Oliver Corlette, managing director of Porto Montenegro says development is moving forward with a major Northern European yacht builder on the development of the Bijela Shipyard in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. “We are getting very close to finalising a deal with the government,” Corlette told SuperyachtNews.com exclusively. “Once it’s established, it will be unquestionably one of the most significant yacht refit facilities in Europe with one of the most credible backers.”

Like every step of the Porto Montenegro development, the refit yard plan has grown in ambition and scope while attracting some of the industry’s biggest names and most reputable commercial partners. “This is not about taking a few boats out of the water, it’s about really investing in the future of the superyacht industry in Montenegro,” Corlette said. “It’s an extensive, deep, broad investment in skills development, and taking advantage of what historically has been a labour force with marine skills.”

The marina development, started less than a decade ago by Canadian businessman Peter Munk and co-owners including Nathaniel Rothschild and Bernard Arnault, has this year completed a €60 million hotel development and announced expansion of berths to 450.

Corlette says the new EU tax regime in neighbouring Croatia has had a positive knock-on effect on business at the Montenegrin marina. “We’re seeing a very significant increase in arrival traffic here,” Corlette said. “It’s grown dramatically. In 2011 we clocked 800 arrivals, in 2012 we were just under 1600, 2013 was 1900 and so far this year we’re 15 per cent above year-to-date. By next year, we’ll see the full impact of the doubling of the marina, so we do expect those numbers to continue to grow.”

“We believe the fifteen per cent increase we’ve seen on arrivals without increasing the berth spaces is very much a result of the tax regime change in Croatia,” Corlette said. “It has now made it more difficult for non-Croatian flagged yachts to charter there and that’s essentially made it much more appealing for foreign-flagged vessels to start and/or end their charter outside of Croatia, in particular, here in Montenegro. While the regime was technically in place previously, it has now become more rigorous. With the facilities here that make it a proper homeport, we’re seeing owners, guests and crew spend a night or two here before or after their charter.”

Corlette says he doesn’t expect to see the government in Montenegro change it’s current stance on tax there. “The government here sees the employees, the jobs, the training, the new investments coming which has created a lot of stakeholders in the success of this industry here. I think the government is now really actively working on many levels to encourage business and to encourage yachts to come here.”

Peter Munk, the 86 year old visionary Canadian developer behind the genesis of Porto Montenegro has suffered a trying year with his primary business, the global mining giant Barrick Gold, and stepped down in April after dramatic a fall in share price following an over-ambitious period of growth. Corlette says that hasn’t in any way affected the project. “Porto Montenegro today is an independent enterprise. We have 450 employees, we’ve sold over €250 million worth of property, we’re just about to open a €60 million hotel, we’re finishing the expansion of the marina in terms of costs. Mr. Munk is our founder and the visionary behind the project and in that sense he will always be part of Porto Montenegro and will be forever. The challenges he’s faced in the last year have had no impact whatsoever on us. In the early years of development, these sorts of things can have an impact, but now, we have broad shareholder support.

Corlette says the marina will continue to expand aggressively. “There’s a big investment going into the shipyard over the next 12 months, assuming we get this deal done; we’re about to commence the completion of another 45 residential units, sales for which are well ahead of plan; our residential sales have increased 50 per cent year on year so we’re seeing very significant increase in demand on that front and we will be launching a new building over the course of the summer.”

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