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Motoring / Yachts

Marina Construction: Safety is Both Essential and an Opportunity

The protection of yachts and users is the heart of a successful marina, while a thoughtfully designed breakwater can also offer public engagement and additional revenue streams. By Christophe Saune.

Jul 21, 2020 | By Yacht Style

Whether it’s dramatic drought, massive fires or deadly floods, the effects of global climate change no longer surprise anyone. With rising oceans, more frequent cyclonic rains and associated landslides, waterfront developments are some of the most exposed infrastructures.

A marine's priority is the protection of boats; Photo: Dan Edel / Unsplash

A marine’s priority is the protection of boats; Photo: Dan Edel / Unsplash

Poralu Marine is recognised globally for the design, construction and management of marinas and is very active in Asia-Pacific, where we witness multiple projects flourishing around the region but many that don’t provide sufficient protection.

Ensuring the correct level of safety is not only the best way to protect a marina’s assets and initial investment; it’s also the development’s best selling point.

Marina protection can and should be proactively assessed from the early stages of the project. If not assessed and acted upon, the consequences for the new premises can be particularly severe in terms of insurance, management and infrastructure.


At the planning stage and before getting into operations, insurance should be viewed as essential, one of a marina’s ongoing responsibilities. Having an understanding of weather-related risks and their consequences, especially through the reinsurance market point of view, is crucial in successful planning.

Indeed, insurers are increasingly concerned about weather-related disaster losses and their coverage. The Swiss Re Institute’s Sigma report indicated that over the course of a decade, an average annual loss of US$212 billion was linked to natural catastrophes.

From an insurance perspective, weather-related risks are evaluated by combining hazards (the type of perils and frequency), vulnerability (susceptibility of the exposed elements to the hazards) and exposure, in terms of population and asset values.

If marina developers can’t control the environment around their development, they have the possibility to implement the right mitigation policies to limit the weather-related impacts, especially to decrease their vulnerability. In the long run, having the right infrastructure and proper protection is the only way to guarantee a marina’s insurability.

Colin Dawson, specialist yacht insurance broker at Expat Marine and a Founding Member of Asia Pacific Superyacht Association, confirms the importance of these mitigation policies.

“Developers have to consider the knowledge and experience of the marina construction company building and designing at the highest international standards,” Dawson says.

“Insurers will consider how weather patterns have been researched and what response has been given to protect the insured asset.”

While insurance coverage for non-protected marinas could be an issue, it could also lead boat owners to shun such infrastructure.

“Take the Caribbean for example. Insurances do not cover weather-related risks during the storm season,” Dawson says.

“This isn’t the case in Asia, however, and even if underwriters don’t require a yacht to be located in a typhoon-proof marina, it is important to be reminded that insurers reserve the right not to pay any claim if the boat owner isn’t considered cautious enough to protect his boat.”

As such, non-protected marinas could be perceived as a risky location to moor.


If the protection offered by the marina proves deficient, marina management teams will face recurring difficulties with the administration of the premises.

Multifunctional floating breakwater designed and built by Poralu Marine for Royal Geelong Yacht Club

Multifunctional floating breakwater designed and built by Poralu Marine for Royal Geelong Yacht Club

The first risk is to end up with a low occupancy rate. No owners or Captains will accept their yacht being tossed around in a berth with a risk of damage to their vessel. Unsafe marinas are tagged very quickly.

The financial consequences could be enormous, with increased difficulties to rent berths and therefore generate revenues.

Poor protection also strongly impacts a marina’s maintenance. For a marina owner, user experience and financial profitability are key. Failing to provide an efficiently protected basin will reduce the members’ comfort and increase the risk of damages to the general infrastructure including floating pontoons, services, access and customers’ assets.

Cedric Le Rest, Poralu Marine’s Director of Marina Operations, states: “Operational costs involved in keeping berths in working condition would start to add up, reducing the business margins and directly impacting the return on investment. Full-time maintenance staff, a high replacement rate of spares, and general deterioration are important running costs that no business plan has room for.”

Besides the infrastructure degradation, the marina’s reputation will be impacted. Obvious malfunctions and apparent breaks will damage the brand image of any development, not to mention its capacity to attract outside visitors.

For marinas, events are a significant vector of marketing and incomes. If public safety is not guaranteed, the management will be deprived from an essential money windfall.

Transferring the risk associated with marina protection and generating additional revenues is the key strategy to avoiding these managerial challenges.

Infrastructure aside, another crucial form of protection comes from the ship itself. Antifouling systems including antifouling paint can be used on the exterior hull of the ship to remove unwanted organisms from attaching themselves to the ship which can ultimately affect the vessel’s performance by slowing it down and increasing fuel usage alongside weakening the boat’s durability.


One of the main reasons for working with marina construction experts is the possibility to transfer the technical risk of infrastructure failure from the owner to the designer and manufacturer.

It is not rare for Poralu Marine to guarantee its installations over a decade with the provision of related liability. Maintenance contracts can even extend such a period.

This is real peace of mind for an investor who is then able to sustain his investment. Of course, this transfer of responsibility can only happen if all necessary provisions are taken during the early project phases.

Unfortunately – and too often – poor planning and budgeting compel some investors to overlook some basic good-practices, endangering the asset in the medium and long term.

In terms of protection, knowing the site is key to implementing the most tailored solutions. Each location is unique.

Knowing the environmental strengths and weaknesses is also fundamental to building resilience in your business model. If investors understand the importance of preliminary technical studies, they should also investigate the multi-functionality of their protection.

Protection could be attractively landscaped for public access or constructed with retail-allocated space to generate alternative sources of revenues. Protection could be adapted to allow the reintroduction of coral reefs, creating diving spots as an additional activity for the marina.

A good illustration is the floating breakwater at Royal Geelong Yacht Club in Australia. It is an essential feature of the public/private waterfront enhancement programme that was partially financed by the government. Its design is the result of a polyvalent approach to serve the interests of both a public and membership-model yacht club.

At the same time, Royal Geelong is a marina protecting its boats, an event-related berthing facility, a fishing spot for the local community and an accessible on-water promenade for the public.

In this case, additional sources of revenues and a reduction in the initial, privately founded capital expenditure are served by the multifunctionality and design of the floating wave attenuator.

Early, well-informed protection planning is key to a marina’s success. From insurance and management perspective, leaving nothing to chance is a winning strategy. It has to be approached as an opportunity to increase the attractiveness and revenues of the harbour, the ultimate goal of a marina developer.

The original article first in Yacht Style Issue 54 (Charter Issue 2020) – see below: 

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