On 5th February 2015, Mr. Eric Pauget, Deputy Mayor of Antibes Juan les Pins, addressed the members of the ASAP (Association supporting the redevelopment and modernisation of Antibes’ Port Vauban) during its annual general assembly, to unveil the plans the town has for its marina.
The Deputy Mayor could have chosen to read out a speech or enter a monologue supported with a projected presentation, as is customary when politicians address a crowd. Instead, he chose to spontaneously share his views in a face to face conversation with his audience, which was made of a variety of concerned stakeholders of Port Vauban, such as yachting business owners, Captains, berth owners, boat owners, residents of Antibes, as well as a surprising number of players in the yachting industry based in distant Mediterranean destinations. It appears that the future of Antibes’ harbour may have repercussions in the yachting industry abroad.
A part of Mr. Pauget’s functions in the town of Antibes is being the president of the SAEM, the company that has the 50 year concession of Port Vauban. He only took over this responsibility a little more than a year ago and he admitted he has had much to learn about yachting and marinas in this short time. This learning even lead him to visit many of the recently built marinas, such as some in nearby Liguria (Italy), as well as those developed in the area of Barcelona. He expressed how the townhall respects the support and views of its yachting community, and how important it is to him, as he clearly considers this industry to be a corner stone of Antibes’ economy, in parallel to tourism and to high-tech industries (concentrated in the Sophia Antipolis area). This is a time for reflection, consultation and planning for the years to come. Though Port Vauban benefits from a strong reputation in the yachting world, the Deputy Mayor acknowledged that it is not sufficient for the sustainable growth of the local yachting industry and that improvements must be made so that yachts do not flee to other destinations where modern marinas have been or are being developed.
4 Marinas in Antibes
The President of Port Vauban began reminding the audience of a few basic facts.
Antibes – Juan-les-Pins is a town that has 4 marinas: Port Vauban of course, the largest by far, but also the much smaller public harbours of La Salis, Port du Crouton as well as the private marina of Port Gallice, for which the concession is due to expire at the end of 2017. Therefore, Antibes is working to build a central and coherent management structure, which in time will be able to oversee the operating of all four harbours. In total, the town has approximately 2,800 berths concentrated along its waterfront, which is a huge amount, considering that the French coastline from Menton to St-Laurent-du-Var has a little more than 3,000 moorings spread over a much larger area.
This port management entity could take 3 forms:
A department within the townhall’s administration (“Régie” in French). This model is already in use, in France, for instance in Saint-Raphaël in the Var
A private operator : This would mean that a variety of private operators could bid to take over the management of the marinas. The selected operator would then periodically pay a fee to the town of Antibes and it would aim to make a profit on renting out the berths.
A SPL (“Société Publique Locale”), which is currently the option preferred by the town’s current administration. This would be a company, formed by at least two public administrations.
The Modernisation of Port Vauban until 2021
Port Vauban (or the SAEM) is a private marina with a 50 year concession granted in 1971. As per the terms of this concession, the SAEM is to return the marina to the town of Antibes, in “as good as new” condition in 2021. Therefore, over the coming years, the port’s users are going to witness works being carried out on the various quays. Recently, the “Capitainerie Quay” has had a total facelift: The car parking area has been reorganized, the bowl pitch and the surrounding area has been rebuilt, and the Port Office building itself has been extensively refurbished. This is only the start of a series of works to take place. Currently, 1.8 million Euros have been injected in refurbishing Mole Nord. Another 2 million are going to be spent on works on the harbour’s outer wall. The quays surrounding the Fort, which has a derelict feel to it, is also going to see significant changes. All these works are not going to cost the town or the tax payer a single cent. Again, as per the terms of the concession, these costs are financed by the service charges paid by the berth lease holders.
In the meantime, the quality of service is also high on the harbour administration’s priorities. For instance, Mr. Pauget was astonished to discover that many of Port Vauban’s staff does not speak English, a major handicap if you are aiming to satisfy an international clientele. Actions have now been taken so that the harbour staff now takes lessons to be fully proficient in English.
The Transformation of Port Vauban post 2021
Though the private concession of Port Vauban has its advantages for modernising the marina at no cost to the inhabitants of Antibes, Mr. Pauget also pointed out its downsides. For instance, the concession is in place, there cannot be any changes made to the berthing layout, which is much needed as boat and yacht sizes have significantly changed since the marina’s construction in the 1970s. The SAEM (the port’s concession-holding company) is not entitled to transform the marina but only manage, maintain and modernise the existing infrastructures. Therefore, the major transformations which could include an extension of the Billionaires’ Quay, the creation of shops, underground car parks, pedestrian bridges, etc. which have been in the pipeline for decades, may only take place once Port Vauban is returned to full town ownership and administration.
New Berth Leases after 2021 ?
The Deputy Mayor is well aware that Port Vauban would not be what it is today without the support, investment and service charges of the individuals who own berth leases in the marina. He wishes them to stay in Antibes and is seriously considering the possibility of giving them first-refusal, or be given priority to buy into berths after 2021. If Antibes is to carry out major transformations to its harbour past that date, their financial support would naturally be welcome. Of course, the current berth-lease ownership system, the “Amodiations”, cannot be reconvened, as it was abolished in 1984. However, this system was replaced with the “Garantie d’Usage”, another form of berth-lease, already in place in marinas such as Port Fréjus or the Old Port of Saint Raphaël, which could give yacht-owners rights over moorings for a period as long as 30 years. Which berths are to be “put for sale” again still remains to be determined. There are still many considerations to take into account and berth owners are currently being consulted so that the town of Antibes may decide on a best course of action with their wishes in mind. But this now means there might be a future for all those who would like Antibes to remain, or become, their homeport, passed 2021.
MooringSpot, February 2015.