11 Oct 2012
EU pledges support for sustainable growth of marinas
The EU Commission, the executive body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation and implementing decisions, has made headway in its push for EU Member states to adopt its ‘Blue Growth’ strategy.
The Blue Growth plan – of primary relevance to the growth of superyacht marinas - is an initiative to harness the ‘untapped potential’ of Europe's oceans, seas and coasts to bolster jobs and economic growth. “Growth in the blue economy offers new and innovative ways to help steer the EU out of its current economic crisis,” read the EU Commission paper released in September, culminating in the adoption of a new maritime agenda on 8 October at a conference in Limassol, Cyprus.
The report cited factors such as maritime and coastal tourism representing 1.1 per cent of total EU employment and a predicted expansion of two to three per cent a year in the European yachting industry as a reason to focus on its growth.
As marinas are sprouting up in traditionally pure and unspoilt regions in EU territories including Greece, Turkey and Croatia, a strategy to implement their sustainable and environmentally sound development has never been more necessary.
“Focusing on where there is growth and doing it in the right way is important. Trying to retrofit things at old marinas is a lot more difficult than if it's considered at the start,” said Dan Reading sustainability officer at The Green Blue, a BMF and RYA joint environment programme, which raises awareness of sustainability and offers best practice to owners and marinas.
“At the end of the day the water for marina industries is one of its largest assets; people buy yachts to go sailing on it and enjoy it. It's important to ensure people keep coming back to it, that it's an attractive destination,” he continued.
Marina consultant and ICOMIA member, Oscar Siches agreed. Support from the EU is often seen in purely financial terms, but “the key factor of the strategy is the government backup. It does not always involve money, it’s important to legislate on old rules and adapt them to the present time.”
As well as aims to reduce the carbon footprint and the environmental impact of coastal tourism, whilst growing the marine sector, the Blue Growth plan touches on a raft of other measures, which could bolster the superyacht and marina sector.
One of these is a proposal to up the marine workforce's skill set level via education courses.
“Given the sheer magnitude of the activity, the precariousness and low-skill level of much of [the marine sector’s] current workforce, measures at a sea-basin or EU level could have a significant positive impact,” read the report.
Siches welcomed this as a measure that’s well overdue.
“At ICOMIA we have been voicing the need of specific marina operator training for a number of years. Here in Spain, several yacht harbour and nautical industry organisations are requesting the recognition of those courses and qualifications. It is a big need.”
The EU Commission voiced its support for work already undertaken by some member states to increase education, jobs and share skill sets, praising the emergence of maritime clusters. This summer, at the Monaco Yacht Show one of these clusters, the Barcelona Nautical Cluster (BNC) was launched with Marina Port Vell, MB'92 and the Fundación para la Navegación Oceánica de Barcelona (FNOB) - a professional training body - its first members. BNC’s objectives include the generation of highly skilled expertise in the increasingly strong Barcelona maritime sector.
But it may be felt that the plan – which includes expanding infrastructure, berthing capacity, coastal tourism whilst simultaneously reducing carbon footprint, increasing skill sets and creating more jobs, and all as soon as 2013 – has bitten off more than it can chew.
“Blue Growth is a fantastic concept with a very unlikely implementation in the time scales given,” summed up Siches.
Nevertheless, it is good news that the right terminology is in place for a healthy future of superyacht marina growth. Growth in purely economic terms is important for the eurozone's recovery, but in yachting and the superyacht marina sector, it needs to be controlled with an eye on sustainability and the environment. The water is the lifeblood of the industry so its needs must come first.
The 'Blue Growth' report can be downloaded on the EU Commission Maritime Affairs Website here
The Green Blue Website
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