THE MEDIA VOICE OF THE GLOBAL MARINA INDUSTRY

Dock Maarten: A mecca for megayachts

Dock Maarten on the half Dutch, half French Caribbean island of St Martin has recently finished building two of the largest private megayacht slips in the region at 187m (614ft) in length, helping it serve as a key destination ideally positioned within the superyacht circuit between Antigua and St Thomas.

The marina has a long history of catering to the superyacht and megayacht community in the Caribbean. The Deher family, which has been developing and operating the property for more than 45 years, first conceived plans to expand to accommodate megayachts two decades ago in response to an increase in demand. While the nearby Port of St Maarten has two megayacht slips available, this was not enough to handle demand, leaving many 80m+ (262ft+) yachts no option other than to anchor out in the bay and wait on availability at the port or relocate to other islands. The marina has worked hand in hand with the port and the local government to fill demand by expanding the number of megayacht slips it offers. Construction was delayed as the family gathered funds, but finally began five years ago.
Brian Deher with his father Michel in earlier days of the marina build. Michel and his wife, Kathy, began building Dock Maarten – previously named Great Bay Marina – in 1978 and expanded it six years later.

Brian Deher with his father Michel in earlier days of the marina build. Michel and his wife, Kathy, began building Dock Maarten – previously named Great Bay Marina – in 1978 and expanded it six years later.

Dock Maarten’s megayacht slips have been built in stages, with the first eight opening two years ago. At that time, however, the marina did not have sufficient draft to accommodate yachts above 70m (230ft). After years of both hydraulic and mechanical dredging, the marina can now safely moor vessels in excess of 100m (328ft) with drafts of up to 5m (16ft).
Brian Deher, founder and managing director of marina services company St Maarten Ultra Marine, says: “There are more yachts built every year than there are new megayacht marina slips. The average size of the newly built yachts is growing and many existing marinas are not designed to handle their length, draft and/or their gross tonnage. It is very difficult to build a megayacht marina as the permitting process is difficult, the investment is large and there are only certain places that the yachts want to be. We see tremendous growth year over year in the yachting industry in general and we believe that the northeast Caribbean will continue to be a hub for charter activity in the winter months.”
Michel Deher is still hands-on in the continuing property development.

Michel Deher is still hands-on in the continuing property development.

Dock Maarten is working with various companies around the world to offer shipyard services that will help extend the Caribbean yachting season, as yacht owners will be able to repair and maintain their vessels while in the region. “The goal is to reduce the need for yachts to have to relocate to Europe or the US to go to traditional shipyards,” Deher explains. “Over the next ten years, we see growth in the entire yachting industry and we believe St Maarten is well suited to continue to be a leader in the yachting industry in the Caribbean.”
Current facilities
Today, the marina boasts 12 megayacht slips – eight of which are capable of accommodating yachts in excess of 100m (328ft) – and can also accommodate more than 20 boats under 25m (82ft). Dock Maarten’s robust structure enables it to offer extensive shipyard services to its clients, including the accommodation of 100-ton cranes or larger on either side of a newly built cofferdam that allows two 100m+ vessels to moor up alongside.
Brian Deher: “We see tremendous growth year over year in the yachting industry in general and we believe that the northeast Caribbean will continue to be a hub for charter activity in the winter months.”

Brian Deher: “We see tremendous growth year over year in the yachting industry in general and we believe that the northeast Caribbean will continue to be a hub for charter activity in the winter months.”

“The cofferdam is wide enough to accommodate cranes and scaffolding on both sides and still leave enough room for fuel trucks and other service vehicles to access the yachts,” Deher says. “This represents a significant enhancement in the marina’s (and the region’s) capabilities and offerings.” Additional side-to and med-moor slips will be added in the next two years, doubling the available capacity.
The entire property is reclaimed land, with the dredged sand used to backfill behind the sheet pile bulkhead and between the cofferdam, creating over four acres of property that will be dedicated to providing additional megayacht services and amenities for guests and crew.
The impressive cofferdam significantly enhances megayacht mooring opportunities in the region.

The impressive cofferdam significantly enhances megayacht mooring opportunities in the region.

Its location in an open bay means the marina is affected by hurricanes, and vessels are required to leave in the event of inclement weather even though the marina infrastructure is specifically designed for hurricanes. For example, the marina opted not to install floating docks and instead custom built its docks from concrete, on steel pipe piles filled with fortified concrete and rebar. The bulkhead is built on top of 12m (39ft) long sheet piles driven to refusal and tied back to 6m (20ft) tieback walls. “In the case of the cofferdam, the 12m sheet piles are tied to each other with threaded tie rods. We designed our own concrete pedestals that have meters, switchgear and transformers in a transformer room that is well protected from any potential swells, so only the breakers and connection points are located out on the docks,” Deher explains.
Crew amenities
Dock Maarten is a full service facility that also serves as a destination, complementing other world-class marinas on the island.

