Nestled right at the top of the Adriatic Sea, Marina Izola offers a sheltered spot to berth up in one of the nearest tourist ports to Central Europe. Charlotte Niemiec invites marina manager, Vladimir Gavran, to talk shop.
Family-friendly and peaceful, Izola Marina is one of few marinas to lie along Slovenia’s tiny fragment of coastline, which stretches just 47km (29mi) between Italy and Croatia. It has recently joined forces with nearby Marina Koper to create a new brand – MarinaUp – and now offers a combined 800 berths. While Marina Koper focuses more on transit and has fewer berths, it has an excellent logistical position. “In order to achieve synergy and jointly promote both marinas, we act together under the MarinaUp brand,” Gavran explains. Both marinas are located in the centre of Izola and represent the shortest route from Central Europe to the sea. The town of Izola is steeped in history, reflected in the architecture, culture and authentic local people. The old town, which flourished during the Venetian Republic, boasts charming and colourful houses, narrow winding streets and a lively Mediterranean atmosphere. Izola offers plenty of sea and seaside activities, exceptional fish-based cuisine, excellent wine and olive oil, and has the picturesque Istrian countryside on its doorstep. Construction of Marina Izola began in the 1990s and major works continued 20 years ago with the Amfora building – the heart of the marina. This hosts the marina reception and offices, a bar and restaurant, agencies selling and renting boats, and a nautical equipment store. While charter opportunities are plentiful in Slovenia and neighbouring countries, Gavran believes that “owning a boat in Slovenia is more popular than charter. I think it’s a question of ‘emotional relationship’ between the owner and the boat.” On the ground floor of the Amfora building there is a multipurpose hall able to accommodate up to 100 people. Work to improve the marina continues, with the addition of an extra breakwater a few years ago which, together with the original breakwater, provides very good protection for boats in the marina. In 2020, the marina was bought by Koper-based company Grafist, which also owns Koper Marina. Over the last two years, Grafist has made several infrastructure investments, and Gavran foresees more in the future. “I’m a lawyer at Grafist and I was involved in the procedures for the purchase of the marina,” he explains. “My primary goal was to organise the operations of the marina, which required rearranging financing, solving legal issues with various entities, solving open issues with the state and the municipality, and improving the operations themselves. We were very successful in these activities and the results are now very satisfying. Marina Izola still has a lot of untapped potential and opportunities for development. My challenge for the marina is for it to reach its full potential.” New floating piers One significant change has been the addition of 161 berths at new floating piers designed and built by Italian company Ingemar. All of the other piers at Marina Izola are fixed. “We decided to add floating piers mainly because of their practicality and ease of construction,” says Gavran, and “we chose Ingemar mainly because of their reliability and proximity. I have to praise their attitude and seriousness – their engineers gave us all the support we needed.” The berths are positioned on three floating piers connected to the quay by a long service pier. Stretching almost 500m (1,640ft) in length, they were built using floating modules of different widths, a steel supporting structure and tropical timber decking. The central service pier is anchored to the seabed with steel piles, while the transverse piers are anchored with a system of chains and concrete anchoring blocks. Each berth is equipped with water, electricity and video control. “Construction went smoothly,” says Gavran. “We obtained all operating permits a few weeks ago, so the boats will start mooring in coming months. The interest in berth rental is considerable.” “In the future, I would like the marina to develop into a modern destination in terms of technology and service. But in general, in my opinion, a marina must be more than that. The marina should not limit itself to the sale of moorings and services for vessels, but also provide guests with the richest possible experience. That is why I think that the environment in which the marina is located is especially important,” Gavran stresses. “In Izola, we are lucky that the marina is connected to a small but charming fishermen’s town with a rich Istrian and Venetian cultural heritage, in which you can also find traces from Roman times. Our marina does not resemble an “all inclusive” hotel that is isolated from the environment, but lives with the local people and the environment in which it is located. In the future, I hope that this connection with the environment will be even greater and that the marina guests will feel like members of our community – like real ‘Izolani’.” Today, the marina has around 800 moorings, with 650 at fixed piers and 161 at floating pontoons, all with electricity (220/380V), water and Wi-Fi. The power pedestals are manufactured by a local company, Felolux. Berth sizes range from 6m (20ft) to some that accommodate superyachts. Demand is high and the marina is almost full, even though it has gained some free space with the construction of the new piers. All mod cons Services meet all modern expectations. A diesel and petrol distributor is located at the centre of the marina and the marina boasts a 60 tonne travel hoist. “We also plan to build a bigger slipway, which will be equipped with smaller lifts,” says Gavran. The marina works in cooperation with external contractors, offering maintenance services such as underwater parts, servicing and repair of engines, installation or repair of navigation devices, upholstery and joinery and repair, and installation of sails and masts. “We have an external security system and the entire marina is covered by video surveillance. Izola is a very safe place, so we have no major problems with security issues.” Staff perform daily patrols of the marina and check the condition of the vessels, which are visible from the piers. At night, security services take care of safety. Marina Izola manages the site using myMarina by Marina Master – an integrated cloud-based CRM. “myMarina gives us important support and it’s a reliable partner as we seek to modernise our work process,” Gavran notes. The marina has been a proud recipient of Blue Flag environmental accreditation for more than 20 years and supports sustainable operations while constantly striving for improvement. Every year it adopts a programme of activities for effective environmental management and works with the local community to achieve positive results.