Let's be honest. When people think megayachts, they think money—and for good reason. Not only are these vessels costly to own and operate, they have an enormous positive impact on local economies. Take, for example, a recent study conducted by Thomas J. Murray & Associates on behalf of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. It found that nearly 1,500 megayachts cruised into Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach counties in 2006. On average, each vessel created nearly $500,000 in economic impact among boatyard expenses, brokerage commissions, and charter fees. That's $750 million generated by a relatively small number of yachts.
It's that kind of staggering impact, coupled with a shortage of mooring facilities for large yachts, that accounts for the recent surge in megayacht marina construction that's taking place worldwide. Developers are working overtime to build berths that can accommodate super-size yachts. Here, we take a closer look at a few notable megayacht marinas that have either just opened or soon will. If you're an owner, charter client, or just a yacht spotter, you'll want to set your course for one of these exotic locales on your next voyage.
Watson Island, Miami
In the same way that New Yorkers believe their city is the center of the universe, South Floridians know that their home is the nerve center of yachting in the United States. So it should come as no great surprise that in 2001, Miami voters threw their support behind plans for the construction of a megayacht marina on Watson Island in Biscayne Bay.
The $575-million project, known as Island Gardens, represents a partnership between the Flagstone Property Group and the City of Miami. The development will include a 50-berth, full-service superyacht harbor, two hotels, more than 220,000 square feet of retail and dining space, and expansive gardens. Construction is slated to begin this fall.
The superyacht harbor at Island Gardens will dedicate 43 berths to yachts between 100 and 450 feet LOA. The remaining seven berths will be set aside for vessels in the 60- to 100-foot LOA range. The harbor docks will be angled to ensure that all slips have clear views of the Miami skyline. Flagstone is banking on the harbor's proximity to downtown Miami to be a significant draw for megayacht owners. It believes the marina will give the area the same cachet as locales like St. Tropez and Monte Carlo. Or as Mehmet Kayraktar, chairman of Flagstone, says, "You are offering South Beach buzz, much closer to downtown." Island Gardens is scheduled for completion in late 2010.
IslaMoin, Costa Rica
The IslaMoin Marina and Resort is being developed on 208 acres in the province of Limon, which is on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Christopher Columbus discovered the area in 1502, and today its rainforests are home to several national parks.
The full-service megayacht marina is being developed by the Coral Gables-based SolerPazos Group and will be surrounded by more than 8,000 feet of beachfront and deep-water canals. When completed, it will offer 380 slips to yachts between 50 and 250 feet, both in the main marina village and along canals throughout the development. Many slips will be designed to handle megayachts with drafts of up to 18 feet. And because the marina sits at 10N, it is away from the hurricane zone and therefore considered a safe harbor. It is also located on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, where there has never been a hurricane of any magnitude.
The marina's surrounding gated community will feature 560 resort residences, 100 beachfront villas, 100 private homes, and a luxury hotel. Marina customers and crew will have access to private clubhouses with amenities such as pools, game rooms, and movie theatres in addition to a 24-hour concierge and security.
Keppel Bay, Singapore
The recent Merrill Lynch and Capgemini World Wealth Report stated that in 2007, three locations saw double-digit growth in high-net-worth individuals: India, Indonesia, and Singapore. Not surprisingly these newly minted "HNWIs" have been stocking up on luxury goods, including yachts 80 feet and longer, which has resulted in an increased demand for megayacht marinas.
On January 19 the Keppel Corporation and Bellingham Marine Industries completed phase one of a new marina on Keppel Island in southern Singapore. Seventy-five berths, including 13 for yachts up to 250 feet, were opened. An additional 95 slips will be finished in phase two.
The marina at Keppel Bay features floating, concrete "Unifloat" docks, which, according to Bellingham, is a superior material: Not only is it durable and fire resistant, it's also better for maintaining water quality than traditional treated-wood pilings. In addition, all megayacht berths at Keppel Bay marina will have reticulated vacuum sewer pump-outs, a first for any facility in the area. And at the south end of the harbor, winged, seven-foot-deep wave-attenuator pontoons will ensure that the marina's waters stay flat calm.
Once completed, Keppel Bay will offer a customs and immigration quarantine port, advanced 24-hour security system that includes virtual fencing, and a full-service concierge. Marina customers will also have access to the Island Suite, a private dining room, and The Wine Glass, a members-only wine bar with sweeping views of the harbor.
St. George's, Grenada
Forecasters are predicting that the Port Louis development in St. George's will be an enormous boon to Grenada's economy. Brenda Hood, minister of works for the island nation, says the project should make the Spice Isle "one of the top tourism destinations in the Caribbean."
Real-estate mogul and former megayacht owner Peter de Savary is overseeing the $500 million Port Louis development through his company Port Louis Trading. In early 2007 Camper & Nicholsons' Marina Investments Limited (CNMI) announced its intention to partner with de Savary. It will commit $24 million to marketing and managing Port Louis Marina, which has nearly 110,000 square feet of water and will eventually contain 300 yacht slips. Sixty berths will be set aside for megayachts from 100 to 330 feet.
Port Louis Marina opened for business on January 4 and has 50 full-service berths available, 14 of which are for megayachts. The project achieved a coup when, just before Christmas, the 288-foot Maltese Falcon docked at the marina. Construction and dredging had to go into overdrive to accommodate the massive yacht, but workers were able to create the necessary draft clearance just in time.
When finished, the Port Louis development will have shops, restaurants, hotels, and private residences. Additional amenities for megayacht customers will likely include a heliport, golf course, spa, and access to the Port Louis Yacht Club.
Croatia has become an increasingly popular destination for megayachts and charterers who appreciate the area's European feel but savor the low-key appeal of the Eastern Med. Actually, "low-key" might be a stretch: Not only do a large number of superyachts now frequent the area, Island Global Yachting (IGY) recently announced that it will partner with Nautical Center Prgin (NCP) to develop the area's first dedicated megayacht marina.
The coastal town of Sibenik is in central Dalmatia on the Adriatic Coast and features Gothic- and Renaissance-style architecture. It sits near the Kornati Archipelago and Krka National Parks, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and popular destinations for tourists. The new megayacht marina will be adjacent to NCP's Mandalina Marina, a popular boat basin, which has already transformed Sibenik into a major cruising hub.
Though there's no word yet on how many berths the marina will house and what amenities it might have, it's a pretty safe bet that it'll be top notch. Other IGY megayacht marinas have offered full concierge services, complete provisioning, and vessel repair centers.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.