“News always makes things look worse than they are. Security is an issue but not as big as you might think. Tunisians are very peaceful people and it’s a pretty safe place.”
“The marina would open next year even if political problems are the same,” he said.
Tunisia has hit the headlines again with its opposition politician, Mohamed Brahmi, assassinated just outside Tunis, sparking protests and violence and rescinding the question of its political instability. Tunisia was the country that started the Arab Spring in 2011, with mass demonstrations against autocratic rule spilling out into Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran, Libya and Syria.
But Bizerte, 65km away, is not caught up in the unrest, said Morley who had just returned from a site visit. The delays in opening – the marina was due to open in 2012 and then in 2013 – are due to financing problems rather than political:
“The business plan was to pre-sell berths to help finance the project but developers had to finance it in other ways, which they got and are now carrying on.”
The marina will offer 800 berths for yachts up to 110m once completed along with hotel, crew facilities, shops and restaurants. It is strategically well placed, in the passage from the west to east Mediterranean, and is popular as a non-EU bunkering stop from nearby Mediterranean destinations, such as Malta. Harnessing the power of trying it before staying to enjoy the marina is the strategy, explained Morley, with the fuel used as bait to encourage yachts to come and recognise its charms. Publicity to counteract the violent image of north Africa is not even on the cards at this stage, as it would be futile:
“Not even the best marketing in the world is going to convince people to relocate without seeing and experiencing it. Fuel is the reason people will go initially,’ said Morley.
Cruising to a politically volatile country might seem outlandish, but locations such as Tunisia offer picturesque cruising in relatively unchartered waters, in superyacht terms at least, and this is indicative of a growing trend among adventurous owners. Superyacht Enigma (ex Norna) plans a charter of the west African coast and Congo this Autumn and newly launched Limassol marina reports that most of its initial yacht visitors have come from the Middle East, transiting via the Suez Canal.
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