Malta as a Premier Yachting Destination


As published in the Malta Business Weekly, Malta is increasingly becoming an important destination for the high end yachting market which is one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy. Gerald Fenech spoke to Ben Stuart, general manager at Camper and Nicholsons Grand Harbour Marina on their progress since starting operations in Malta and their plans for the future.

Camper and Nicholsons are a household name in the yachting industry worldwide and their operation at the Grand Harbour Marina has set the standards for the sector in Malta. How has the operation grown since the marina was inaugurated in 2005?

As Camper and Nicholsons we recently moved our operational office to Malta and are concentrating on expanding our worldwide presence. We currently own two other marinas, one in the Mediterranean and one in the Caribbean – which are in the construction phase – as well as a number of management agreements for the operation of other marinas. We strongly believe that Malta should continue to be our operational base and we are happy with the way things are going at the moment.

What about the marina at the Birgu Waterfront and how has that developed?

We are very pleased with the marina and as you may know we became a plc in the beginning of 2007 and have done extremely well at an operational level. We use it as a flagship marina and to introduce protocols and procedures which we would then introduce in other marinas, we have brought over people from Grenada and Italy to see how things are done in Malta and they eventually implement these ideas in their own marinas. So we are in quite a good position, having hit our targets and we look forward to further successful business.

Is Camper and Nicholsons looking to expand its berthing numbers especially in the view of the ongoing marina privatisation?

We are always looking at opportunities to see where and when we can increase berths. Currently we are analysing how we can increase berthing space at the marina without compromising the high quality services which we give to our clients. We have recently concluded an agreement with the Malta Maritime Authority to manage the space at the old Dock Number 1 for summer and take care of the overspill and excess demand which currently exists in Malta. We are also very interested in the privatisation process and are closely following that too.

Do you believe that there is a problem with berthing space in Malta at present?

We have a waiting list of boats wanting to come in and you can probably overlap that with the list that the MMA has. Our approach to the market is that you should not oversupply the berthing space as with that you lower the quality you give across the board. The essence in which we believe in is to keep supply just under demand so that any player in the market is able to provide the best quality of service possible. That way the actual level of service is not compromised.

Does Camper and Nicholsons engage in social activities which are intended to regenerate the area where it operates?

We strongly believe in education, informing everybody around us in what we do and that benefits us as well. As a result of this we are the main sponsor of the rebirth of the Vittoriosa Football Nursery which we have done in conjunction with the local council, Mayor John Boxal and Dahlia Real Estate. We have our head office here and we want to be a successful partner with the local council. We have also introduced a number of training programmes and this helps us to continually provide top quality service to our clients. We are very conscious of the bigger picture and the need to continually promote Malta as a whole, as we regularly do at top boat shows abroad.

What is the reaction when you are selling Malta abroad?

There is quite a lot of interest in Malta but there are other services which need some upgrading if we want to continually attract high net worth individuals to Malta. At the end of the day, their boat is worth a substantial amount of money but it is actually a small part of their total investment. So Malta does need to be coherent in all the other aspects which can attract these potential visitors to Malta, the high value lifestyle is important to them so the package being offered needs to be top notch. The natural aspects of the harbour are tremendous if everyone pulls the same rope, we can really grasp the opportunities that are out there.

So are we getting there when it comes to the improvement of our product or are we still a long way off?

We are getting there but from the feedback I receive the islands could get there a bit quicker. Success all boils down to co-operation between parties without worrying about our own specific interests. At Camper and Nicholsons we have recognised the fact that you do not need to focus on your specific needs and be execcively protective about your particular sector but when the complete picture is given, business as a whole will naturally increase.

What do you believe are the opportunities to be created with the privatisation of the shipyards and the yacht marinas?

We are not really in the shipyard business but we certainly welcome the privatisation of this sector especially the superyacht services which will help the industry develop more. The only thing that is slightly worrying is the fact that there is a vacuum at the moment on who will be taking over the shipyards and that the investment which is necessary is not made in good time. We feel we have a lot to contribute to the yachting industry due to our international experience and we would wish to work towards a sustainable yachting industry.

Placing the yacht marinas in the hands of private enterprise is the only way to develop the industry and government and the MMA must be congratulated for their drive towards providing an appropriately regulated framework for the industry to prosper. At the end of the day the coastal area and sea around Malta is a resource that provides us with a lifestyle that makes Malta an attractive place to live in.

What are your plans for the future?

The privatisation process of the marinas is something which we are very enthusiastic about nalthough we are cautious about the temporary marinas. we are also excited to be part of the process and are looking forward for the opportunities which may arise from this. Camper and Nicholsons are always looking for opportunities which continue to make commercial sense to us and Malta offers substantial opportunities with its size and the other characteristics which make this country such a good place to work in.

Malta continues to be vulnerable to swift changes in the local and global economy so we have to be extra careful to protect the opportunities that are available and maintain a mechanism that llows us to react with equal swiftness to external changes.

An issue which we would like to see fully resolved is the fuel supply issue which can lose the country considerable business if not tackled properly. There is no need for us to be blinkered and focused just on our individual aspects. Through the fuel issue, the islands can lose millions of euro in revenue if not tackled properly. The overspill into the economy is substantial and steps really need to be taken to address this issue which will have lasting benefits to the economy in a real way.