New lease of life for St Katherine Docks

Michael Bowman:
Michael Bowman: "We want to end up with a top quality marina in a top quality location"
The central London marina is home to around 200 yachts
The central London marina is home to around 200 yachts
The St Katherine Docks pontoons have been revived
The St Katherine Docks pontoons have been revived
Industry Database

DEVELOPMENT: Once a stagnant and forgotten marina, St Katherine Docks has received a breath of fresh air and is “very much open for business”, Rachael Doyle finds out.

Originally built in 1827, the central London marina houses up to 200 yachts, boats and craft of all sizes and provides space for private and corporate events. And much of the international trade that the docks were renowned for now takes place inside the commercial buildings on site.

After “sitting stagnant” from 2008 to 2011, when the docks were bought by Max Property Group for £156m, the 25 acre waterside development, of which 15 acres is water, has been given a revamp to enhance the marina and offer better amenities, including modern offices, luxury homes and quayside dining and shopping.

Before the current director William Bowman joined in 2012, little or no investment had been made in to the marina, he told Boating Business. Most pontoons were 30 to 40 years old and other infrastructure was suffering, so fundamental changes were made with the hope of getting visitors through the doors.

“When I started, we immediately had a busy year, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, which were incredibly busy. So we had a challenging first year, and most of the time was spent with contractors redesigning and getting a business plan in place,” Mr Bowman explained.

“Since then we’ve managed to keep a relatively full marina, as well as doing the necessary urgent replacements, and we’re slowly phasing through new improvements to other pontoons, which are just about knackered.

For this, a steady investment fund has been committed each year – the first year saw £700,000 invested, a sum which has now risen to six figures.  

Despite this shot of investment, there’s still some way to go until Max’s external manager, Prestbury Investments, is happy with the new standard.

“Although much improvement has been made to the marina, we still don’t get as many different boats in here as we’d like to have, we don’t get as many visiting club rallies and we don’t get as many manufacturers of boats or equipment coming here using the marina’s rival location as a platform for business,” Ben Walford told BB.

But London’s only central marina is currently preparing for a busy year ahead. It will play host to a number of major industry events including the Venture Offshore Cup 2014, running this month, and the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race later this year.

It will also host the traditional Classic Boat Rally in September, welcoming boats from all over the country, including the Queens’ row barge Gloriana.

For the first time, the marina also played host to a stand-up paddle boarding event last week, which Mr Walford told BB he hopes to see more of in the future.

But the main idea is to end up with “a top quality marina and a top quality location”.

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