Monaco has long established itself as one of the world’s most popular yachting destinations, with the Principality investing heavily in its marinas and yachting facilities to ensure that this reputation is maintained. The official purchase of Cala del Forte by the Société Monégasque Internationale Portuaire (SMIP– a subsidiary of the Monaco Port Authority) in December 2016 was a targeted move that is intended to allow Monaco to welcome more yachts than ever before to its marina network.
Cala del Forte is set to open for business in Summer 2018, welcoming yachts up to 60-metres, with its full offering that will include new offices and amenities completing by 2019. One of three marinas to be managed by the Ports de Monaco – in addition to Port Hercules and Port de Fontvieille – the marina is positioned close to the French-Italian border in Ventimiglia, just 7.9 nm from the heart of Monaco. This ideal location will mean it is perfectly placed to cater for the consistent demand for high-quality and secure superyacht berths in the vicinity of Monaco.
Aleco Keusseoglou, President of Ports de Monaco and CEO of Cala del Forte, was instrumental in the purchase process of the marina. Coming from a long shipping background, Monegasque national of Greek origin, Keusseoglou managed his family cruise ship business from 1984 to 2000 prior to joining the yachting industry. Having sold his company in 2000, in 2002 he was approached by Prince Rainier III who was looking for someone to help him achieve his goal of running the Monaco ports in a more commercially minded manner and to turn Monaco into a yachting hub. Today Mr. Keusseoglou is at the heart of yachting in Monaco with roles including the Chairman of the Ports of Monaco, the head of investment management company 2PM, member of the board of the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), member of the board of the Monaco Yacht Club and the chair of Destination Monaco.
From the day he began working for Ports de Monaco the overall aim was simple. “We wanted to create a port of excellence, not just for superyachts but for all kinds of yachts too,” says Keusseoglou. The addition of the floating dock in 2003 was instrumental in achieving this, and a part of the Prince’s vision for Monaco’s yachting offering. “Before the floating dock was here, the port was pretty uncomfortable during storms and yachts would not stay here in the winter, so adding the dock was a really important part of turning Monaco into a year-round yachting hub.”
Success came quickly, with Port Hercules and Port de Fontvieille booking out all year round, with long waiting lists. This high demand was a key driver behind the purchase of Cala del Forte. “We were slightly victims of our own success… so we’re always looking for opportunities to add additional berths and that was the reason we decided to purchase Cala del Forte marina due to its close proximity to Monaco,” says Keusseoglou.
The process that led to the purchase of Cala del Forte was lengthy, with the team diligently seeking out the perfect spot to complement their existing marina portfolio. “For four years we looked for ways to expand our business, whether from an operational point of view with berths nearby, or from an managing perspective, where we can be active in a port or destination that is attractive to Monaco that can help bring more people to Monaco from that destination,” says Keusseoglou. Marinas that Ports de Monaco considered investing in included Cap-d’Ail, which was deemed too far away in time due to its concession ending in 2027.
Cala del Forte was particularly appealing due to its impressive concession of 80 years, making it the longest concession in the Mediterranean. “It proved a great opportunity for us, especially thanks to the close proximity to our other two ports.” The new marina will now offer individual clients 40 year leases, an attractive prospect for owners looking to commit to a long term berth.
Having purchased the site, Ports de Monaco undertook a complete remodeling to transform the original plans of the marina. Originally designed for 375 smaller berths in “Variante 1”, it will now house 170 much larger berths ranging from 6-metres to a maximum capacity of 60-metres. Of the 170 berths available, 120 will be listed for sale, leaving 50 berths available for transiting and visiting yachts.
Keusseoglou has no intention to rest on the Principalities laurels or take its existing reputation for granted. “I do think that Monaco is the capital of superyachting, and the most beautiful yacht show in the world is right here, but that doesn’t mean that we can just stay in our little territory and confine ourselves to this small area,” he says. The three marinas are just a part of the overall package on offer to yachts by Monaco. “One factor that makes the Principality the capital of yachting is certainly that we have one of the most beautiful yacht clubs in the world, which is extremely active and promotes Monaco as a destination and yachting in Monaco in a fabulous way,” says Keusseoglou. “We are growing our network because we wish to offer all of our superyacht clients the same level of service and organisation wherever they are.”
The purchase of Cala del Forte is just one key part of Keusseoglou’s long term vision and strategy for Ports de Monaco. Although Cala del Forte is not located in Monaco, it is an important step in creating a wide-spanning network that will link yachts back to Monaco. “We have started here in Monaco but my goal is to leave a company that has a foot in all the strategic areas of the Mediterranean, and to manage as many berths for superyachts as we can,” he says. “You are putting your Monaco stamp and way of running things in different ports, and this increases the image and brand of Monaco as a port.”
At the heart of all these plans and developments is a green ethos throughout all operations. “This is not us jumping on a bandwagon to try and please owners, our green directive has been very clear from the Prince right from the start,” says Keusseoglou. “Prince Albert is very active in exposing environmental issues and goes all around the world promoting the preservation of our oceans, so we aim to be as green as we can be.” Green initiatives include ensuring that boats are running on electricity, avoiding the need for the use of generators, and adding collection points for black water in every point of each marina. While the owners might not be the driver behind these actions, they are welcoming of the initiatives. “If we tell yacht owners that we are going to do things differently from now on and this is why, there is no resistance.”
Working to help effect positive changes that mean growth for the overall superyacht industry is another key aim. “One important element for industry improvement is the need to be able to find professional crew and we need more schools and training centres to ensure that we have people coming into the industry with a certain level of professionalism,” says Keusseoglou. “When I worked in the cruise industry as it progressed to be the multi-billion-dollar industry it is today the training progressed too and companies had to create their own training centres in order to equip their ships with better crew, and that is certainly something that we need to see echoed by superyachts.” With a training centre present in the Monaco Yacht Club, Monaco will be playing its part in seeing this goal brought to life.
With work on the new Cala del Forte marina well underway and due to be open in time for the 2018 edition of the Monaco Yacht Show, it seems likely that this new facility will quickly enjoy the same popularity as its sister marinas. “The works are on time, on schedule and on budget and we are looking forward to welcoming the first yachts in summer 2018,” concludes Keusseoglou.
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