Fabian Demicoli

We are missing the boat big time….again!!!

 

 Island Capital Group, The New York-based investment banking company is creating its first marina project, called Yacht Haven, on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The project, scheduled to open later this year, will transform a derelict 1970s dock space into luxury condos, a hotel and 125,000 square feet of luxury retail space – along with enough dock space for 150 yachts of 400 feet or bigger. Island Capital Group also has teamed with Nakheel, a property development firm in Dubai, to build as many as 40,000 boat slips in new marinas throughout Dubai.

 

In Genoa, on the Italian Riveria, the Marina Genova Aeroporto is being constructed. Robert Inwards of Inwards Ltd. in Monaco, a project spokesman, said the new marina there will have more than 600 berths of as long as 250 feet in length and the town being developed nearby will have apartments, restaurants, stores and other yachting facilities.

On Madeira, the Portuguese island in the Atlantic, Marina Quinta do Lorde, which can accommodate yachts as long as 150 feet, is being completed.

The marina infrastructure in India (!) will be improved significantly over the next five years, according to local news reports. Both private and government money will fund coastal marina and inland boating infrastructure developments.

United Arab Emirates conglomerate Tameer have commenced expansion into North Africa with plans for a new project in Libya that comes at the cost 26 billion Libyan dinars ($20 billion). This will include the largest Marina development in North Africa.

In Tunisia Dubai company Emaar is building an AED 6.7 billion ($1.88 billion) Marina Al Qussor project on Tunisia's eastern coast in Sousse .This development will have tourist and residential accommodation, plus a large marina village at its centre.

Sicily and Cyprus are both developing new marinas. Sicily aims to have 10,000 berths by the year 2010 alone.

It is a known fact of life that the yachting tourist spends twenty times more (yes you are seeing right) than a normal tourist. If they winter their boats here, it is much more, besides the obvious fillip this will give to the marine services industry.

During summer, Malta is ideally placed as a rest stop for the many boats going to and coming from Greek waters into Italian waters, as well as boats going from Suez up to the French Riviera. During the off-season when the yachts are not cruising, they need to stop somewhere for repairs but it is difficult to find dockage and berths. Many existing facilities are inadequate to accommodate the mid to mega-yachts and demand for dockage has increased significantly. (Now that's an opportunity we are passing up to revamp our docks!)

And wither Malta? Here we are still fighting over festi, murtali and imagined sea life in the largely lifeless St. Paul's bay seabed. And in the meantime, tourism business is slowing down.

Without a doubt, we are lagging far far behind in this field. We have been discussing Marina developments in Malta for too long a time, with study after study being published. As long ago as 1992, the then Minister had declared Xemxija as the ideal site for another marina. MEPA agrees. Somehow, some people have managed to stop the Government in its tracks on this one. Who are these people? Environmentalists? Some powerful papa' or figlio di papa' who has ideas on another site? What right have they got to have it their own way, every time, to the detriment of the many?

Bugibba, Xemxija and St Paul's Bay, once the haven of the "lira Breakfast "and the cheap beer tourist, is dying. Many hotels have closed down, and the flats are empty.

A breakwater and Marina will revamp the economy of this place. It will push it up market. It will give shelter to the small but important local fishing fleet. A good Private – Government partnership can make the Saint Paul's Bay / Bugibba area as desirable as anywhere else. We have Birgu as a prime example on our doorstep. We can do this. We can do everything. We are Maltese!

I recently visited a Greek Marina development. It was obviously man made (in 1973), but you wouldn't be able to tell. Trees abounded and right inside the marina, amongst the boats, there was a pristine white beach. Children were swimming and learning to sail. And above it all flew the coveted Blue Flag. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were another two Blue Flag beaches on the outside arms of the Marina. If the Greeks, who in my opinion are rather disorganized, can do it, so what in God's name is preventing us?

Why are tree huggers keeping marina development from happening in St Paul's Bay and elsewhere in Malta? I am all for environment protection, but our fundamentalist anti-development breed of environmentalists is a sad but vociferous lot. I truly suspect that some people's motivation with the environment have more to do with that particular Maltese blight, envy, than anything else.

And what of the breakwater that will protect the whole of Sliema Creek?  Its construction was a prime condition for the development of Tigne point. Has someone "negotiated" it quietly away?

The Maltese people deserve nothing less than a breakwater here in return for the desecration of Dragut Point. This will allow safer berthing inside Sliema Creek itself. If that was part of the deal, then Government has the moral responsibility to make sure the developer constructs it!

We need shelter for Marinas to happen. There is not one single porticcuolo in Italy that does not have a breakwater similar to the one ion Mgarr built out of EU funds. If Government commits itself to just help with putting some EU funds to construct boulder-type breakwaters in some of our derelict bays, then private industry will make the rest happen.

We have a maritime heritage to live up to. Yachting tourism is here to stay, as boats become more affordable. Yachting in the Mediterranean is booming. And yes, Marina Development and environmental enhancement can complement each other!

Let's not wait for the proverbial fig to fall into our mouth on this one, shall we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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