Originally transformed from a derelict naval base into an emerging yachting destination by Canadian entrepreneur and superyacht owner Peter Munk, Porto Montenegro was founded on the principal of a luxury marina catering for yachts up to 250m. Since its acquisition by the Investment Corporation of Dubai in 2016, there has been a renewed focus on the property development side of the business, with the construction of new residences, a major extension to the existing hotel and a 10-year plan to double the size of the development. The current marina capacity is 450 berths, with a total of 850 planned by project completion, of which 311 will be for superyachts.
Speaking exclusively to SuperyachtNews.com, CEO David Margason reveals that this is all part of the long-term strategy to unite the land and water and create a thriving homeport for superyachts and a hub for superyacht business. “Many marina projects aim to market themselves as a homeport, but when you look at the landscape here in Montenegro in terms of tax structure, flexible cruising regulations, cost of living and landscape, it is difficult to identify another place with such natural characteristics of a superyacht hub,” Margason explains. “Our aim now is to fill in all the missing pieces of the puzzle to transform it into that hub.”
Porto Montenegro CEO David Margason
As well as the recently announced redevelopment of Bijela shipyard, which will enable Porto Montenegro’s clients to conduct refit and repair work in the area, the marina is building up its facilities for the crew. Renowned for its recreational offering to crew, which includes a fitness centre, swimming pool and ski lodge, Porto Montenegro has recently partnered with Warsash Superyacht Academy to provide Warsash’s training syllabus onsite and will be running the first courses this year. "Historically there has always been the perception that yachts had to winter in Barcelona or Palma because the crew want the access to the nightlife," says Margason. "But this attitude is changing – the first questions crew ask us is where the gym is and what activities there are in the area."
Since Margason arrived on the project following the ICD acquisition, a key strategy for the team has been changing the market’s perception that Porto Montenegro is expensive and inflexible in its offering of berthing packages. “This was largely to do with the fact that the company was being prepared for sale and it is hard to be flexible with pricing when you are looking for buyers,” he explains. “Now that we have long-term investors on board and there is no exit strategy, there is a big drive to make [Porto Montenegro] a success. And part of that is designing bespoke homeport packages that make it value for money.”
“Now that we have long-term investors on board and there is no exit strategy, there is a big drive to make [Porto Montenegro] a success..."
Porto Montenegro is hoping to position itself as an attractive alternative to west Mediterranean-based marinas by offering long-term berth leases of up to 40 years. For the future, Margason is also working on a new Montenegrin flag system and is developing more office spaces for a burgeoning business community to be based in the marina. Porto Montenegro is even working with insurers to offer discounts on premiums for boats kept in Boka bay because of the bay’s natural protection from the elements.
However, the biggest barrier to growth for Porto Montenegro is geography: Montenegro will always be a long way from the French Riviera. “Even though the south of France has tax and overcrowding issues, it is still the centre of gravity for the industry,” he says. “So we have to work twice as hard to attract the boats. Owners and captains are so fed up of paying extortionate rates, so our selling point has to be lower costs compared to the west Med but higher standards. We want to create an environment where clients get high quality service alongside fair treatment and value for money. Eventually, the aim is to have Porto Montenegro perceived as the central hub for superyacht business, including berthing, service, support, management and insurance – if we achieve this then we will have succeeded in our long-term goal.”
Montenegro factsheet for visiting yachts
• 7% VAT on marine-related services;
• Tax and duty-free fuel, up to 45% cheaper than other European countries.
Flexible cruising regulations:
• No restriction to pick-up and drop-off;
• Make multiple changes to guest and crew manifests;
• No time restrictions on foreign yachts in Montenegrin waters.
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