In our series of Women in the Marine Sector we now cast our eyes north to Europe and meet some of the formidable women making their mark in this exciting and rewarding sector. Each of the women we will showcase have worked their way up in their firms, working across several departments and specialties, to empower them with a range and depth of experience.
In the first part of our series on the Northern Hemisphere we meet Bernarda Renata Marević, who has been working at Marina Punat, Croatia, for the last 30 years. Renata started out as the Assistant Receptionist, before moving to sales and marketing, and onwards to become the Marina Manager in 2011. Marina Punat, with over 850 berths, is one of Croatia’s oldest and most popular marinas.
Nadine Proctor is the Manager of M & H Finland (Marine and Hydraulics), a leader in Marine Hydraulic solutions for Yachts and Boats. She has worked in the industry her entire life and joined the family firm in 2011.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE KEY INDUSTRY SEGMENTS IN YOUR COUNTRY AT THE MOMENT, THOSE DOING WELL AND THOSE MAYBE STRUGGLING?
Tourism is a big contributor to Croatia’s GDP and nautical tourism makes up a large proportion of that, with significant visitors coming from Europe. In 2020 total revenues from tourism were naturally much lower, but taking into account seasonal flunctuations, the sector still recorded high revenues. The 2021 season, nearing its end, is predicted to nearly meet the physical and financial indicators of the excellent 2019 season.
Nautical tourism is quite stable. Admittedly, the charter segment in 2020 recorded a significant decline, with the absence of visitors from Great Britain and other areas further afield. The hospitality industry suffered the most, with some bars and restaurants to never open their doors again.
The guests in marinas are mostly boaters from Europe. Their boats remained moored in our marinas, and boaters were the first guests to arrive in Croatia when the restrictions where relaxed. Most marinas in Croatia have overcome the crisis very successfully. Boaters are likely to spend more time onboard their vessels for real rest and recreation, in isolation, at sea, away from the crowds.
The boat industry in Finland is doing exceptionally well. This year will be a new a new record for sailing yachts deliveries from Jakobstad. Nautor Swan and Baltic Yachts deliver over 200 million euros worth. Servicing sector has become a struggle as travelling is restricted. Resales of boats, especially motorboats, is doing also extremely well. However, buyers are more cautious than before.
WHAT ARE THE CRUCIAL ISSUES MOST BUSINESSES ARE ADDRESSING TO ENSURE SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS?
In my opinion, it’s the fine balance of fine balance of recognizing the habits and needs of customers and creating new ones, introducing new technologies into the business that will make it efficient, investing in infrastructure and good maintenance. Also the importance of communication and exchange of information not only between service providers and customers but at all levels – employees, management, local community, media, institutions …
However, what emerged as crucial now is the lack of a skilled workforce. Many well-educated and specialized professionals have relocated for temporary or permanent work in better developed EU countries, countries with larger markets. In the nautical industry, we are facing a shortage of mechanics, electricians, electronics, waiters, chefs, receptionists. Providing better working and living conditions in the local community, better connections between entrepreneurs and the local community, scholarship and apprenticeship programs, may be able to reduce the trend of the workforce leaving. If we are not able to curb this trend we too will have to turn to labour imports.
Eco-friendly products and lowering of emissions seems to be the biggest trend right now. These are also regulated and set as a target from the EU. For us, innovation in new technology and being on top of the market is crucial. Foundations and utilizing government funding, for example Business Finland and EU, for innovations and R&D is essential. Adaptation to different external factors is something we have all had to learn due to the pandemic. Sustaining quality in product and service is key.
HAS THERE BEEN A NOTABLE CHANGE IN SUPPLY CHAINS FOR MARINE INDUSTRY BUSINESSES WITH A MOVE TO SOURCE MORE LOCALLY?
We have experienced certain delays in deliveries, but what is evident is that the prices of materials and services have risen significantly. Thus, for example, the steel constructions we order for boat cradles and dry-docks cost us up to 40% more than before. Construction projects are difficult to plan for and contract – on the one hand, because the contractors lack skilled labour, on the other hand, the prices of materials and services are fluctuating, and the work must be contracted in a timely manner, much earlier. This is a big problem for us in planning.
Due to the covid situation, companies have been forced to source locally as travelling was restricted. This did harm our business as a huge part of it is servicing onboard around the world. Now we have had to find ways around it. Solution finding is always a process and our customers (yachts and yacht builders) abroad could not wait for us to support onsite, so were forced to look locally. Unfortunately in the long run, this harms our business as not all companies have the professional know-how and can sometimes create more harm than assistance. We are also fortunate have big global partners (like Bosch Rexroth and Emerson) that helped the customer locally. We had some shortages in parts, however we (luckily) carry a high volume in stock, so this did not affect us badly.
WHAT ARE THE KEY CHANGES YOU HAVE HAD TO MAKE IN YOUR BUSINESS DURING THIS PANDEMIC TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE?
