.
Modern marinas are often integral components of expansive, multi-use developments designed to function as destinations in their own right. Beyond yacht berths, these developments incorporate residences, retail spaces, restaurants, recreational facilities, and public-access areas.
We look forward to sharing more news and updates from regions around the world. Here’s a glimpse into some markets:
China emerges as a focal point for substantial opportunities in the yachting sector, boasting hundreds of millions of residents living in over 160 coastal or river side cities. While the country is still in the nascent stages of yachting growth concerning domestic infrastructure and ownership, the number of berths has steadily increased over the past 15 years and there are around 100 marinas currently in construction or the planning phase.
Forecasts predict the sailing market sector in China to reach 18 billion RMB by 2029, driven by regattas, youth sailing schools, and the presence of over 250 yacht clubs (Source: Chinese Yachting Association). The establishment of sailing programmes, the Hainan Free Trade Port and Sanya International Yacht Center has significantly contributed to fostering yachting culture in China, attracting renowned international brands such as Sanlorenzo, Beneteau, and Azimut.
Guided by the ‘2022 Guidelines on Accelerating the Development of Cruise and Yacht Equipment and the Industry’, the Chinese yacht industry sets ambitious goals for 2025. These include enhancing design and construction capabilities, fortifying the equipment industry foundation, expanding the consumer market’s demands, and fostering cooperation and talent development. Emphasis is placed on advancing water tourism and boat rental, particularly in key areas such as the Hainan Free Trade Port, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and Circum-Bohai Sea Economic Zone, among others.
Türkiye’s role in the superyacht sector cannot be under estimated, being one of the top 3 yacht builders in the world. The inaugural Superyacht Summit Türkiye, which took place in Istanbul on November 30th focused on a diverse range of topics including the current state of the Turkish market, charter, regulatory issues, law, sustainability, marketing, luxury tourism, and submersible technology.
The big question—amidst rising—is how and whether the Turkish yacht maintenance and refit facilities will develop in synergy with extra yachts in Turkish waters and marinas.
Following the second Gulf Superyacht Summit in November 2023, orchestrated by SuperYacht Times, it revealed that the number of yachts in the Gulf has been growing, and this trend will continue in 2024. The region is actively working to attract foreign boats, and there have been conversations about the challenges and opportunities for the region.
The UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia are actively exploring superyacht strategies with pillars covering industry requirements, destination appeal, education and training and regulation ease. In particular, the GCC states are pushing significant investments into both yachting and general tourism infrastructure along their coasts.
Examples include development in the port city of Jeddah, earmarked by the Saudi government to rival the international appeal of Dubai. Attention is also gathering for NEOM, a huge project taking shape in Saudi Arabia. NEOM’s marina at Sindalah is being promoted as a luxurious island and yacht club destination with a strategic geo-location, particularly close to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. With over 80 berths catering to yachts up to 50 metres and additional serviced off shore buoys accommodating superyachts up to 180 metres, Sindalah is set to redefine the marina experience.
The upswing in oil and gas prices has revitalised development in Saudi Arabia, echoing a similar boom in Dubai. Noteworthy is the collaborative effort of P&O Marinas, Al Seer Marine, and MB92, spearheading the establishment of a dedicated superyacht refit yard in Dubai—a green light to the region’s commitment to fostering a thriving superyacht industry.
The diverse strategies employed to attract the superyacht fleet to specific marinas prompt us to ponder: can marina berths and moorings transcend their utilitarian role and keep evolving into destinations themselves? This question has likely occupied the forefront of commercial and retail development planning for many marina companies over the years. The quest for achievability remains central.
Paired with growing environmental and emissions regulations, yachting clientele are looking for more sustainable options in terms of transportation, therefore marinas need to stay on top of progressive development.
Yacht ownership entails navigating the intricacies of insurance requirements, ongoing maintenance, and the practical considerations inherent in owning or chartering a vessel. At SEA Yacht Group, our commitment transcends mere transactions. We strive to cultivate enduring relationships with our clients, positioning ourselves as trusted advisors. This involves placing a high emphasis on thorough consultancy and stead fast support to guarantee our clients are informed and kept up-to-date throughout the process. In our client relationships this operating depth of knowledge is crucial when helping clients find the right superyacht for them.
Your perspectives and experiences are invaluable to us. If you are at the helm or involved in ongoing marina development projects, we invite you to share your insights with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned to our social media channels.