The Future of Marinas in a Changing World

Summarising the future ahead: ICOMIA World Marinas Conference, Amsterdam, 2016.

The boating and yachting industry in Europe is a dynamic and a significant contributor to the European economy.

With over 27,000 km of inland waterways and more than 70,000 km of coastline, Europe offers the perfect environment for recreational marine activities. 48 million European citizens (36 million of whom are boaters), as well as countless numbers of tourists, make Europe the perfect place for boat enthusiasts.

6 million boats are kept in European waters with 4,500 marinas providing 1.75 million berths to house them all. This represents a significant contribution to the European economy. However, European marinas are close to saturation, even though large numbers of smaller boats do not use them. And there is the problem.

Marinas are not the preferred safe havens for sailors and yacht owners. Both prefer to visit pristine land and seascapes, or to utilize anchorages in unspoilt and undeveloped locations. However, due to the lack of essential services in these unspoilt locations, sailors are forced to use traditional marinas. These traditional marinas haven’t changed much over decades. They are large, expensive and overcrowded.

The issue with traditional marinas stretches much further than usability. Traditional marinas fuelled with energy from coal burning contribute to air pollution, creating ozone depletion and carry a risk of spill contamination from other sources. These can frequently cause damage to seabed and coral reefs, which are becoming increasingly endangered. The list goes on, and even though the sailors and yacht owners act responsibly and follow good practices, the issue with using non-renewable fossil fuels remains.

Recreational boaters, yachting enthusiasts, and marine developers have a key personal role to play in minimising the environmental impact of their activities. It is the nautical industry’s responsibility to provide recreational boaters and marine enthusiasts with environmentally friendly and clean technology solutions to traditional marinas.

Environmentally friendly, clean energy alternatives to traditional marinas are necessary to increase the number of berths and moorings available in Europe without threatening the coastal and marine environment.

Recreational sailors are aware of the pollution caused by traditional marinas and now they are seeking environmentally friendly solutions to traditional marinas.

The European Union has recognized the problem, establishing the Blue Growth strategy to support sustainable development in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Seas and oceans, being the drivers for the European economy, both share a great potential for innovation and growth. Is the maritime industry contribution enough to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth?

To ensure the future of marinas in a changing world, there’s room for more solutions to be developed.

Once we take into consideration environmental impact, carbon emission could be one of the first problems to tackle. With the growing demand for recreational sailing across the globe the demand for more marinas rises. Infrastructure must keep pace with growth in yacht tourism, and this large number of active boaters calls for new solutions to be applied.