An ocean of lost opportunities

Members of the Portuguese arm of the Association of International Navigation (AIPCN), based in Albufeira Marina, the country’s main nautical leisure promoters, say the government is “dormant” in this sector and are demanding new ways of developing and promoting Portugal’s marinas.

An AIPCN spokesman revealed that the number of boat berths on offer in Portugal’s marinas is just four per cent of that predicted in 2000, while other Mediterranean countries, including Spain, continue to increase the number of berths available.

However, the State Secretaries for Tourism and Sea Affairs were present at a recent AIPCN meeting and explained that their national strategy is a union of “sun, beach and sea”, including measures to promote nautical tourism. Marina operators, however, remain unconvinced. “There is a lot of will, but, for those of us who are familiar with the problem, it is not enough to believe there will be a radical change in strategy,” said Eduardo Gomes from the Irmãos Cavaco company, which operates from Albufeira Marina.

Gomes and other AIPCN members describe the current situation as “an ocean of lost opportunities” that are not taken advantage of because of a lack of administrative agility. The few opportunities that there are, they say, result from private enterprise.

One of the examples used to show the waste of potential is that of the recreational port in Faro, which has been struggling to comply with complex environmental standards, while hundreds of vessels remain anchored in the Ria Formosa. These environmental impact evaluations have been strongly criticised, as they are “ridiculously complex”. The AIPCN now intends to lobby the government for more help in promoting marinas as tourist destinations.