After nine years of being Port Denarau Marina Managing Director, Nigel Skeggs said ‘moce mada’ (goodbye in Fijian) to all industry members, stakeholders and guests at a private function held on Friday at Port Denarau Yacht Club. Nigel has been the driver of many developments that you see today at Port Denarau Marina and has been instrumental to the development of the Yachting Industry, MSAF regulations and Sea Mercy (a US and Fiji based non-charity).
Nigel Skeggs is leaving Fiji, sort of.
Around nine years ago Nigel Skeggs arrived in Nadi to take over Port Denarau Marina which was owned by his family and was the product of a great deal of hard work and a lot of legal to and fro.
The marina was already the key point of departure for tourist transfers for the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island groups and home to the day trip, diving and fishing operators. But it was still a very basic marina and did not have extensive service areas for the vessels.
Nigel had spent a number of years as a Super Yacht Captain, based in the Mediterranean, living a life of luxury aboard a sailing vessel while cruising one of the most interesting places in the world.
On arrival here, he immediately started to make an impact on the marine industry and associated aspects of the tourism industry.
Many of his ideas were considered radical at the time, but Nigel is a tenacious man and he ploughed forward, seeking way through or around the many obstacles that were in his way.
Nigel has now decided to change aspects of his life, one of which is his involvement with Port Denarau Marina.
The decision surprised many people in the tourism industry, who thought that Nigel was set to spend the rest of his life doing what he had done for those last nine years.
And the general attitude is that it will be a great loss to the tourism industry in Fiji.
I know Nigel well and have a very high regard for him.
As a sailor there is a certain affinity and as a marketing practitioner I recognise his great skills in seeing an opportunity and making it become a reality.
When Nigel took over the Marina it was an operating business but was not very profitable and offered only basic services.
The departure area for passengers using the transfer vessels was, at best, minimal and the on water wharf and pontoon infrastructure was basic.
Nigel planned and built a very large and modern terminal that was purposely built on the ground floor for the movement of passengers onto and off vessels efficiently and created an environment that not only looked good but added to the excitement of departure and arrival.
The included amenities such as a cafe serving well prepared food, coffees and other beverages served with a minimum of fuss, high standard toilet facilities and a number of small sales offices for tourist related product.
Upstairs he created a very modern series of offices, including his own, with clear views of the Marina activity.
Attached to the marina was a basic shipyard, which, under Nigel’s watchful eye, grew into the best equipped and most efficient boat yard in the country.
Behind this he created a series of buildings to house a number of marine related businesses providing all the services that the vessels using the Marina required.
From his experience as a Super Yacht Captain and the understanding of that business, he saw an opportunity to develop a whole new segment of the tourist business, one that provided the potential for a great deal of income for Fiji.
He joined with David Jamison to go out and market the concept of Denarau as the Super Yacht cruising hub of the South Pacific.
Nigel designed and built a whole set of on-water wharfs and pontoons to support the new market, improved the shipyard even more and set up a new refuelling service to meet the demands of the large vessels.
David created “Yacht Help”, a business that provided supplies, temporary staff, provisioning and almost any other service the Super Yachts may need.
He even developed a special floating refuelling dock for the tenders and smaller transfer vessels.
Nigel and David attended the Monaco Super Yacht Show each year and promoted the Denarau Marina with such success that it is now a major segment in the tourism mix.
It generates a significant amount of revenue each year for the Fiji economy and provides a lot of opportunity for locals to work in the industry.
Nigel is also very environmentally conscious, and long before the latest interest in mitigating climate change and protecting the environment, he invested in practices developed overseas that helped make Port Denarau one of the cleanest and best protected marinas in the South Pacific.
The Marina’s history
The fish life in the marina has dramatically improved and the water quality is the best in the country.
The marina has special rules about the handling of oil leaks and the sort of antifouling (a coating that is used below the waterline of vessels to repel marine grow) which can often be poisonous. Nigel was instrumental in installing a vast solar panel array on the marina building switch the precinct from FEA power, a significant amount of which is generated with diesel, to a totally renewable source.
He also spent a number of years as Chairman of MSAF, the government department responsible for ensuring that all vessels in Fiji comply with safe practices and that all vessels are seaworthy.
He introduced a number of practices into Fiji that had been used for a number of years in the developed nations to lift the operating standards of commercial vessels.
Nigel was also a leader in the tourism industry and his company was active in sponsorship of events that helped focus the attention of the world on the beauty and spectacular marine environments that Fiji had to offer.
He was involved in encouraging the New Zealand yacht racing fraternity to engage in long ocean racing from Auckland to Port Denarau, making Port Denarau a call on a number of world group sailing regattas and he encouraged the amazing eighteen foot skiffs to hold their world championships at Port Denarau, in the process having hours of spectacular racing footage in the waters around Denarau shown worldwide.
He was also the prime mover in establishing the Sea Mercy concept in Fiji.
This concept uses Super Yachts and other vessels available in Fiji to rush aid to many of the smaller islands in the Pacific should a natural disaster such as a cyclone cut them off from normal supplies.
Sea Mercy has become the first responded in a disaster for many remote groups.
Nigel bought a vast experience of marine business with him when he came to Fiji, and he was instrumental is changing the way the marine operators worked, but the thing that makes him unique is that he started and then continued to build a whole new segment of the tourism industry through the development of the Super Yacht business.
Fiji has always relied on people of vision to keep the tourism industry growing and to understand what will create a further opportunity for expansion of our largest business and Nigel Skeggs is firmly placed in that elite group.
Nigel and his family are going to spend some time sailing around the South Pacific, one of his long held dreams and while doing that he will make sure he is available to join Sea Mercy in and emergency.
Nigel has a passion for Fiji and Fijians and I, for one, do not believe that he can separate himself from us for any length of time.
Source: Fiji Sun