As someone who has monitored and observed the marine sector for years, Sean Fuller is highly aware of its potential.  Here, he applies some financial data around the Blue Economy

According to research by British Marine, total revenue of the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry reached £3.12 billion in 2017, its highest level since 2007/8. The sector contributed £1.3bn to the UK economy. Direct boating tourism adds more to the UK economy than film, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries individually. 

The sector has created close to £6bn in sales from boating related tourism, a 65% growth since 2013 3.5 million people took part in 12 core boating activities, the largest increase since 2009.  Overall, a total of 4.16 million people (7.9% of UK adults) enjoyed boating and water sports.

According to the RYA, in a survey from 2014, the average annual economic contribution arising from marina based boats was between £9,500 and £19,000. An average annual running cost of about £5,100 combined with the added value component (Gross Value Added) and an allowance for the amortisation of boat value might indicate that the economic contribution of a marina based boat is towards the upper end of this range.


France is the largest leisure boating market in Europe benefitting from a long coastline both on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic/Channel. It has one of the world’s largest boat and equipment manufacturing sectors, well developed leisure boating infrastructure and high level of participation.

According to Fédération des Industries Nautiques, there are an estimated nine million occasional participants and four million regular participants in nautical sports. 

Bailiwick Leisure Marine Sector

Around 10% of all annual visitors arrive by private boat to Guernsey according to surveys with 26,000 ‘chargeable yacht nights’. 

However, boating is not an activity that happens in isolation. Research shows that ‘boaters’ spend more than £3,500 a year on maintenance and equipment alone, with 96% of this money – more than £18m – being spent with Guernsey businesses. 

There is also a positive knock-on effect for other types of businesses such as restaurants and supermarkets and of course the benefits brought to other islands in the Bailiwick, with Herm and Sark the most popular destination for leisure boaters and Alderney not far behind. 

This is before the spend on laying up fees, storage, fuel, insurance and mooring fees is considered.

From an historical perspective:

The main port of Guernsey was a tiny harbour on the east coast until the early 19th century. It was then that the Bailiff, Daniel de L’Isle Brock, set up a committee to initiate the expansion of St Peter Port Harbour, which is largely in the form we know it today. He saw the benefits of facilitating the import and export trade. This ambitious project eventually saw a south and north pier extending seaward to provide a protected deep water harbour of approximately 100 acres.

On completion the southern arm, Castle Emplacement, formed a continuous protective wall beyond Castle Cornet while the northern arm extended out to White Rock. Around that time, the entire population of Guernsey would have been around 30,000 – or just under half the current total. St Peter Port became a bustling free port. Barquentines, brigs and other sailing ships leaned against the wharves secured to the large blue steel bollards that still exist today. Towards the end of the century, the advent of steamships made of steel in place of wood led to the demise of wooden sailing clipper and a decline in the use of the wharves.

St Peter Port is built on a steep hillside with little open space so when motor sales really took off in the 1960s and 70s, the Victorian wharves and piers became a very useful parking lot. This process was continued in the late 1980s when a new marina, the QE2, was constructed which provided additional area for port commercial operations and surface parking on the north side at La Salarie and on the port side by St Julian’s Avenue. A large roundabout was created with improved traffic flow.

The new marina provided Guernsey with expanded marina capacity for leisure boats to cater for the growing popularity of boating. Together with St Sampson’s newer marina and Beaucette, the provision has been in the order of 1800 berths, or one berth for every 33 people. In Jersey, the corresponding figure is 1,650 berths for a population at least one third larger. This provision no doubt played a part in the development of the island’s marine industry to serve local and visiting boat owners.

The 2014 Ports Masterplan noted the serious limitations and congestion in the harbours. An additional issue is that parking comes under P&R which is not charged for use of the space it occupies and any income from penalties goes into the General Reserve rather than back to the Harbours which all the cost of maintenance falls back on the Harbours. In addition, there are public arts which must be maintained by the Harbours at their own expense.

There is great potential for tourism in Guernsey and the waterfront is key to this. It is one of the reasons why leisure boaters and visitors come back to our Harbours year after year. There are certain challenges going forward: the airport has, for a number of years, been running at a large deficit and is effectively propped up by the ports holding account whereas St Peter Port Harbour is making a surplus, thanks mainly to sales from marina berthing (resident and visitor) tenants and commercial freight.

Once the ports have been incorporated or restructured, we can then start to see the wood from the trees, review and then carry out some all important investment.