THE MEDIA VOICE OF THE GLOBAL MARINA INDUSTRY

Seclusion and luxury in the Bahamas

Plans to develop a luxury superyacht-focused marina on the southern tip of the island of Abaco in the Bahamas are in the final design stage, with a grand opening anticipated in 2026. Charlotte Niemiec reports

CGI of the superyacht-focused Porto Habacoa marina.

CGI of the superyacht-focused Porto Habacoa marina.

The exclusive resort community of Porto Habacoa is set to offer the best of both land and sea, from hiking trails that meander through the island’s National Park to marine life comprising multiple species of whales, dolphins and bonefish.
When complete, the marina will offer 136 berths on floating pontoons to accommodate boats ranging in size from 45-220m (148-722ft). Each berth will be configured to handle more than one boat, allowing the marina to accommodate either 372 regular sized boats or 136 superyachts in total, or a mixture of the two.
Mastermind behind the project, developer and CEO Ra’anan Ben-Zur, has spent four years navigating complex regulations and lining up strategic partners to ensure the success of the project. “We’ve now obtained all the government approvals for the project, including getting the certificate of environmental clearance, without which one cannot break ground,” he says. “It was hard to get – it took years and lots of work and study, but we have it. In addition, both the government of the Bahamas and the local community government are very supportive of our project. So, other than the usual construction-related issues that are always there but are not major, we are in good shape. We expect to finalise detailed planning and design during 2023, start construction in early 2024 and be operational in early 2026.”
When complete, the marina is expected to help fill a large hole for superyacht owners in North America, according to Ben-Zur. “While I’m not an expert, I’ve studied the superyacht industry intensely over the last few years, which is growing significantly both in terms of numbers and sizes.” But on the US east coast, a lack of marina space for superyachts has reached critical levels, which he believes is stunting the industry’s growth. “There are no marinas able to handle a 100m [330ft] yacht and very few berths for boats of even 80m [262ft] on the entire east coast,” he explains. “The market desperately needs our marina and could have used five more marinas like ours, but there is simply no space to build them. Environmental regulations make it very hard,” he adds.
Superyacht focus
Ben-Zur is acutely aware that superyachts have very different needs to those of regular sized boats, particularly when it comes to marina size, depth and the facilities on offer. For this reason, Porto Habacoa is designed from the ground up with superyachts in mind. Other marinas in the area are much smaller and, in most cases, not as deep, Ben-Zur explains. They can only service a few superyachts at a time and are limited in size to about 80m (262ft), with very few exceptions that go up to 90m (295ft). These marinas generally have very high occupancy and some reach 100% all year round.
CGI of the Porto Habacoa marina. View from a canalside home with its stunning infinity pool.

CGI of the Porto Habacoa marina. View from a canalside home with its stunning infinity pool.

To combat difficulty for large vessels struggling to fit into inadequate berth space, Habacoa Marina will be huge, with 44ha (109 acres) of actual basin. “Theoretically, a 200m [656ft] superyacht could come in and simply reverse into its berth in one simple manoeuvre,” Ben-Zur says. The marina will also have a depth of 8m (26ft) at the entry canal and a 5.5m (18ft) basin, unlike any other Bahamian marina. This will provide important flexibility for yachts as it allows them to come and go at low or high tide. “Additionally, we will have a massive procurement centre. A superyacht’s captain, chef or engineer will be able to find all they need from soup to nuts, as they say, or caviar and champagne as better suits superyachts, and all other essentials.”
Canal homes have spacious plots and far-reaching views.

Canal homes have spacious plots and far-reaching views.

The marina will seek to differentiate from other marinas in the area by being very crew-friendly, offering full use of all the facilities in the area with a dedicated, free to enter crew club stocked with everything they need. One of the main attractions of this project is that the marina will be private, secluded and exclusive, yet easily accessible by private plane, yacht and also by commercial airlines. “It’s important to note that our marina will also provide customs and immigration services on location. Many marinas in the Bahamas don’t and, as such, an incoming yacht needs to detour to get registered first. Our services will help superyachts avoid this extra time and hassle.”

The marina will provide fuel and pump-out services, not only diesel but also hydrogen “if and when it takes off”, Ben-Zur says. However, “we’re still in the final design stage and we’re considering a number of options when it comes to the manufacturers we choose to use.”
The 200-ha (490-acre) Habacoa marina site will also boast a golf course, casino, water sports, nature hiking trails, horse riding, island or fishing excursions and entertainment venues. It will offer three hotels, ranging from ultra luxury to mid-range, and a wellness facility, as well as a spa, restaurants, residential units, a yacht club, stores, charter offices for fishing, cruising and seaplane tours.
Environment central to the design
Environmental elements are central to the design of the entire complex and the project commits US$10 million to environmental preservation, including US$1million to build a biosecure coral rescue facility and US$2million to fund facility research, preservation and education operations over five years. For his dedication to developing Habacoa with the environment in mind, Ben-Zur was awarded the 2022 International Smart & Sustainable Marina Coup de Coeur award at the Monaco Smart & Sustainable Marina Rendezvous. When complete, the marina will seek Blue Flag certification to establish it as one of the most environmentally sustainable in the world.
The deliberately low density development will preserve 71ha (175 acres) of native forest, home to the endangered Abaco Parrot. The marina is sited within an existing deep water pocket and will be excavated on land, as opposed to ocean dredging, to minimise disruption to the shoreline and marine resources.
Cliffs of 30m (100ft) are expected to protect the site from rising sea levels for at least 100 years, while construction will be strong enough to withstand a direct hit from the worst hurricane on record, with only minor damage expected. The project will draw on solar power to provide 30 per cent of Habacoa’s energy needs and solar water heating will be used as the project’s primary hot water system.
The ‘Mansion’ element of the condo buildings enjoy sea views.

The ‘Mansion’ element of the condo buildings enjoy sea views.

Habacoa will also be the first development in the Bahamas to use rainwater harvesting as the sole source of potable water for residents and guests, and all irrigation needs will be met with grey water.
Ben-Zur is excited to begin. “As the developer of this project, it is the vision of my life – the best of the best, unique, special. I’ve been looking for something like this for 20 years and, over the last five, I’ve dedicated my all to this project. I’m now on the verge of executing it.”

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