In recent years political stability and increasing local wealth has led to many companies, including Porto Montenegro, the D-Marin network and Camper & Nicholsons Marinas (CNM) to develop luxurious new marinas in Montenegro, Croatia and Greece. All featuring extensive facilities for the largest superyachts in custom made facilities.
But, according to Dan Hughes, the Business Development Director at CNM, there’s one country which offers untapped potential and stunning unspilt natural harbours which until now has been missed. Albania, which celebrates its independence this year is the one to watch according to Hughes.
“Albania is a natural choice, there’s a big gap as you come down that Adriatic coast of Croatia, Montenegro and then Greece and with Albania there’s a bit of a gap. It’s a brand new marketplace which is quite exciting; an embryonic market.”
At present there are no dedicated superyacht berths in Albania and whilst nearby Montenegro garners international plaudits for its Porto Montenegro development Albania has remained firmly off most Mediterranean sailors’ maps.
This tiny nation has emerged from a bleak period following the collapse of communism and in Tirana today you’ll see swish, new Rage Rovers parking outside exclusive restaurants. As in other former communist nations a group of billionaire oligarchs have emerged from the sale of previously state owned assets and under them a small but growing middle-class.
So there is a growing familiarity with luxury goods and the small, but significant ultra-high-net-worth population in Albania – ranking above Montenegro and Cyprus in the Wealth X global report 2012 – meaning visiting yachts will not raise as many eyebrows as might be expected.
“At the moment there’s nowhere to keep your boat [in Albania], but with the wealth there, as soon a facility is provided then it will fill because the wealthy will want an additional toy,” said Hughes.
Inventive solutions to difficult problems have characterized the Albanian renaissance. Faced with a limited budget to gentrify the decrepit city of Tirana, the 32-year old former-actor-turned mayor used the money to allow residents of the grim concrete tower blocks the opportunity to but paint of any colour to beautify their buildings. The result is that the suburbs of the city now burst with brightly colour blocks in red, green, yellow, pink – and the resultant unswing in people’s moods has been remarkable.
There’s hope on the horizon in Albania and the development of the marina sector is just one small part. Roads and infrastructure have been constructed with money from the World Bank and positive changes to the quality of health and education services have benefited the majority of the population.
It has also secured access to EU funding as a possible new member of the EU and is part of the focus for the EU’s Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, launched in Zagreb, Croatia on 6 December, which aims to support sustainable development of maritime tourism in the Adriatic.
Marinas in Albania
At present the only marina in the country in the south of the country at Marina di Orikum. Facilites here are a bit basic but the staff are extremely resourceful and strive to meet the often demanding requests of visiting yachts with good grace.
Security has been a concern that has prevented many from visiting Albania. Whilst gun ownership is widespread and crime a problem in some remote areas and inner city ghettos, travellers are generally welcomed and are still enough of a rarity to attract attention.
These days things are much safer and it’s perfectly safe to travel around the country independently. Threats to security would be more likely in open water.
Dean La-Vey, from Secure Yacht, which provides security for superyachts, said:
“They don’t have security in the Adriatic that’s the truth of it. Albania is not geared up for protecting yachts from robbery.”
A problem in recent years has been teams of highly trained and fully armed bandits who attack yachts on RIBs. Increasing security on the largest yachts makes them more or less immune but the “smaller” vesels (30m -50m) are not often equipped with security features or have the luxury of ex-special forces guards.
But it would be wrong to blow these incidents out of proportion, indeed attacks like this happen with alarming regularity in the wilder parts of the Mediterranean. With a commitment to develop a new marina CNM will bring about a change in the area and with that an undoubted influx of visitors to this fascinating, forgotten corner of the Adriatic.
Marina d’Orkum – http://www.orikum.it/index.htm
World Marina Guide – http://www.worldmarineguide.com/country/albania