Safety comes first.
We adjusted immediately to all prescribed restrictive measures and recommended measures to prevent the spread of infection.
There were restrictions on movement but sailing in Croatia was never banned. Even at the time of the strictest lock down there were boaters who sailed and used the services of the marina. Restaurants in our marina provided a takeaway service and delivered to boats, at the request of guests. As soon as the measures relaxed in May 2020, the first guests to visit Punat or Croatia in general were the marina guests. With reasonable and appropriate behaviour of employees and guests of the marina, adherence to the prescribed measures, with a high percentage of vaccination of our employees, we manage to successfully deal with pandemic circumstances. Very few employees fell ill, fortunately with milder symptoms. We have not recorded a single case of illness of our guests in the marina. Although Croatia now has a rise in cases there are still several guests in the marina.
Providing more remote service and assistance. Going more digital with our whole business process and database and finding solutions remotely for customers and suppliers. Focusing on partners geographically ´close by´ and developing our current business and technological innovations, as now there was time to do it. Of course, finance and budgeting always play a big role in survival, especially in a small business. Safety and health regulations have also become a part of the everyday life.
WHEN INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOWS RESUME, WILL THEY BE AS IMPORTANT AS BEFORE?
I believe that fairs for the nautical industry are important – above all, for our guests – boat buyers, who will see and feel the boat on the spot. Fairs are very important for marinas – there are in one place, at the same time, all important stakeholders in our industry – ship manufacturers, ship sales agents, marinas, clubs, professional associations, journalists, representatives of institutions, suppliers and competitors. I think that it is necessary to go beyond the framework of the everyday environment, travel is important, we can always learn something new. In my opinion, it is very important to maintain human contact, otherwise we are reduced to numbers only. And our job is to work with people.
Definitely, I do not see a radical change in this sector. I was at Cannes and Monaco Yacht Show, and these shows were and are just as important as before the pandemic. Maybe buyers and exhibitors will focus more on certain shows than before, but f2f contact is still crucial. I do see a change in digital marketing, and this has improved drastically during the pandemic.
WHAT DO YOU VIEW AS THE MAIN OBSTACLES WOMEN FACE IN THE MARINE SECTOR?
It seems that women may have to prove themselves a little longer, louder and stronger, but, as far as I notice, women are already present in large numbers in the nautical sector, although to a lesser extent in leading positions. I don’t see any obstacles for women to work in nautical, they are just still quite traditionally focused on jobs exclusively administrative or reception positions. In our marina there are many women in key, leading positions – shops, catering, boat sales, reception and marketing. We also had a female maintenance manager and at one time a civil engineer. Personally, I believe that more women should be encouraged to undertake pertinent technical education and training and this could bring more women into the marine sector.
I have faced some stereotypes as I am quite young and a woman in a very technical marine industry. However, if you are professional and have the knowledge, then it is possible to turn “being a woman” to your advantage. I was and am positively surprised about the response from most men. I always try to look at the positives and obstacles make me more motivated.
THE WORLD IS NOW SHAPED BY TECHNOLOGY CHANGE, SOCIAL MEDIA, CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS AND HYPER CONNECTIVITY HOW HAVE YOU EMBRACED THESE FACTORS TO DEVELOP YOUR BUSINESS?
We in our marina Punat have always tried to be innovative. It is important to us what our guests think of us, what they would like, what they are not satisfied with, so we continuously conduct market research. The research has helped us to develop our proactive boat care system, which is the world’s 1st App of its kind.
In short, our dock staff record their daily activities in the mobile system, and then together with a surveillance report of your vessel, the information is sent to customers on a weekly basis. This system aenables all our users to check reports and photographs of their boats in the customers PROACTIVE BOAT CARE free mobile app. The application connects the boat owners with the Marina, allowing the owner to check the gallery with all photos of the vessel taken during the contract period and offers a unique opportunity to check the activities of the staff in real time. It provides a streaming view of the marina video cameras and other multiple functionality: contract data, financial card with balance, important information for customers (for all or segmentally, as needed), news and offers.
All our contract customers are provided with SENSE4BOAT sensors for smoke (or heat) and bilge sensors. Their sensors are linked to our integrated marina system, so it can immediately alert us to any risk situations in our facility. Our integrated marina system is connected with video cameras, contains our own booking system and all processes are performed automatically wherever it is possible. It makes the work more efficient and leaves more space and time to communicate with our customers, who are our first priority.
So, yes, in my opinion, using technology to connect people and things is today’s everyday life.
Remote meetings through Zoom, Teams, etc. have become a part of our everyday now and communication methods have improved drastically which assist in exchanging information quicker. We could definitely utilise social media and digital marketing better with more resources. The downside with hyper connectivity is that people expect us to be “online” 24 hours a day.
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