Safe Harbour

Marina Industries Association of Australia

The vast majority of boats are stored in the home; perhaps surprisingly, only around 80,000 of nearly one million recreational boats are stored in the 350-plus marinas that dot the coasts of Australia (a large majority of all boats in the country are trailed to and from the water). According to Colin Bransgrove, Executive Officer of the Marina Industries Association of Australia (MIAA), it is not an easy matter to start up a new facility these days, so the existing marinas have to be more efficient, and his association helps its members – around 125, representative of some 85 per cent of the larger facilities including all the major clubs – achieve just that.

Generally, explains Colin, “the health of the industry is good. Despite the GFC and the implications for recreational spend, marinas have held up rather well because we have had a growing supply issue – it is very difficult to develop or extend marinas. Meanwhile the last decade has seen steady growth in boat ownership; with an ageing population more and more people are seeking to secure a marina berth.”

The picture does vary somewhat from state to state, with South Australia – especially Adelaide itself – showing a surplus of supply after a lot of recent developments and other areas very tight. “Most places around the country are showing occupancy up around 80 per cent and many of the club marinas are showing 100 per cent occupancy plus lengthy waiting lists.” Despite the tough economic environment, recreational boating is something people get very committed to, says Colin.

It is very difficult to contemplate setting up a new marina in this day and age. “There are a number of factors, including planning barriers,” Colin says. Marinas are generally at sites which are environmentally sensitive or of particular interest to local communities, hindering development; an environmental impact study alone could cost $100,000 (that goes for modifying an existing facility too), and access to capital, as well known, is increasingly difficult even for good business propositions, albeit in a specialist niche sector.

Part of the MIAA’s role, therefore, is to help existing developments to maximise the effectiveness of their facilities. “Our mission is to develop and implement education and training programmes for the industry in order for it to become more professional,” explains Colin. There is a career pathway in place, a certification programme for marina managers to a globally recognised standard, and a training officer working full-time on rolling out programmes both domestically and overseas.

The marina has come a long way from the days when it was a serious polluter, and a part of the MIAA’s job is to continue to remind the general public of the progress made. “We have an internationally recognised Clean Marina programme in place which connects to ISO 14001 and helps the industry keep ahead of any regulatory requirements and provides leadership in environmental management.” There is also the Gold Anchor scheme, a kind of star rating for marinas, which pushes members to continually improve customer service as well as the facilities themselves. However, in terms of getting the cleaner and more responsible image across, “there is still a job to do, which is why we put so much emphasis on our education and environmental programmes. We also carry out a lot of research, looking at the performance of marinas from the social point of view.”

The industry is responsible for employing around 16,000 people nationwide, Colin points out, with a combined turnover above $1.5 billion, and marinas are often local economic hubs; most of them host social activities for all of the local community – arts and entertainments, for example, as well as more serious educational sessions teaching people how to go boating more safety and how to conserve the environment and aquatic life in the area. “It is part of our activity to not only improve the image but enhance the role of marinas as leaders in their community,” says Colin. Important research has recently been concluded on the social and environmental impacts of the industry in conjunction with marine authorities in Michigan (US) and the UK.

The MIAA’s website is available in Chinese as well as English. This, says Colin, certainly reflects the interest from and opportunities in Asia, although it is categorically not confined to China itself. Currently, for example, South Korea is a keen student of better marina management and a number of Koreans are in six-month work placements in local facilities to learn more about how to do it back home.

Overseas involvement “helps build critical mass for our educational programmes so we can keep improving them and provide more. We do embrace the Asia region,” Colin says, which will come as good news to the Prime Minster in her ‘Asian Century’ initiative, but the MIAA is also conducting an intermediate marina management course in Dubai in conjunction with the corresponding organisation from the UK. “We are very active outside Australia,” Colin explains, not least because the country offers global best practice in areas such as environmental management and as such is in a position to teach many Asian individuals how to do it better as they look increasingly toward the sea for recreational activities. The association also has input to marinas in Thailand, Malaysia and even India, so as more boats are built in these countries in these days of strong the dollar, the association is able to export its expertise in return.

Indeed, a large contingent of visitors from these countries is expected at next April’s Marine 13 conference in Sydney, including some top-level speakers to present to 600-plus delegates. There will also be some 80 exhibitors. “This will be the biggest event ever in the industry in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Colin.

Given the constraints on developing new marinas, existing operators will increasingly be concerned to increase the activities available at their facilities, Colin says, trying to maintain a balance between keeping the boaters happy and drawing in others from the community who have not yet caught the bug with attractions such as entertainment events and restaurants. It’s a question of keeping everyone satisfied and offering something for everyone. So even if you are not already addicted to a life on the ocean wave, perhaps you should still check out what your nearest marina has to offer.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:33 AM AEDT