Marina and Yard Innovation

Big finance conquers marina industry

Hans Buitelaar
Monday, 17 April 2023

Real estate investment companies are increasingly dominating the marina industry. International marina groups are expanding. This opens possibilities for investments by marina operators and may also lead to standardisation of marina facilities. Marinas are changing from yacht club home bases towards service hubs for mobile recreation.

Rapid electrification of the leisure fleet poses demands for marina operators to provide sockets for battery-drain boaters to plug in to. An increasing number of new motor boats is propelled electrically or hybrid. Of course, not all boats and yachts in marinas are brand new and the majority of the fleet will be decades old, lovingly maintained by owners that treasure their vessel and keep the combustion engine running. But even these older boats are increasingly electrified. Equipment for remote monitoring, heating and de-humidification and refrigerators in the galleys are often running when the boats are at harbour. Older boats with added modern comfort require supply of electric power at ever increasing level over the last decades. Most marinas have electricity supply installed over the jetties. Increased current demand for charging large battery packs may require investments in local network capacity.

Service demands

Modern day leisure time spenders show high demands towards the level of services provided. Apart from providing a safe shelter from the elements on open waters, the ability to refuel, charge batteries, fill water tanks and take in provisions, holiday makers long for restaurants, coffee shops, washing facilities, a playground for the children, fast internet connection, good connections to nearby cities and airports and technical service for their boats. Marinas are not single companies but a conglomerate of technical, leisure, service and shopping entrepeneurs. The level of overall service provided depends on each of the contributing companies. Each of them is responsible for their own business and quality of services provided. For the marina operators as well as the owners of the property, competitiveness of the marina as a whole relies on the overall quality. Marina real estate owners tend to hold their grip on the overall service level by granting only short term lease and rental contracts to the companies on the premises. With satisfactory quality of services, companies will see their contracts prolonged, but if marina clients are not content, a rental contract might be ended. This makes it hard for these entrepeneurs to invest. Increased investment in real estate is viable for the owner of the premises, concentrating power at the investment companies and their shareholders. 


Progressing on the increasing complexity of the marina operating business, international marina groups are forming and large investment companies are purchasing the valued waterside real estate. Integra Investments, a real estate investment firm, bought Perry Martina in Key West, Florida in April. This same month, the group of 10 coastal marinas around Florida, Port 32 Marinas, appointed two senior staff that focus on acquisitions: an Executive Vice President of Acquisitions with years of experience in real estate finance and a Vice President of Acquisitions coming from an other marinas group for which he led the purchase of over 1 billion worth of marina real estate. The smaller marina-oriented investment company Sagamore Blue is also on the hunt for marina real estate and purchased the reknown marina and boat service yard Irwin Marine on the shore of Chesapeake Bay.  In Europe, former family companies are being grouped in international marina conglomerates. The French group Port Adhoc acquired the Dutch chain of marinas ‘Thuishavens’. This adds 5 marinas in the Netherlands to the 7 this group already operated in France. See the interview with the new managing director of Port Adhoc Netherlands at METSTRADE news. Marinas joining forces has been an ongoing process over the last decades in Europe. The (mostly) British The Yacht Harbour Association comprises of 387 marinas all over the world.

Added customers

The accumulated services at the waterside grounds of marinas can provide their services for recreational vehicles (campers) as well. All of the necessary infrastructure is there: toilets and showers, electricity connections, shops for provisions and the lot. A parking ground is often also at the marina, so a dedicated spot for campers to park may be arranged to service also that group of mobile holiday makers. For those arriving in smaller boats or vehicles, compact floating apartments can be docked along the piers of the marina. This provides a pleasant holiday home in the interesting nautical surroundings of the marina with – again – all provisions and services nearby.

Talk to boat builders

The Association of Marina Industries conference in January this year focussed on Marinas of the Future. Clean Marinas, with sound waste collection and recycling facilities, efficient energy supply and activation of responsible behaviour of the visitors, was one of the big topics. A second subject addressed was development of strong construction engineering, enabling jetties to withstand hurricane force winds. Reflecting the changing needs and expectations of marina visitors, conference participants expressed the need to work with yacht designers. Cabin yachts get bigger. Sailing yachts are much beamier than before. Motoryachts get larger. Conference coordinator Kayce Forio says: “There must be a greater connection between the boat manufacturers, the dealers and the marinas. It’s great that the industry is moving toward hybrid and electric. The marinas need to be ready for this, and my goal is to get marinas a bigger voice at the table. The boats that are in marinas are bigger, and owners have greater expectations for amenities and customer service. If the marinas don’t deliver on that experience, that whole circle of life doesn’t work.”

Expanding for super yachts

Expansion of existing marinas and creation of new ones, especially in the Mediterranean, shows that marina operators see growing demand for super yacht berths. In the port town of Vlora in Albania, the whole new sea side residency Vlora Marina is created with 20 berths for mega yachts, sea view apartments, dockside security and all kinds of hospitality. Some 200 kms to the southeast, a new marina is under construction in the bay of Amfilochia, bordering the lagoon Amvrakikos Kolpos in the western part of Greece. 130 berths with added berths for super yachts are built, again with extensive hospitality and services companies included in the plans. The marina will open this spring. Likewise, in Australia, the Gold Coast Boatyard is expanding their super yacht facilities. A 30 million dollar investment will allow for a new crane, new berths and a large building with restaurants, offices for the growing number of supplier companies and new halls for dry storage in winter. Gold Coast Boatyard CEO Tony Longhurst says: “Building on the success of the super yacht facility that we opened in January 2020, we are adding more infrastructure for tenants and customers. We are proud to offer new opportunities for growth for all our marine service partners within the facility. Their success in turn enhances our operational efficiency. By this time next year, the super yacht yard will have doubled in size.”


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