Breakwater Marina was constructed in 1988 as a development of state significance. It came under a framework of state legislation that defined a long term vision for what was to be the lifestyle, residential and entertainment precinct for Townsville, North Queensland. ABNS speaks with Scott Marshall, Marina Manager, who provides an in-depth look into Breakwater and its community. “We had a vision in mind to create a protected commercial marina that would ultimately be a city gateway and a destination facility.” Says Scott.
With boating being synonymous with Far North Queensland, Breakwater Marina originally made available 150 wet berths to support local leisure boating. It began as a very traditional commercial marina that provided haul out and repair facilities. The marina offered amenities such as on water fuel, mixed retail, food and beverage as well as a dedicated commercial wharf to name a few. “After 25 years of operation and the moderate expansion to a capacity of 375 berths, the important feature for us in terms of operating history, is that we’re now transitioning from that traditional commercial model to a lifestyle model. We are now aiming to offer much higher levels of amenities and an authentic North Queensland experience.” Explains Scott.
North Queensland is renowned for the manufacture of boats and marine ancillaries. Through these services and trade, the marina property has always been home to a significant number of direct and indirect employment. Over the years, the population of Townsville has grown rapidly and is now home to nearly 200,000 people. “Townsville has been recognized as Queensland’s second capital and is certainly the capital of North Queensland.” States Scott.
Overtime, Breakwater and Scott saw the small to medium craft market plateau and the needs of the modern ‘boatie’ change. Marina operators needed to adjust old school traditional commercial practises to meet the evolving needs of their customers. “The primary focus for us has been to add value to the customer, which to some extent has been achieved through changing marina infrastructure by adding power and providing Wi-Fi. We found that we’ve been getting far more attraction through additional services that make the participation in boating convenient and easy. We also added more dockhands for things such as grabbing mooring ropes on a customer’s arrival, helping them carry shopping bags or providing them with local advice. These are things that customers are really seeking out these days.” Says Scott.
Breakwater Marina have adopted a solutions based approach, seeking to make a customer’s stay as easy and stress-free as possible. “It’s all about understanding who your customers are and from that, drawing what their expectations are so you can meet them not only on arrival but during the course of their stay as well.” States Scott. He adds; “We’ve also adopted resort like practises and treating arrival registrations like hotel check-ins. We use technology such as portable devices to make this experience seamless.” Breakwater recognizes that a lot of people often interact with the marina after a sea passage and are tired. “The last thing they want is to be bombarded with a lot of information and prefer instead to simply go to a berth. We try to understand what their needs are over their stay, be it long or short.” Advises Scott.
Breakwater is fortunate to have very strong local patronage. With Townsville having the highest ratio of boat ownership per capita in Queensland outside the Gold Coast, Breakwater doesn’t rely heavily on tourists in terms of maintaining a high occupancy and trade. “We are linked to the local economy and the regions nearby. We tend to set up a lot of operating policies to service local interests and to service the interest of our local boaties.” Says Scott. Breakwater is also aligned with local tourism advocacies and organizations and uses a consistent brand approach, slogan and consistent marketing programs. “When people research where they want to go and see consistency in our message, they are much more inclined to visit and experience what’s being promoted.” Explains Scott.
With tourism being just 2-5% of Townsville’s GDP, the region is looking to utilize its unique natural assets and surroundings to improve targets and benchmarks. Over the last 12 months, Queensland and North Queensland advocacies have been focused on promoting specific messages about the authentic experiences the region has to offer, hoping to improve the short stay visitation. Breakwater ties into this by moving away from their traditional model of promotion and becoming more modern and focusing on customer experiences and destinations. “Our staff are key a key component in this. They are not only local, but also passionate about boating and about showcasing the marina property and the region. We look to make connections for and with our customers. This creates great networking, good referral opportunities and extends patronage.” Advises Scott.
Scott explains a current economic issue Townsville and the surrounding region are facing. “Right now we are almost reliant on state and federal commitments on major funding of infrastructure projects. We need new and innovative funding partnerships to access the funding needed to kick-start the economy again and without it I think we will struggle to drive productivity and develop the potential of this NQ region. The key is that we don’t procrastinate on this investment.” Scott is hoping to see governments take the lead to motivate and incentivise private enterprise and investment. Through major investment from the government in infrastructure and innovation, the region can experience improvements in job creation, a diverse economy and new streams of interest. Another concern, shared by the industry is the high level of regulations. This expensive and time consuming issue hinders development, productivity and growth.
The marine industry is one that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. A misrepresentation regarding safety has become an obstruction which may be stopping a lot of people from getting involved. “We have a responsibility to educate the public about safety and how good and healthy participation can be. We also have a responsibility to be leaders in environmental protection and sustainable coastal development as well. There is a huge amount of misrepresentation about man-made coastal development, such as marinas.” Explains Scott. Marinas are often perceived as being high impact, dirty and polluted environments. “The people who actually use these structures, love boating, wildlife as well as the cleanliness of the water and habitats. They are really good protectors of the environment because of this.” States Scott. Along with the entire industry, Scott is hoping to address the information that’s in the marketplace and align with researchers and universities. “We need to showcase the positive information about the impact of marinas on coastal environments, habitats and healthy ecosystems. We are the ones who need to take lead on this issue.” Adds Scott.
Marinas also have a responsibility to integrate and interact with the community, which means they have to operate as an open property. Always seeking to set up networks of affiliates or partnerships, Breakwater Marina teamed with the Queensland Police Service. Initiating last year, Breakwater became the first Queensland Marina precinct to subscribe to their Neighbourhood Watch Crime Prevention Program. “This was a fantastic opportunity for us to bring onboard not only marina users, but all of the surrounding residents and commercial enterprises as well. We wanted to take a proactive approach on making sure everyone prevents crime. By getting together and establishing the program, it meant the neighborhood developed a genuine sense of community which better protects its assets and looks after the safety of its residents and users.” Advises Scott.
Schooling in Melbourne, Scott graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Movement. After graduating, he moved to the Gold Coast where he was then engaged on South Stradbroke Island Resort, at a property called Couran Cove. Having all the traditional island based marine services such as water taxis, a watersports outlet as well as a 105 berth marina, Scott transitioned into a marine role at the end of 2000. At the time, these marine services were independent and segregated. Scott had the opportunity to work with the executive team at the resort and was responsible for the amalgamation of these services. Becoming a Marine Manager, this was his first major role within the industry. In 2007, Scott moved to Townsville and took the reins of Breakwater Marina.
“Personally, I’ve been a member of the Marine Industry Association (MIA) and Marine Queensland for a number of years. The MIA is now quite active in terms of training industry professionals, so I’ve been going through the progressive training process.” Says Scott. Now sitting with an Advanced Marina Management qualification, Scott is just 1-step away from Certified Marina Manager, the top tier of marina professionals.
“It’s a mission for myself to make sure I conclude the training process. I want to apply this experience and knowledge to this particular property.” Advises Scott. Currently, Breakwater Marina is held by an owner group which is interested in expanding their portfolio. “We hold another property in Sydney and may just want to expand. There certainly may be opportunities in the future in regards to expanding my role into a property development or acquisition role rather than centering on day to day operations and functions.” Hints Scott. In an industry where adapting to technology and evolving needs leave you to sink or swim, Breakwater Marina and Scott Marshall are sure to stay afloat (no pun intended).