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Part 1 of a series investigating sustainable development of marinas.

By Oliver Witt

Ecological economist Herman Daly once asked, "What use is a sawmill without a forest?".

Daly’s point highlighted the intricate balance between the environmental, social, and economic factors that drive business, where gains in one area invariably lead to losses (or weakening) of another. Essentially, once your forest (environment) is gone, how will your sawmill (economy) function?

But how does this apply to marinas? Modern marinas often form part of a marina village destination, nestled among associated services such as hotels and residential areas, boutique shopping experiences, restaurants, fish markets, and a host of other activities. This diversification of the marina reduces economic risk and seasonality, whilst improving footfall and the appearance of an active marina [1]. The success of such a development is closely linked to the appeal of the surrounding environment as a destination [2]. Without a high-quality surrounding environment, and effective integration with the local and user community, it will be difficult to establish a destination status and consequently more difficult to ensure an economically sustainable business for the future.

Therefore, one might ask “what use is a marina without a destination?”. The importance of destination was first recognised by the hospitality industry, and the success of marinas (and, one might argue, all waterside developments) is similarly closely linked with the appeal of the destination. Whilst the marinas with the traditional, unappealing “boat car park” stereotype still persist, the modern concept of the marina village aims to integrate the marina and associated services with the environment to create a destination – an experience or persona of the marina, closely tied to the quality of the surrounding environment, integration with the local community, and the economic opportunity.

The most widely quoted definition of sustainable development is from the Brundtland Commission (March 20, 1987) [3] which states “sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Thus, we can use the concepts of sustainable development to bring about the optimum economic, social, and environmental outcomes of a marina development to provide for present and future generations and, by taking a proactive approach to involve all stakeholders in the project, a fully integrated and sustainable marina project can easily be achieved.

Sustainable development of marinas is no longer a tick-box exercise. It is simultaneously a requirement for meeting industry-wide sustainability goals and, more importantly, necessary for promoting a stable future for a business in an unstable and fast-paced financial climate.

Following this introduction, a series of articles will explore the different facets of sustainable development in the context of developing and operating marinas. Watch this space!

[1] McKinley, E. (2016) Marina 2020: A Vision for the Future Sustainability of Channel/ Arc Manche Marinas.

[2] Hogan J. & De Marco, L. (2011) Sustainable Marina Development

[3] Brundtland Commission (1987) Our Common Future


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