A marina with a sustainable vision
A marina with a sustainable vision
Purpose

A marina with a sustainable vision

British Columbia’s Victoria International Marina has green intentions to match its beautiful surroundings.

By Dominique Afacan | 22 May 2020

In the summer of last year, Victoria International Marina on Canada’s Pacific coast held its grand opening. But with environmental scientist Craig Norris at the helm of the project, this was no regular launch party for the superyachting crowd. Instead, an eco-fashion show took place on the docks, which challenged designers from around the world to create wearable pieces from recycled plastic. “The stuff that they came up with was amazing,” says Norris. “I’m not a fashion guy but I was blown away.”

It was a fitting launch for a marina that truly recognises the importance of putting sustainability first. “We knew we had to do something with the plastic we were clearing every day in the marina,” says Norris. “Off the back of the show, we set up our Future Oceans Foundation as we had so much interest.” The foundation has been so successful that it now has its own office at the marina, holding more events year-round and providing an opportunity for owners to give back to the oceans.

A marina with a sustainable vision

Victoria International Marina

A marina with a sustainable vision

Victoria International Marina

For the local community – and even the wider Pacific West Coast region, eco concerns are nothing new. “We have the dot com culture here that is both very tech-heavy and very environmentally aware,” explains Norris. “Most of the yachting community here, despite the businesses they may once have been in, are now looking to give back. I would say 95% are looking for opportunities to help.”

There’s little doubt that yacht owners with an eco-conscience would be impressed with the various achievements of Victoria International Marina. For starters, it has the highest ranking Clean Marine certification. “Getting that sort of classification is about sustainable design and operational principles, among other things,” says Norris. “I was at an advantage because it’s much more difficult to adapt a marina that is 40 or 50 years old.” Still, it’s heartening that when faced with a clean slate, Norris chose to look in a sustainable direction.

A marina with a sustainable vision

Artificial reef balls

A marina with a sustainable vision

Artificial reef balls

“When I designed the facility, I worked with the naval architect Greg Marshall,” says Norris.  “My first question was how we could design a marina for the future – I didn’t want to build it for the past or even the present.” As a result, every single aspect of the marina is the result of meticulous future planning and attention to detail. “I took the time to look at and assess every material that came through our door, to work out whether or not there was a better choice,” says Norris. There is also an emphasis on electric power, with transformers available in every custom-built kiosk. “We made a promise that we would promote anything electric,” says Norris.

The marina team were also determined to involve the local community from the start. For one of their projects, they worked in tandem with a local high school, making artificial reef balls to attract marine life. “The students had to build them, put them in position and monitor them, so it stood for something,” says Norris. A similar project, put together by the marina and the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, invited students to the docks as part of a salmon rearing education project. “It shows the community that there is more going on at the marina then sipping martinis and eating caviar on a yacht,” explains Norris.

A marina with a sustainable vision

Orcas

A marina with a sustainable vision

Orcas

And with orcas often feeding in the strait right in front of the marina, there really is a lot going on in tandem with the more stereotypical aspects of the superyachting high life. “Pure, unadulterated, raw nature is really what differentiates us from everywhere else,” says Norris. “You will see wildlife in abundance here. Whales, dolphins, bears, deer, elk, eagles; the list goes on.”

So why doesn’t British Columbia occupy a more prominent position on the superyachting map? “We put weather at the forefront of the reason people don’t associate British Columbia with yachting,” says Norris. “Canada has this image of being this frozen northland which is not true. Of course, it’s not the Caribbean or the Med, but it is temperate. We have water you can swim in that is above 23 degrees.”

A marina with a sustainable vision

Snow biking in Canada

A marina with a sustainable vision

Snow biking in Canada

And there’s so much to do, with beaches, fjords, forests and mountains all within close reach. “If your yacht has access to planes or helicopters, the opportunities in this region are mind-blowing,” says Norris. “There’s a new thing called snow biking in the mountains – you can be down on the water on your yacht one minute and then up there the next.”

“Perhaps in Canada, we’ve not been great marketers – we don’t tend to brag about what we have,” says Norris. The result is a vast, relatively untapped region, ripe for exploration. And this marina is the perfect green gateway to it all.

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