THE NORTH EASTERN ADRIATIC
Marinas, Shipyards & More
By Anne Spyropoulos
(This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 30)
New destinations further afield and outside of traditional winter refit centers are seeing a revival of sorts as the number and size of yachts worldwide are growing causing shipyard space to be at a premium. This climate is forcing yacht owners, captains and managers to re-evaluate previously undervalued locations for winter layup. With over 25 yachts (30m+) in the Trieste area and over 130 yachts in Croatia this past winter, never before has the area seen so much interest for refit. After several consecutive years of growth the Northern Adriatic is now actively working together to showcase their maritime prowess and potential.
Trieste, the highest point of the Mediterranean at the crossroads of Eastern & Western Europe, was in the 19th century one of the largest ports of Europe and the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, behind Vienna, Budapest and Prague. Today Trieste is no longer a global mercantile player but is still home to several big international finance and shipping companies including two in the Fortune 500 list. Fincantieri, a powerhouse in maritime construction has their global headquarters just steps from the famed Piazza Unità. Still today 40% of Italy’s coffee passes through the port which is also home to the Illy coffee brand. Jotun, a leading supplier of paint and powder coatings to the maritime sector, has its Italian hub in the area shipping over three million liters of product from Trieste throughout Europe. Trieste’s strategic location on this narrow strip of Italian territory has been historically influenced by the city’s relationship with the sea and its positioning at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures.
A Russian yacht owner, who visited the city this winter for the first time to inspect works on his yacht, marveled at the city’s unique look and feel, likening it to a ‘Vienna on the Sea’. This can be seen and felt everywhere from the Austrian styled architecture to it’s bustling downtown filled with cafes, music and artisanal boutiques. Its food culture includes both traditional eateries like Siora Rosa serving the local sausages and kraut alongside international fare popular with foreigners. Cupcake cafes, like Mug, vegan bistros like Zoe Food, and Hops Beer Shop with the largest selection of international beers in the city are distinctly diverse for Italy. One of the most popular seafood restaurants in the city is the Bollicine. Elegant, with a minimal décor, it also boasts over 400 labels of Italian and French bubbles and is a popular place for an evening aperitif or dinner. Crew flock to the Pizzeria Al Barattolo, considered the best in the city. Trieste has an active theater culture, with productions year round and the locals go to the theater more, per capita, than in any other city in Italy.
Not surprisingly perhaps, Trieste has more sailing clubs than anywhere else in the country, sixteen in the city alone, twenty-four if you include the surrounding areas. Roberto Sponza, marina manager and director of Porto San Rocco as well as President of Trieste Yacht Berths (TYB), a consortium which connects all the superyacht berthing options in the city, is the most prominent face in the local yachting community and is active in promoting the destination to the superyacht industry. Roberto competed in the 1976 Olympics for sailing has led the charge to create a single point of reference along with a transparent and competitive pricing scheme for all the berths in the city. ‘I remember clearly beginning to learn to sail as a nine year old boy in the Bay of Trieste. In my sailing club there were factory workers with their sailing boats. They rented their apartment, but owned their boat and explains well our philosophy of life here in Trieste.’
Porto San Rocco, a Camper & Nicholsons Marina, just a short 12 minute drive from downtown Trieste, offers over 50 berths for yachts up to 60m with no draught limits and includes a heliport, marine fuel pump, free Wi-Fi, water, electricity (300 amp), bunkers and 24 hour security. The complex is outfitted with boutiques and eateries and boasts both indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness area and a garage. Quiet and secure, this is a nice location to sit and await a charter while having all the comforts of a full service marina just minutes from the city center.
Located in downtown Trieste, Marina San Giusto can host yachts up to 100 m and has been recently upgraded with 125 amp electricity, water, Wi-Fi and 24 hour security. They offer special access to the local Tennis and Golf clubs. Trieste Terminal Passeggeri manages the principle berths in the city center at the Stazione Maritima and more specifically at Molo IV, Molo Audace, Scale Reale and Molo Bersaglieri. The facilities can provide all the necessary assistance for superyachts and also offer parking spots for service vehicles accommodating yachts up to 220m and providing 125 amp electricity, fresh water, bunkering via barge (duty free available) and divers. Throughout the port of Trieste water sports are forbidden and vessels over 500 GT require a pilot and mooring services.
Asked how he felt about the nearby ‘competitors’ of Venice and Croatia, Roberto Sponza said, ‘Actually it’s more of an opportunity than an obstacle. The popularity of Venice brings yachts to the Adriatic. However they don’t have any facilities for refit, or off season works and that is an incredible resource that we can offer. And the stronger Croatia becomes the better it is for us. We are working hard to promote the entire itinerary and are willing to take captains and crew hand-in-hand to ensure they have a great experience in the city.’
