Albania is well known to the superyacht community, but not necessarily as a destination in itself. The benefit of stopping in Albania to take on board duty-free fuel, for both private and commercially registered vessels, at a saving of over 50 per cent when compared to a typical duty paid fuel supplier is well recorded. However, as the factors restricting superyacht visitation have diminished, more and more superyachts are starting to explore Albania.
For years Albania has been marred by stereotypes relating to the mafia and criminality, with preconceptions driven largely by ignorance rather than experience. “There is a huge push from the government to change the global opinion of Albania,” starts Chris Peacock, area manager for the Ionian Islands and Albania at G&K Yachting, a subsidiary of Acquera Yachting.
The Adriatic Coast is considered to be one of the most promising growth areas for Acquera Yachting and Peacock will be a key member of the G&K Yachting Management team, who already provide services in Greece. More specifically, he will be spearheading the growth plans in the Ionian Islands and Albania. The latter of which has become a hot spot for yachts due to Greek cabotage laws and regulations as well as duty free fuel. This will dramatically reinforce the breadth of services that Acquera Yachting can offer its portfolio of clients.
"Albania has a truly stunning coastline"
“The Albanian people are incredibly warm and welcoming and as a nation they are extremely open to new experiences and markets. As well as having a welcoming population, Albania has a truly stunning coastline. The only issue with the coastline is that it is relatively open to the elements, but during July and August the weather in that part of the world is very calm. The Ionian Sea has always been a favourite for captains to cruise because there is so little wind.”
One of the reasons that Albania was seldomly visited by yachts in the past was that its coastline had been designated as dangerous in the post WWII era because of markers for mines and various other dangers along the coastline. However, the Albanian government, with the help of the British admiralty, has since cleared the dangers and the designations have been removed from navigational charts.
“It was a huge issue,” explains Peacock. “If you were insuring the vessel, for example, you wouldn’t be very happy about it sailing into areas of coastline with various warnings. Fortunately, they have been removed, which is encouraging more yachts to explore the region.”
According to official statistics published by the Albanian authorities, 842 yachts visited Saranda Port, Albania, in 2017. This figure increased to 1007 in 2018 and to 1575 in 2019. While the statistics do not specify what size the vessels are, it is abundantly clear, given the 80 per cent increase in yacht visitation from 2017-2019, that the market in Albania is only moving in one direction.
"The more superyachts that go there...just drives more yachts to go"
“I used to go to Albania just after the fall of communism (1992) and one of the first yachts that I ever took there was called T6, a beautiful 48m explorer yacht from New Zealand. It took quite some convincing at the time because of the preconception that Albania was a sketchy country. Around four years ago I encourage Rising Sun to go to Albania and since then there has just been more and more demand. The more superyachts that go there and have a positive experience of the cruising, the sites, the beaches, the great food and everything else that Albania has to offer just drives more yachts to go.”
In recent years much as been made of the growing appetite, on the part of superyacht owners and charter guests, to expand their horizons and explore superyacht destinations other than those that exist within the Mediterranean and Caribbean hubs. Ordinarily, when people consider this growing appetite for adventure, conversations stray towards trips to far flung destinations such as the Arctic, South America or the Islands to the north of Oceania. However, the growing popularity of Albania proves that there is much to explore within Europe itself.
Blue Eye, Albania
“I would advise superyacht guests start in Saranda, from where they are able to visit the Butrint UNESCO protected archaeological site, which has both Roman and Greek ruins. In the same day they could visit the Blue Eye – a natural spring that is renowned for its beauty. If the guests felt a little more adventurous they could also visit Gjirokaster, which is an old stone-built town protected by UNESCO that is about an hour from Saranda,” explains Peacock.
“From Saranda I would recommend that the vessel cruises up the coast where there are some absolutely pristine beaches that can only be accessed by boat. There is little to no development along the coast which makes for truly beautiful landscapes and anchorages. From there the guests could visit Durres and Tirana to enjoy Albania’s unique gastronomy. I truly believe that some of the best seafood that one can find is in Tirana and Durres. If guests want to explore in land, Albania’s mountains are considered to be one Europe’s last true wildernesses.”
The one potential drawback is that, at present, there is no superyacht specific infrastructure in Albania with superyacht’s being confined to the nations four large commercial ports. However, according to Peacock, there are no fewer than 15 marina projects currently in the pipeline, ranging from small pleasure and fishing vessels up to superyachts, eight of which have been approved, the most relevant of which is the development of Porto Albania on the Kalaja e Turres peninsula.
Porto Albania visualisation
Porto Albania will offer a marina for yachts up to 70m, with around 20-40 berths for yachts over 30m, dedicated yacht maintenance facility, residential complex and retail amenities. Work on the marina started a number of years ago, but ground to a halt when the Swiss development company Finsec AG pulled its funding. However, the project has since been acquired by an Albanian investment fund, with work due to begin imminently. Quite when the project is due for completion has not yet been confirmed, however Peacock suggests that it should be within the next three years. Deadlines aside, the commencement of the project certainly highlights that the intention is there to bring an increasingly large number of superyachts to Albania.
“I am very excited to be joining Acquera Yachting at the start of a new decade. The impressive acquisition of Evolution Yacht Agents and G&K Yachting, the resulting noise that’s being made in the industry, and Stefano’s vision were the catalysts in my decision to join the family. I see Acquera Yachting as the agency of the future. Although I am sad to be leaving the lifelong friendships that have been formed in my previous workplace, I also have the most tremendous drive to grow and work in a company that is committed to changing the face of the agency sector,” concludes Peacock.
If you like reading our Editors' premium quality journalism on SuperyachtNews.com, you'll love their amazing and insightful opinions and comments in The Superyacht Report. If you’ve never read it, click here to request a sample copy - it's 'A Report Worth Reading'. If you know how good it is, click here to subscribe - it's 'A Report Worth Paying For'.