Twenty years of talented teamwork

UK-based marina and waterfront consultancy, Marina Projects, celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, two decades in which it has grown from a small – although expert – team tasked to develop an English south coast marina, into an international enterprise with a global project portfolio. Was this the aim? What’s still to come? Carol Fulford talks to Marina Projects managing director Mike Ward.

The Marina Projects team has been involved with Porto Montenegro, a flagship reference, since 2006.

The Marina Projects team has been involved with Porto Montenegro, a flagship reference, since 2006.

Q: How did Marina Projects start and how has it grown?
A: The company was formed in 2002 and started out at Royal Clarence Marina in Gosport, Hampshire, which was in fact our first project. We acted for a residential developer to bring forward a new marina that had a specific event focus to complement other offerings in Portsmouth Harbour. The project applied all of the key skills from site assessment through to operational management, establishing an operating company to take the marina through the early years of the site development. This project provided the springboard to developing the company and I joined very early on with the specific role of expanding and driving the consultancy forward.
Mike Ward speaks to HRH Prince Philip in 2015 when the Royal Southern Yacht Club opened Prince Philip Yacht Haven in the UK.

Mike Ward speaks to HRH Prince Philip in 2015 when the Royal Southern Yacht Club opened Prince Philip Yacht Haven in the UK.

We are now 17-strong, with a further 30 or so in our subsidiary UK marinas (Whitehaven and James Watt Dock). We have just started our 360th project and our global activities include projects in Melbourne, Auckland, China, Hong Kong, the Caribbean, Falklands, throughout the Mediterranean and, of course, in the UK – in total, some 35 countries.
Q: When you formed the company did you see an obvious market gap? Did you plan to offer anything different or more comprehensive than the norm?
A: We saw an opportunity on a global scale for an independent and specialist marina consultancy that could provide an experienced view to public and private sector clients who could leverage the value of the land and water connection. Importantly, we decided not to offer maritime engineering services because we wanted to focus on our role as the marina specialist rather than become another multi-disciplinary consultancy practice. The vision has always been to become the client’s trusted advisor and to make them aware of our areas of specialism, which include maritime civil engineering.
Marina Projects gave specialist marine advice to Lantau Yacht Club in Hong Kong when it planned a complete redevelopment.

Marina Projects gave specialist marine advice to Lantau Yacht Club in Hong Kong when it planned a complete redevelopment.

Q: How did you build the company in terms of market reach – deliberate or organic?
A: Our overseas offices have always been deliberate choices reflecting significant project activity and prospects, but our experience has taught us that you never know what is coming next and where it will come from. Activity in new regions has often come by reputation (project experience) or referral via either a client or a member of a professional team we have worked with in the past. The old cliché, “you are only as good as your last job”, is very true for Marina Projects and something that every team member takes into account.
Q: How does your experience in marina management influence the way you design marinas?
A: Our background in marina and boatyard operations absolutely underpins all of our consultancy services and the advice that we provide. The understanding of the demands and requirements of the end user is critical, even at the very earliest feasibility stage, not just during marina operations. And we have to remember that the end user is not just the boat owning customer but also the marina operator. We have four internationally accredited CMMs as part of the wider consultancy team but the rest have all spent the majority of their working lives dedicated to different aspects of the industry. I firmly believe that it is the collective experience and breadth of expertise across the team that has been critical to our success.
The extension and reconfiguration of Windermere Quays Marina on Lake Windermere in England in 2017 was designed and project managed by Marina Projects from concept through to delivery.

The extension and reconfiguration of Windermere Quays Marina on Lake Windermere in England in 2017 was designed and project managed by Marina Projects from concept through to delivery.

Q: Over the past 20 years has it become easier or more difficult to develop marinas in terms of environment, planning and legislation? Does this vary greatly depending on geography? Has there been increased focus or difficulty in any particular area(s)?
A: It has undoubtedly become more challenging to design and develop marinas and I would say that is the case globally. Certainly, there are different regulatory regimes in place but in every location where we have been active there is a permitting and approval process that weighs the influence of development on the environment. The geographical differences are not as great as one might expect. Of course, some jurisdictions are tighter than others but an increasing awareness of environmental habitats and impact of both development and operation of marinas and associated activities is consistently present.
Q: Is there a specific project of which you are particularly proud?
A: There are several that merit a mention and, of course, Porto Montenegro must be a project that features high on the list. The client and investors have really been responsible for putting Montenegro on the map and Porto Montenegro has a profile as a world leading superyacht marina that has truly made it a flagship project for us. I think it is a testament to our relationship (and a very patient client) that, having been on a journey from the outset in 2006 pretty much continuously through to 2016, we are still working closely together.
Another project highlight on a much smaller scale would be the Prince Philip Yacht Haven on the Hamble in England. It was a tricky and unique site that was very difficult to unlock and it was immensely satisfying to see our plan come together. The privilege of meeting the late Prince Philip was an honour for those involved that capped the successful delivery of a project from concept through to delivery.
As well as the projects of which we are proud, I think we can also be proud of the client relationships that we have developed. So many of these have been long term and turned into genuine friendships. In this sense, it’s not just the project that we are proud of but it is a process and relationship we have thoroughly enjoyed. Marina Projects has some really great supporters around the globe and we are very grateful for their continued work and collaboration.
Q: What is your longer term plan?
A: At the heart of the future plan is cementing our place as a world leading marina consultancy business. But I should also mention again that a huge part of our success, and the real strength of Marina Projects has been the team that we have built and the way they work so well together. Naturally, the team features heavily in our future plans. By developing and growing our team, our strategy is to extend the solid foundation that we have developed and I expect our global reach will expand further. A larger team means more space is required and we are looking to move premises in the very short term. I am sure that will be exciting for all of us.
Q: How do you see the marina industry developing – regionally and/or globally? Where will the strongest emphases lie? And the biggest challenges?
A: I am quite sure that the industry will need to develop differently, respecting the different conditions we find regionally across the globe, but it will also need to respond globally to issues and new technologies. One thing our 20 years of consultancy activity has taught us is that you never know what is around the corner, where the next hot spot of activity will occur or when a particular hot spot might slow down. What we do see is a trend of boat owners being more adventurous and ambitious and looking for new experiences and I suspect that will take us to some remote places.
Domestically, and in some more mature markets, our projects are likely to be looking to deliver higher levels of customer service and improved facilities as the customer becomes more and more discerning. Challenges for the industry are likely to come from embracing new technologies, addressing environmental obligations and dealing with climate change.


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