It is located along the boardwalk between St Maarten’s cruise facility and the town of Philipsburg – the capital of Dutch St Maarten and one of the main shopping districts and tourist destinations on the island. The marina property has a gym, shops, VIP showers and bathrooms, restaurants, bars and a beach, and guests can walk along the boardwalk through the town to many other amenities. Dock Maarten is continuing to add to the property’s amenities with padel and pickle ball courts, volleyball courts, a pool, more food and beverage options and shopping. There will also be more service-related additions to the marina including a machine shop, a chandlery and support offices.
Dock Maarten now.

Dock Maarten now.

The marina is designed to allow visitors to drive directly up to every slip, where high-speed fuelling, pump-out services, heavy equipment and other services are on offer. “The marina’s design also allows us to offer shipyard services because we can get heavy equipment and scaffolding directly next to the yacht,” Deher explains.
Ideal location
St Maarten is ideally situated in the northeast of the Caribbean, just 15 miles (24km) to St Barths and seven miles (11km) to Anguilla – both popular charter destinations – and centrally located between the two main megayacht ports in the region. The island also has airlift facilities to the US and Europe, making it an ideal place for crew or guests to join the yacht.
Other megayacht slips on the island are located in the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which can only be accessed by going through the Simpson Bay Bridge. This “has draft and beam limitations, opens on a fixed schedule, and can be difficult to navigate depending on the weather and size of the yacht,” says Deher.
“We’ve found that while we focused on the yachts too large to enter the lagoon, many yachts that can easily enter Simpson Bay Lagoon still visit Dock Maarten as a destination while on charter. The water in Great Bay is crystal clear and we have a beach on the outside of our cofferdam. Guests can swim right from the marina or use the vessel’s water toys in the bay while the yacht is safely moored at the marina.”
The marina has a mix of transient and permanent vessels, most are transient but Dock Maarten does offer annual and long-term slip agreements.
Expansion plans
Deher, who specialises in designing, building and operating megayacht facilities, says the family wants to continue to focus on megayachts and their needs. “Currently, the Caribbean is frequented only by a small majority of yachts in the world. Most stay in the Mediterranean, the US or other parts of the world. As we develop better facilities, offer more services, and promote unique events, I believe the Caribbean market will continue to grow quite steadily,” he says.
Dock Maarten 2020. Significant thought, effort and investment has gone into developing the marina to help fill a market gap.

Dock Maarten 2020. Significant thought, effort and investment has gone into developing the marina to help fill a market gap.

“Dock Maarten is heavily focused on expanding the service side of the business as that is one of the areas where the Caribbean is lacking. When we expand the service side of the yachting industry in the Caribbean, we will increase the length of time yachts stay in the region and help increase the job opportunities for locals that are able to work on repairing and maintaining yachts. St Maarten is widely considered the best island in the Caribbean to provision and get repairs and maintenance done because of the many skilled professionals on the island and because of the duty free status and ease of travel to the US and Europe.”
For now, Deher intends to wait until the marina has evolved over the next few years and gained a core customer base. “Several customers have requested long-term berthing rights to Dock Maarten’s largest slips due to our proximity to St Barths, the limited number of 100m+ slips in the world and the home-port features that an island like St Maarten can offer,” he says.

READ MORE

MDL partners with Club Lagoon

Inland marina: first for hydrogen

Greener practices in Mallorca

Cost conscious smart marinas

Marina market insights

MDL buys prime waterfront plot

Port Dinorwic sold to local consortium

Suntex boosts northeast portfolio

New owners for Ozarks resort

The next Florida superyacht marina?

Sustainability goals across the network

Ingemar at 45: innovating for the bigger picture

Life in the seawall

Sustainable design is just 'good design'

Spoilbank Marina: a refuge from industry

The multiple factors in modern design

New waterfront to revitalise Muscat

Algarve marina now in build

Dock project completes for Marine Max

Build starts for Livorno

Oasis expands reach to Texas

Full steam ahead in Taichung

Billion dollar spend on US marinas

Reimagining Hurricane Hole as the jewel of the Bahamas

UAE: ITC inaugurates Saadiyat and Rabdan marinas

USA: Kentucky forum examines marina owner fees

SRI LANKA: Marine tourism master plan announced

USA: Phase one rebuild completes at Gulf Harbour

AUSTRALIA: Precincts keynote sets scene for Marinas24

BELGIUM: Landmark conference addresses end of life boats

GLOBAL: Promoting diversity

USA: Suntex joins with Almar

Protection from lightning strikes

Inspiration for the waterfront

Software support keeps Pacific 'jewel' on track

MDL boosts tech plan

Making marinas 'truly' smarter

Smart approach to billing

Rebuilding Snook Bight

Swedish Riviera marina rebuilds and reconfigures

Double sanitation system in Sitges

Agapi and Axopar launch AxA

Nautical Boat Club heads to Kemah

Going green with hydrogen

The base behind the race

GCCM badges new Gold Coast race

JoySail joins the racing elite

A year of growth, achievement and innovation

Trading covetable assets

Lusben development boosts refit standards