Trieste Refitting System (TRS) is another such consortium in the city that provides an integrated system of nautical companies for refit and repair made up of Meccano Consulting Engineering, Ocean Team, Quaiat, Nuovo Arsenale Cartubi & Perizzi totaling over 300 people. TRS provides one point of reference for all types of refit work with dry dock access up to 122m and capabilities to complete structural, steel, mechanical, electrical and interior works. M.Y. Chopi Chopi has been seen in the yard all winter undergoing works.
Fincantieri’s global headquarters are located in Trieste and since 2009 have seen a boom in the superyacht sector. Al Said, Olimpia and Carinthia VII have been here multiple years to complete their winter works. Altair III has been in the yard for several consecutive years in a row. Gianni Salvagno, director in charge of the yard, is in the process of outfitting dedicated areas exclusively for superyachts. ‘We have seen so much interest from the superyacht community that we are in the process of finalizing a bespoke set of services to accompany the new dedicated superyacht area at dry dock three, which will include extra security, office space for the owner, captain and crew, customized electricity offerings and a special private entrance.’ Located only 400m from the highway and a short walk to downtown, Fincantieri has also trained a dedicated team of twelve employees to take extra care of their clients including a dock master dedicated to the vessels. ‘We can accommodate any size of yacht and have at our full disposal the hundreds of maritime companies and suppliers who currently collaborate with Fincantieri worldwide, whether it be naval designers, project managers, paint surveyors or suppliers for maintenance, conversion or technical upgrades.’ Gianni continued.
In the same vicinity of Fincantieri is Nuovo Arsenale Cartubi (NAC). Its maritime experience covers all aspects of construction, repair, conversion, maintenance and refitting services for both the maritime and offshore and superyacht industries. NAC is well known for producing metalwork and superstructures in both steel and light alloy for the cruise ship and superyacht industry. Marco Maranzana, CEO of NAC said, ‘Most recently we delivered a 140m hull to Fincantieri, as well as full construction and winter general services for a 77m CRN and are involved in the refit and maintenance of several other large yachts at the moment.’ NAC’s team specializes in comprehensive design and construction services. ‘We have put together a really good team and have a lot of interest already for works next winter.’
Of course there are a few very trusted yacht agents in the city who support all the vessels both in transit over the summer, and in the yards for winter refits and maintenance. Trieste Yacht Services and the JLT Yacht Agency each provide a full range of agency services from logistics, formalities, customs, crew housing and concierge services. Caterina Oliviero, Manager of JLT said, ‘We do suggest Trieste both for a crew stop and guests’ stay since the city really offers different things to do and see at a less expensive rate in comparison to Venice. It’s well connected through the local Trieste airport and close to Venice and Ljubljana’s international airports, making it a good option as a turn around location before, or after, cruising Croatia and Montenegro.’
Giovanna Zuin, of Trieste Yacht Service commented, ‘The captains and crew have been really pleased with the quality of life they have here. Besides the lively atmosphere of the city center, great housing options and vicinity to the yards, the chefs are always surprised at the large variety of local and international provisions they can find. Artisanal whole grain breads, vegan products and other specialty foods can be found in the local food markets, more than what you regularly find in other Italian ports.’
Croatia is a region with a rich shipbuilding tradition, but that said, it is well known that the range of products and techniques used in commercial builds differ greatly from what the superyacht industry requires. ‘The attempt to equalize the playing field by saying ‘a boat is a boat’ has misled many people who have tried their hand at superyacht maintenance and refit,’ said Teo Petricevic, Managing Director of Capax Marine Engineering based in Split who is heavily involved in project management of superyacht refits in a variety of yards.
‘The region has developed so much in the past decade, moving towards a high standard of finishing, attention to detail and the use of innovative materials and coatings. We have certainly developed a highly skilled workforce able to meet the needs of this market in the last ten years,’ Teo continued.
Captain Ian Robertson, M.Y. Jo underwent refit works and maintenance in the Trogir Shipyard, near Split in 2012. ‘After our period in Trogir we were able to complete three very successful charter seasons without any issues at all. Their heritage is in marine engineering and the Croatians found a solution for every problem we had.’ Ian thought they would struggle with finding certain trades. ‘From carpentry and marble to some of the interiors we did, the artisans Teo sent us were incredible and in fact we’re continuing to work with a few of them still today. The quality was excellent.’ In addition to the 50m M.Y. Jo, the yard has also worked on two 60m+ Feadships, a 60m CRN and a 55m Trinity to name a few.
