Marina Port Vell: Banking on the blue economy
Marina Port Vell is in the midst of a major overhaul, which aims to turn Barcelona into the superyachting capital of the Mediterranean. The latest round of investment, totalling €20m ($22.8m), includes funding for 23 new berths for vessels up to 70m (230ft), fuelling infrastructure improvement and the implementation of a sustainability protocol aligned with the city authority.
Marina Port Vell’s location, on the Med and in the heart of the city, and proximity to refit yard, MB92, makes it a distinctive destination for superyachts and their clientele. The Catalonian capital has a left-wing city government and there have been protests against developments related to the yachting industry in the past.
On first glance, superyachts and socialism are poles apart, but three decades of expanding marina operations and the steady growth of MB92 have gone a long way to change that in Barcelona. The yachting business is now anchored in the city, providing more than 1,000 jobs. According to a PwC study commissioned by the marina, the facility contributes €30m a year to Barcelona’s economy.
Marina Port Vell began as a standard marina in the early 1990s with hundreds of normal-sized berths. It was following new investment in 2010 that the marina began to focus predominantly on superyachts. By 2015 the marina was a 148-berth facility, accommodating yachts up to 190m, according to Ignacio Erroz, the director general of Marina Port Vell.
Erroz tells Superyacht Investor (SYI) he is confident the marina will continue to grow into a hub for superyachts largely because the ability to anchor “right in the heart of a big city is a major selling point.
“We very clearly saw an opportunity to modify the layout of the marina and create more superyacht berths. This will allow us not only to grow in terms of business but also to be more specialised in the quality of service we offer to superyachting clients,” says Erroz.
These modifications fit in with Marina Port Vell’s wider aims to reposition the company as the number one destination for superyachting in the Mediterranean.
The port is is jointly owned by Qatari investment firm, QInvest and a group of investors led by Vagit Alekperov, the president of the Russian oil company Lukoil. Alekperov is also a partner in a fund run by Squircle Capital, a Luxembourg-based private equity firm. In 2019, Squircle bought a majority stake in MB92.
Having just had its lease extended until 2048 by the Barcelona Port Authority, the marina will continue its plans for the next quarter-century at least. Erroz says: “I believe that we have a very good relationship with the city, the port authority, the city council. I have to say, of course, there are some parties that have a different view of what the harbour should be in general. But overall we have a very good relationship that we maintain daily.”
One significant change over the past decade, according to Erroz, is that the majority of economic institutions in Barcelona now see the value and profit in the superyachting sector. “When I say the superyacht industry being developed in the city, I mean not only our facility but those of MB92 and how we have held the two facilities together to grow.”
Marta Tuñí de la Torre, marketing and communications director, Marina Port Vell tells SYI: “We looked into the market and realised that vessel size is getting larger by the year. That’s why we are specialising in these kinds of yachts and why we are investing €20m to enhance our capacity and strengthen our specialised ad hoc services for large vessels.”
Miguel Angel Serra, partner, Albors Galiano Portales lived and studied in Barcelona for 15 years. He believes the city, and the Balearic region more generally, is already an important industrial and service hub for superyachts. This is demonstrated by the existence of firms Astilleros de Mallorca, STP, Nautipaints, Pinmar, Club de Mar, Port Adriano, Titan Marine, Estela Shipping etc.
“We must bear in mind that a leading destination does not only need excellent refit and repair shipyards and first-class marinas for superyachts, but also excellent and highly professional superyacht communication experts, brokers, agents, suppliers and any other kind of specialised superyacht experts, even lawyers!,” says Serra.