Tony-Browne

Interview: Porto Montenegro Marina Director, Tony Browne

The Porto Montenegro marina is celebrating its 10th season this year – can you summarise the last 10 years since the marina had only 50 berths, now 450, of which 150 are specifically reserved for superyachts up to 250m?

Porto Montenegro is an amazing testament to the hard work and efforts made by everyone who has been involved over the last 10 years. When we started, apart from a few intrepid yachts, there really was no yachting industry in Montenegro. To build and create an entire industry required not only a massive commitment and belief as a fundamental ethos, but also underlying team excitement and enthusiasm which resulted in an almost imperceptible but very real energy that was and can still be felt by our clients and partners today.

Growing the marina over the years has allowed us to develop all our services, be it infrastructural or customer oriented, alongside the ever changing and maturing landscape of the yachting industry. We have kept a very close eye on the trends in yachting, and really have tried hard to stay ahead of the curve. This has resulted in Porto Montenegro becoming the industry benchmark for full service marinas.

The effects of Porto Montenegro on the immediate surrounds of Tivat and Montenegro can be seen in the re-development of what was a small industrial village, into a beautiful touristic town. I recall my first visit to Tivat in 2007, sitting in a rundown café, looking across the tarmac roads cracked and uplifted by tree roots, towards the old Arsenal shipyard that was still servicing large commercial vessels. The industrial sound of rust being chipped from the decks reverberated across to the town quay. Fast forward 10 years and Tivat’s Riviera is now flooded with proud locals, holiday makers, and tourists alike. It sits merged alongside Porto Montenegro as an extremely valuable and important destination in Montenegro.

The Bijela shipyard project certainly completes the 360-degree service provided by Porto Montenegro – what does this mean for the development strategically?

The yachting industry provides a welcome opportunity for some of the world’s busiest people to have break from a fast pace life with family aboard some of the world’s most technologically advanced assets; a superyacht.

It is essential that when they step aboard the yacht, everything is in perfect working condition so that there will be no interruptions to their holiday. This puts a lot of pressure on the Captain and crew to ensure the yacht, which is an incredibly complex piece of engineering, is properly maintained. Given the complexity of the yachts, they require a specific type of yard that can deliver the required servicing.

The Bijela shipyard has been a strategic part of the Porto Montenegro story from day one. It will finally provide the facility home-based yachts require in order to complete regular, and regulatory maintenance works and inspections, right on the door step of Porto Montenegro.

The yard will also create a new industry with a myriad of employment opportunities alongside it, which together with the already established local employment increase in Tivat and Porto Montenegro, will continue to ensure prosperity for future generations of Montenegrins.

We ask that for this question, you put yourself in the shoes of your former Captain self – what would be the main reasons for choosing Porto Montenegro as your homeport?

Three words – Peace of mind! One of the biggest dangers to yachts berthed in marinas is ground surge. It is caused by long period swells generated across vast stretches of open water. Almost all the marinas in the Mediterranean suffer from ground swells under certain conditions. However, Porto Montenegro being located within the Boka bay, does not suffer the same fate. It offers unparalleled protection for the yacht from the elements.

It is also incredibly safe from a general security point of view. Montenegro boasts the lowest crime rate per-capita in Europe. Couple this with our 24/7 state of the art security presence in the marina, it really does make Porto Montenegro stand out from every other location.

Whilst the yacht has its own considerations, starting a young family also has life changing and important considerations. Life aboard can be challenging in terms of distance and time spent away from a family. It is not only important to ensure your home base location is safe, but also provides the amenities for general day to day life, and for your children to prosper and flourish.

Our international school operated by Knightsbridge of London ensures academic success for children. And we have also focused on afterschool activities and summer camps so as to create a well-rounded learning and development system for kids of all ages. Then finally, Montenegro benefits from on average 300 sunny days per year. This means water based and adventure activities are made available during the long summer season, and with Montenegro’s spectacular mountainous interior, hiking, skiing, cannoning, white-water rafting, and mountain biking are also available.

The many accolades and awards for customer service acquired by the marina village in many ways confirm its success – the Platinum award is the most prestigious of them all. Can you tell us more?

As previously mentioned, there really was no real yachting industry in Montenegro prior to Porto Montenegro. So we needed to go out to the industry and not only introduce Porto Montenegro, but yachting in Montenegro and the Adriatic in general. We are extremely successful and enthusiastic in saying how fantastic we are! However, real credibility comes from third party assessment.

The marina industry benefits from a strong industry association that provides rigorous audits and inspections. These include detailed customer satisfaction surveys. Porto Montenegro is extremely proud to have collected several customer voted awards, and to have become the first marina in the world to be awarded the Yacht Harbour Associations Platinum award. This really demonstrates by way of third parties, that Porto Montenegro is the marina all others strive to be.

Your work also involves focusing on improvements for crew life and offering a full crew event programme – what does this entail and what is the significance of doing so?

Crew work very hard to create a seamless 7 star experience for the guests aboard their yacht. With this in mind. we have tried to turn our marina experience into something special for the crew. We want them to feel like they are an important guest when they come to Porto Montenegro. To this end, we created our Yacht assist program. Crew sign up for free and gain access to a huge range of events, social gatherings, and access to our vast list of facilities, which also include free usage of a ski lodge in the winter.

A very topical theme at the moment is the environment and preservation of natural spaces. For many years now, the Porto Montenegro marina has been involved in the protection of the waters in which it is located. What have been the chief environmental initiatives?

When we took over the old Arsenal shipyard in 2007, which was 2 years before we opened the marina, the first environmental initiative undertaken was to ban fishing from within the marina. Like any natural resource, once humans leave it alone, it recovers very quickly. Today we have a rich and diverse marine biosphere living happily within the marina. Dense coverings of sea weed cling to the jetty piles, harbouring tiny microorganisms, which in turn provides food for small fish, and so on through the food chain. Today, it is not uncommon to see mahi mahi, turtles, and even dolphins in the marina basin. We are also aware of the plastic problem the entire world is facing. Most of the discarded plastic makes its way into the waterways where marinas become a collection point.

On opening Porto Montenegro, we have ensured that all floating debris is removed from the waters. This was traditionally done with small boats and dip nets, until we teamed up as a pilot partner for the Sea Bin Project which now automates this process. Again, like our general accreditations, it is important to have a third party view on the state of the water environment. We have established a close partnership with the Marina Biological Institute of Montenegro who perform regular water testing for us. We offer Marpol certified disposal of refuse for vessel, and free black and grey pump out facilities at every berth.

Describe Tivat and Porto Montenegro as a community – can you tell us your view on the benefits of life in Montenegro given that you have been here since the beginning of the project and have chosen to settle here with your family?

Coming from Tasmania, Australia, I immediately felt at home in Montenegro. Both places have stunning mountains and protected waterways. But in contrast to Tasmania’s short and often cold and wet summer, Montenegro benefits from a long, dry summer season and warm sea water.

I really believe this warm Montenegrin weather, diverse cultural events, and of course the tasty Mediterranean cuisine, really promotes a healthy outdoor lifestyle which brings together the community, a thing that has been lost in many in other parts of the world due to the hustle and bustle of modern life, and drive through eating. The plethora of activities on offer in and outside Porto Montenegro for kids, the excellent standard of the KSI school, and the feeling of safety and security generated by the safeguard of a strong and traditional neighbourhood community, all ensure our kids are getting the best opportunity in life, in turn making it an easy decision to create a wonderful home in Montenegro.