Those who have sailed Croatia will tell you that it has one of the most spectacular coastlines in Europe. Crystal clear water, 1,185 islands and islets, breathtaking scenery and under development set it apart from most of the competition.
The essence of Croatia is its beauty, simplicity and relative tranquillity. It’s the “back to how it was” scenario that most of us crave. The Mediterranean climate, azure seas, picturesque bays, green olive groves, stark mountain backdrop and plethora of islands and islets provide a spectacular cruising environment. The coastline and islands are dotted with fishing villages and small towns, apparently untouched in twenty years. Almost every settlement is bursting with ancient relics and beautiful architecture. The food is plain, but good, the people are hospitable, friendly and straightforward, and it’s safe and relatively easy to get to. Although Croatia has become more popular in the last few years, it’s one of the few places where you can still avoid the crowds.Nautical Tourism Infrastructure
As for the nautical tourism infrastructure, the marina industry suffers a little from having been ahead of its time in the early days of development, when yachts were smaller and expectations lower. The tourist board marina brochure list 43 marinas. Of these, 38 were officially categorised as at 31st March 2004 but only 4 were given category I status, denoting that they were “marinas of the highest standard”. 21 of the listed marinas form the ACI network and are owned by the state. These marinas are well managed but will need to rethink their layouts and facilities if they want to accommodate bigger yachts on a regular basis. Given other government priorities and the need for Croatia to balance its books before entering the EU, it is hard to see the necessary funding being made available for the major revamp needed, particularly in the short term.
Marina Kastela, the newest marina development, lies between Trogir and Split and aims to be the first to fully cater for Superyachts as well as everything else. Special berths, three phase power supplies, fuel, pump out stations and superior facilities are all part of the design plan. The marina is open for business now with further facilities on stream by 2007. For more details look at http://www.marina-kastela.com/
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John Nash of Marina Facility Solutions, (“MFS”), has been based in Croatia since 2002 and represent a number of, mostly British, marine equipment manufacturers. MFS was one of the first British company’s to see Croatia’s potential within the international marina industry but recognises that there are a few challenges to face. “Croatia is a seafaring nation and the overall standard of skills and knowledge is high. The coastline is spectacular and immensely varied and the Adriatic is well charted and buoyed”.
John believes that the existing marinas have been well planned in terms of location and facilities but, at the time they were at the concept stage, larger boats and high rollers, were not a big consideration. Like many people I talked to, John is anxious that Croatia should learn from the mistakes of other countries and preserve its unique natural beauties. The disposal of marine waste is a particular issue at the moment. “I sincerely hope that the Croatian government can find the time to focus on an overall nautical tourism strategy that maximises the potential whilst preserving and safeguarding the environment for future generations.” John can be contacted via the MFS website at http://www.marinafacilitysolutions.com/
For more detailed information on specific marina facilities, ACI have a good website, http://www.aci-club.hr/
, with plans of all their marinas, approach notes and weather information. For a comprehensive list of marinas and links to their websites, go to the Croatia Tourist Board website, http://www.croatia.hr/
. Click on the “nautics” section, find “marines” and a blank search will give you a full list with links.
Away from the marinas, there are a good smattering of ports on the mainland and the larger islands that will give an enthusiastic and professional reception to nautical visitors. Dubrovnik, Cavtat, Hvar, Trogir, Korcula and Vis are all very popular with larger boats. Each has something different to offer and the bustle of the towns can be swapped for the sanctuary of a small deserted bay in a matter of minutes. To get away from it all, in smaller ports, try Jelsa and Vrboska on Hvar, and many of the smaller islands. You’re never very far from a quiet anchorage or port.Some Statistics
In the calendar year 2003, 52,513 navigation licences were issued to foreign vessels visiting Croatian waters. This increased by 1.8% in 2004, according to the latest statistics available. Yachts flying the British flag rank a lowly 10th on the league table of nautical visitors, with only Hungary, Scandinavia and Switzerland lagging behind.
Statistics on the official charter industry for the first nine months of 2004 show a total of 1,925 vessels chartered, of which 629 (33%) flew a foreign flag and 72 (4%) flew a British flag.
Finally, the statistics on nautical ports, covering all recognised ports, marinas and anchorages, for the same nine months show the following:-
Total moorings available - 15,407,
189,492 recorded moorings by vessels in transit, 76% of which were by vessels registered under a foreign flag.
Profits from moorings by vessels in transit totalled 64,768,000 kuna (about £6 million) for the period, a 28 % increase on the same period of the previous year.Other Related Sectors For Future Coverage In The Business Column
Of course there’s more to the nautical tourism industry than marinas and berths – charter companies, boat building, boat repairs, boat equipment and services, marina equipment supplies and crew supply to name but a few. Hard data is not that easy to find and the ancillary services have yet to be classified into a directory that would make life a lot easier for visitors and probably generate some more cash for the industry. We’ll be looking, in more detail, in the business column, at each separate area as the weeks progress, but here’s a quick summary.Charter
There are charter companies operating from almost every marina and I’d guess, very roughly, that the split is about 50:50 between Croatian charter companies and foreign ones. The laws have changed recently on chartering, effectively requiring any boat engaged in carrying passengers for money to be registered under the Croatian flag. This has caused a bit of an upheaval within the industry but most of the foreign companies seem to be intent on staying. It’s also caused some problems for the superyacht industry, multiple boat ownership and some charitable organisations since, if the boat is not registered under the Croatian flag, there is a limitation on the number of passengers that can be carried whilst the boat is in Croatian waters. This limit is just over 2 times the official maximum capacity. The rules are being reviewed and hopefully some sensible exceptions will be made without allowing the black charter industry, at whom the regulations were aimed, to flout them.Boat Building
There are a number of good, Croatian made boats at reasonable prices. We have a small Dalmatinka, a fishing boat with a 2 berth cabin. It’s 22 years old but still working well. It's a big industry sector and worth a column of its own very soon.Boat Repairs and Services
There are plenty of engine, boat and sail repairers around. It’s just a question of finding them. Some are operating from garages, with no signage, and some are a lot bigger. The easiest way to find them is ask the local harbour master or marina manager.Marina Equipment Supplies
We’ve already mentioned Marina Facility Solutions, who supply a complete range of marina products, including water and electricity pedestals, pump-out systems, fire fighting equipment, lifts and cranes, pontoons, security systems and marina software. Italian manufacturers are represented by a number of local agents as are foreign manufacturers from elsewhere. Some products are manufactured locally but Croatia has a way to go before it can offer the same choice and quality as foreign manufacturers.Boat Shows
The Zagreb show, in February each year, was, until recently, the only show around. It has now been somewhat dwarfed by the Split Boat Show which takes place in early April. The Split Show has grown exponentially in a short space of time, particularly in terms of the space it occupies. It’s a good place to get a real feel for the industry and a great excuse for an off season trip. For more information, look at http://www.croatiaboatshow.com/
. Another boat show has sprung up in Biograd na moru, about half way between Split and Zadar. It takes place in early October and though it’s still a small show (and suffered from appalling weather last year) it’s worth a visit if you are in the area. Details can be found at www.marinakornati.com
Nautical Tourism is another big topic which we’ll endeavour to chunk down in future weeks. The Tuesday tourism column will be geared to those that want to sail the Adriatic, and the Wednesday Business column will cover the various business activities of the sector in more detail as the weeks progress.