MALTA – Winter Homeport - Port of Call - Superyacht Destination!
Posted March 22, 2012, 11:42 a.m.
MALTA – Winter Homeport - Port of Call - Superyacht Destination!
By Wilfred Sultana
The most popular tourist destination in the world, said to attract something like one third of the world’s international tourists, is the Mediterranean region – cherishing an exclusive combination of pleasant climate, beautiful coastline, rich history and diverse culture.
The same sentiments and preferences are acknowledged when the ‘Middle Sea’, one of the many alternative names given to the Mediterranean Sea throughout human history, is discussed and considered by ‘super’ tourists on they cruise onboard their luxury yachts.
Twenty-two neighbouring destinations lie in 969,000 square miles of water, all endowed with their particular enchanting characteristics, waiting to be discovered. Lands sharing the same sea, yet committed to promoting their individual, distinctive attractions and facilities. A sea bordered by three continents and comprising one of the world’s most fascinating yachting playgrounds.
Yes, a fascinating yachting paradise indeed, and certainly a highly competitive territory for the yachting industry.
Amid this cluster of ‘destinations’ is Malta, strategically located in the centre of the Mediterranean, only two days sailing time from any of the principal yachting centres in the Middle Sea and only a couple of hours’ flight from most major European cities. An island with a significant history, but much more than just an historical gem.
The island of Malta has for centuries enjoyed an intense relationship with the sea, in times of war and peace alike, thanks to its natural harbours and the commercial resourcefulness of its people. Thus, besides offering an enticing environment – with architecture, history, beautiful landscapes and secluded harbours – Malta today is able to present the competitive world of professional yachting with a highly appealing scenario.
Priding itself on its originality and its high quality facilities and services, Grand Harbour Marina is undoubtedly a ‘top’ amongst Malta’s five yachting centres, and offers all the world-class facilities one would expect from Camper & Nicholsons Marinas, a company who have over 40 years of experience in marina and waterfront development.
The Grand Harbour Marina is set on the seashore of Birgu (Vittoriosa), a very old locality on the south side of the Grand Harbour with its origins reaching back to prehistoric times – a marina embedded in a unique historic neighbourhood... in 1530 the Knights made Birgu the capital city of Malta... in 1799 the Royal Navy made Birgu its base in the Mediterranean and remained there until 1979.
Its narrow streets, graceful old buildings, auberges and museums make this an unrivalled Mediterranean location where history blends perfectly with the present, with its luxury and flair. Casinos, inviting wine bars and the finest of restaurants and hotels, all make one’s sojourn, short or long, a pleasant one. Aside from the traditionally viewed advantages of its location and summer climate, Malta also provides a great winter base for crew and yachts alike. The shoreside infrastructure required to support the large yachts in existence today is very well developed and the island boasts many skillful and certified tradesmen sensitive to working in a superyacht environment.
Whilst there is no snow skiing here, there are numerous winter activities available to keep crew entertained that generally are not available for the rest of Europe. Grand Harbour Marina is open seven days a week to help any yacht and crew member make the most of their stay here. A healthy variety of sports activities is available just a few minutes from the marina: tennis, golf, squash, gym, rugby, cricket, to name a few. Entertainment and nightlife are close by and the marina waterfront itself hosts a casino and a select number of cafés, wine bars and restaurants, with theatre and more cultural activities just across the harbour in Valletta.
Operationally within the Grand Harbour itself we have the Malta Super Yacht Services yard, capable of dry-docking the largest yachts under a closed canopy. All works can be undertaken and completed to a very high standard. Superyachts have also been shipped from within the Grand Harbour using such firms as Sevenstar Yacht Transport.
“We have seen a steady rise in the number of larger yachts using Malta both on passage and as a summer or winter base,” says Ben Stuart, General Manager of the Grand Harbour Marina. “We have recently had yachts of 50m and more take up annual berthing and use GHM as a base from which to operate.”
So what made Captain Templeman of S/Y Shere Khan choose Malta?
“Shere Khan is currently located in Malta for her winter off-season period, “he says. “Malta and the Grand Harbour Marina were chosen for the availability of winter berths, competitive pricing and central Mediterranean location. GHM also provides a unique and very impressive backdrop for visiting owners.”
“Principally I look for high quality technical support services. Manufacturers’ representatives and supply, skilled 3rd party local labour and knowledge, large modern yacht-yard facilities, security, provisioning, communication (ie internet), co-operative marina staff and crew entertainment.”
“The wintering period is the best time for any yachtsmen to be with family. Low cost flights to and from the family home are important. Crew can return home and family and friends can visit the yacht’s location. The majority of yachtsmen are English-speaking and therefore find life easier in countries of the same tongue. The Maltese people’s friendly, welcoming and co-operative disposition makes the process easier still.”
Malta’s English language education system is clearly a draw for many, as is the island’s membership of the European Union and the adoption of the Euro as its national currency. Captain Templeman’s final comment reflects on Malta as a yachting hub:
“The paying customer of the yachting industry is a ‘visitor’ and the least captive customer of all. Malta has much to offer the ‘visitor’ and has in fact built its economy around them, whether it is a language student, tourist, aviation professional or mariner. Malta has a basket of natural and historically unique assets that, combined with a commitment to modernisation and organisation, has every reason to be a world-class destination for wintering yachts and crew".
Roland Darmanin Kissaun is CEO of S&D Yachts Limited and has been involved in the yachting industry since the early 1960s. He says: “Malta has always been a favourite transit place for superyachts, especially in view of the fact that they could obtain duty free fuel, which was initially the major attraction for these craft to the island. Once here, yacht captains became aware of the services available locally and the high standard of facilities through the local yachting industry.”
While duty free fuel is no longer available to all yachts, those that are commercially registered and operating as a business with a valid charter contract can still take advantage of duty free bunkering. There are also tax advantages to be gained from Maltese vessel registration – which is attested to by the fact that Malta ranks second in Europe and eighth in the world for the number of vessels operating under its national flag.
“When all's said and done,” says Roland, “the end result is that Malta enjoys a good amount of repeat visits, and repeat work, by yachts that have experienced our services and facilities.”
Undoubtedly a major resource in the island’s marine industry is the Malta Super Yacht Services facility which today is established as one of the leading Mediterranean refit and repair yards for yachts larger than 35 metres. With an infrastructure which is particularly suited to the largest of the fleet, the yard has a long list of prestigious repeat customers such as the motor yachts Samax, Akula, Dardanella, Triple Seven, Pelorus, New Sunrise, Olympia, Ice Lady, Mosaique, Lionwind and many others, with an average vessel length of 58 metres.
The Malta Super Yacht Services yard has become a preferred base for a number of northern European builders to attend to their after-sales support and extended commissioning on new vessels, and is now the prime yacht-yard offering compliance packages to vessels wanting to meet the requirements of the Malta Commercial Code – regulated by the Malta Maritime Authority. Furthermore due to its infrastructure, geographical position, flexibility and cost-base, Malta Super Yacht Services believes it offers a very strong proposition to the industry.
Certainly the ever-growing superyacht fleet makes the industry more exciting but definitely extra demanding. Yes, it’s a huge challenge, but one which Malta’s “basket of natural and historically unique assets” should turn into opportunities.