According to Croatian yacht agency data, traffic in the Adriatic has been slowly increasing over the last five years, estimated around 10%. New marina facilities dedicated to superyachts, and the development of the tourism offerings and air connections in the area, have all contributed to the increase. Repair works on the hard, maintenance and the reconstruction of yachts are the most common works completed in the area with the central coast of Croatia, between Sibenik and Split experiencing the most traffic.
Split is known as the city of sports, with the most Olympic medals per capita in the country. Of course sailing is prominent but you’ll also see heated competition on the beach of a curious ‘local game’ called picigin. It’s a water sport, invented in the area, where you will see players running down the beach doing all types of strange stunts in order to keep a small ball from touching the water, a type of ‘hacky sack’ in the water. Also here in this very trendy international city with a bustling nightlife is the smallest street in the world. ‘Pusti me proc’ literally means the ‘let me pass street’ and you’ll only understand why once you’ve seen it.
Mega Yacht Services, is the only local agent in Croatia which is female run and is based in Split. MYS provides full agency support to vessels in the area. ‘We are a small boutique agency that really pride ourselves on our attention to detail and personal service,’ owner Maia Ban said. Several captains I spoke to said Maia made ‘miracles’ happen. ‘From the selection of products available, easy transport of spares and the great surrounding cultural opportunities, we strive to make sure our clients have the best experience ever here.’
Sibenik, just north of Split is home to D-Marin Marina Mandalina and to the NCP refit shipyard. D-Marine has 80 superyacht berths up to 140m and recently opened D Resort, a luxury hotel on the premises. Artun Ertem, director of the marina said, ‘Captains like the area as it is one of the safest on the coast with no air draft restrictions. We have had a lot of interest so far in 2016 and are expecting a busy summer.’ Pelegrini, recently named by several international foodie magazines as the best restaurant in Croatia, is in the old historic part of town and has one of the most extensive wine lists in the country.
NCP, just next door to D-Marin along the protected estuary, has worked on a number of yachts over 50m and one sailboat over 72m in the past few years. It has developed all the capabilities of that the superyacht community requires. Also in the area is the Betina shipyard, known for its woodworking and interior capabilities. The yard can accommodate yachts only up to 35m, but do not have the capacity for a lot of required tasks and outsource to subcontractors for a lot of their work.
Captain Alexander Hawkins was based long term in the area with two yachts, ‘I loved the country so much I am considering buying a property in the area. The quality of life is great. One super thing for crew is that the films aren’t translated and all of the latest movies come out before France in the English language.’
Yachts who cruised in Croatia prior to their entry into the EU know that provisions were a challenge, but now there is a free flow of products and services in the area which are easily accessible. Ian Jarvis, director of Superyacht Supplies, a leader in specialty provisioning throughout the Med operates in the country under Yacht Gourmet Croatia. ‘There has been a lot of development in Croatia over the past five to six years. We have eight refrigerated vans in the country and Alessia Cortesi who has years of experience as a superyacht chef and provisioner manages operations. Her local knowledge combined with our international relationships with suppliers, guarantees a fully professional service with a full range of products that can be delivered quickly and efficiently all along the coast. Because of our experience and know-how in navigating local regulations, we also, from time to time, get involved in shipping spares as well,’ Ian said.
Further north Avangard Shipyards in Pula, ex-Heli Yachts, has had a brilliant past few years since being taken over by the owner of Avangard II. This winter they have completed paint works, woodworking, interiors and electronic and mechanic upgrades, in addition to the installation of a new bow and stern thruster. This boutique yard has been full this entire winter and is strategically located close to Rijeka, Ljubljana and Trieste and in addition to their 4000 square meters of hard standing space and two travel lifts (up to 500t) are well known for some of the best paint jobs in the area with two fully equipped, ventilated and heated sheds.
BWA Yachting, with their head office in Opatija in the northern part of the country serves the entire coastline all the way to Dubrovnik. It was the first nation wide agency dedicated to the superyacht industry. Dorijan Dujmic, BWA Croatia’s Managing Partner said, ‘We are looking forward to a really strong cruising season this summer. More and more yachts are here in the winter as is evident in the numbers and we already have a lot of interest from captains who are making sure now that they have their itineraries ready for this summer.’
The potential for the northern Adriatic is great. Trieste with its close vicinity to Venice is busily developing facilities to accommodate more vessels as is evident in the number of consortiums actively upgrading their facilities and services to attract superyacht clientele. Croatia has also seen interest from neighboring Montenegro, who has well developed marina facilities but however lacks the skilled personnel for refit work. Just in the last six months, three yachts have been transported from Montenegro to Croatian marinas for engine repair work, with four more on the way. The business has evolved over the past six years with new facilities and better services both on the supplier side and in terms of technical expertise.