Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Communist-era naval base reborn as superyacht marina

  • Is Porto Montenegro set to become the most glamorous yacht hub in decades?
  • Multi-millionaire behind the project believes it will strongly benefit local economy
  • Site of development is former Communist era naval-base and international "no fly" zone

(CNN) -- A former Communist-era naval base in east Europe could soon become the most important new European superyacht hub in decades.

Porto Montenegro marina is being developed in the Bay of Kotor in southern Montenegro, the tiny former-Yugoslav nation, a region with the lowest GDP in Europe.

It is the brainchild of multi-millionaire gold miner Peter Munk who hopes his plans will turn this area into a glamorous and economically thriving hotspot to rival the likes of Monaco, Cannes and Portofino.

To this end, the bay, with its picturesque mountains, is undergoing a transformation that will leave it decorated with luxury penthouses, upmarket shopping boulevards and the capacity to hold 600 yachts in its harbor.

But despite the grandness of the development, it was not so long ago that 82-year-old Munk, thought the scheme an impossible dream.

"I never thought I'd have the opportunity to put all this into practice," said Monk, who is CEO of Barrik Gold, the world's largest gold mining company.

"Where would I get the chance to create the perfect port in Europe, somewhere that's large and protected, where the water is deep and where the government is co-operating? It would be a chance in a million," he said.

I never thought I'd have the opportunity to put all this into practice. Where would I get the chance to create the perfect port in Europe?
--Peter Munk, CEO Barrik Gold

So how did he get from notions of a "fantasy port" to the very real Porto Montenegro development?

It was some chance comments that piqued his interest back in 2000, in his former role as chairman and CEO of the largest Canadian/US real-estate firm Trizec Properties, which had interests throughout Central Europe.

Advisors recommended having a look at Montenegro, in those days part of the rump of former Yugoslavia. "The Canadian ambassador in Belgrade also recommended it to me. He said I should have a look next time I'm in Europe," he says.

In 2003, he was flown in a government helicopter over the Bay of Kotor.

This huge, mountain-fringed harbor had been hidden from view for decades, during its time housing the Tivat naval base, home of the Yugoslav navy. Foreign charts were out of date and there had been a 30-mile no-fly zone over the bay. The location was for many years, quite literally, off the radar.

When Monk saw the bay he was gobsmacked. "I absolutely flipped. I dropped my knickers. I'd never seen anywhere as beautiful in my life," he said.

This was the virgin territory he had been waiting for and he met with Montenegrin Prime Minister, Milo Dukanovic, who told him that they were keen to privatize some military assets, including the base at Tivat.

Next came the money: "That was easy. I just got some friends involved. They are all yachtsmen."

Today, Porto Montenegro is making strides, with phase one complete and over 85 boats of all sizes in place.

"Our investment is a transformational investment, not just of the base, but of the country," says Munk.

The first fruits of this can be seen with a range of developments in the region -- hotels -- built to planning restrictions that mean this will hopefully not become yet another concrete jungle -- a golf course, and international flights to Tivat airport.

"People have seen that if we can attract hundreds of yachts it will open up the whole country. They see the wealth that comes from the big yachts, which provide the employment, the foreign currency, the purchasing power."

He adds: "We're not taking a dollar out. We're putting in an infrastructure, we're educating, we're attracting other investors. We're creating roads, buildings, pure water, an image.

"We're investing hundreds of millions of dollars. In the meantime 60 to 70 Montenegrins can work for us directly at an income level unknown under communism."

Subscribe to SuperYachtWorld