For more than 2,000 years, Antibes’ Port Vauban has captured the imaginations of the people who have passed through its marina walls. It is now set to enter a new chapter in its history under a new manager whose ambitions go far beyond superficial renovations. Riviera Insider meets with Director of Port Vauban Franck Dosne to learn more about his vision for a living port ‘that works with and for the community’.
When Jean Leonetti, the mayor of Antibes for more than two decades, announced in late 2015 that the management concession for Port Vauban was being put out to tender four years earlier than originally planned, the news attracted global interest. For Franck Dosne, the following 12 months passed in a whirl of paperwork and presentations as he and his team fought to distinguish themselves from a fleet of other worthy contenders – namely Barcelona’s OneOcean Port Vell manager Salamanca Group and a multinational outfit that operates luxury superyacht ports throughout the east Mediterranean and the Balearics. Ultimately it was the local French consortium Artemis, led by Franck and the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Nice Côte d’Azur (CCI), that won the 25-year contract and it has been at the helm of Port Vauban since the start of 2017. Chosen in honour of the Greek goddess for ports and pathways, the Artemis group brings together the expertise of the CCI, the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and the Caisse d’Epargne Côte d’Azur (shares 51:39:10 respectively).
“The CCI has been managing ports in the French Riviera since 1896,” says Franck, “so the decision to sanction our management of the ports is an absolute honour. It’s also a mark of recognition for our work and our commitment to a model of sustainable, environmental and economic development that we consider to be the brightest future for the marina. Artemis capitalises on the strengths and expertise of each member; together we can offer something very different [compared to the international competitors].” Upwards of 135 million euros of investment has been allocated for the longterm project. An initial stage of upgrades to the port’s services and security systems- increased CCTV surveillance, drastically improved connectivity for crew and yacht owners, the opening of a concierge centre and new heliport facilities at the end of the Quai des Milliardaires - will be swiftly followed by a period of architectural renovations.
A significant number of structural changes will be taking place: restoration work to the ramparts and the Bastion Saint Jaume; the redevelopment of the Fort Carré to better assimilate it with the city; extensions to the current capitanerie to include a private Yacht Club and restaurant; a landscaped Promenade des Arts that will run the entire perimeter of the port and feature modern art installations along the route; considerable renovations to the run-down shipyard area; and the new Passerelle building, which will link the port to the city’s transport hub and provide a home for an educational facility, the Campus de Yachting.
“Yachting is an industry that employs a multitude of professions and skill sets,” Franck continues. “While Antibes is already home to several businesses offering specialist yachting training to crew, it is clear that not all training courses are covered by businesses in Antibes and many crew continue to travel further afield to complete their training in locations such as Palma de Mallorca and the Warsash Superyacht Academy in the UK. Crew go through many stages in their careers and much of that formal and professional training is unfortunately taking place outside of France. Those starting out in the industry, wherever they are from in the world, will tell you that Antibes is the place to head to when starting out in the industry, but we want to ensure that it remains the ultimate destination for all levels of expertise with a dedicated yachting campus.”
Antibes is Europe’s largest pleasure yachting port with 1,642 berths for vessels up to 170m. Franck explains that there will be some changes to the way in which berth rentals are handled and Artemis appears to have turned firmly in favour of contracts of guaranteed use (or Garantie d’Usage). This system, which has been in place since the start of the year, guarantees a place within Port Vauban, but does not stipulate exactly where that berth will be, meaning that a captain may be forced to move the yacht to another berth or quay if the port requires the space. However, the group has reassured yacht and berth owners that contracts will be respected and tariffs will remain just - the CCI’s preexisting network of Riviera Ports, which includes Cannes, Golfe-Juan, Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer, has some of the lowest charges in the region.
While Port Vauban will see the largest injection of investment into its facilities and services, neighbouring Port Gallice in Juan-les-Pins is also part of the management concession (for 15 years against Port Vauban’s 25-year lease). As such, the 486-berth port will experience an image overhaul to position it as an innovation hub and pioneer in terms of environmental policy and photovoltaic panelling, living roofs and the filtration and reuse of rainwater are just some of the methods Artemis will employ to rebuild Port Gallice as an ‘energy neutral’ marina. A new FAB LAB laboratory for maritime and environmental innovation will also be constructed on the site.
This clean and green approach is something that ties both ports together. Open spaces are to be abundant and Artemis is hoping to eliminate the presence of parked cars within the ports’ boundaries. The esplanade in front of the current capitainerie in Port Vauban will lose all of its parking - a move that has been criticised by locals and crew - and much of the other facilities will be reduced and replaced with landscaped parking. A subterranean carpark for 600 cars is to be built in Antibes, but this won’t completely cover the spaces lost above ground.
Both ports will gain event and conference space, hinting at the group’s plan to revive Antibes’ yachting festival although there won’t be an industry-specific event this spring. Providing high-end, multi-use facilities is key to Franck and he hopes to encourage interaction and exchange between local businesses as well as the international companies based out of Sophia Antipolis.
“Our goal is to elevate Port Vauban to a status it once held without repute and its rightful position as the Mediterranean capital of yachting,” he explains. “We want to build a living port that works for and with the local community, and to do so, we need to maximize the economic potential of the two ports. In recent years, Port Vauban has only brought in 500,000 euros for the city of Antibes annually, but that figure will become 15 million euros (and 2.2 million euros for Port Gallice).”
Early in the project planning process, Artemis reached out to architect Philippe Prost, who is a specialist in the works of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (later Marquis de Vauban and France’s leading military engineer in the 17th and early 18th centuries who oversaw the construction of fortifications in Antibes). Past work by the architect includes the renovations to the Belle-Île-en-Mer citadel (another example of Vauban) and the L’Anneau de la Mémoire (Ring of Remembrance WWI memorial in northern France). Prost’s passion for the Port Vauban project is undeniable; during a press conference in early 2017, his fellow panel described the architect’s upcoming speech as a poem.
“The geography of a place is its fate,” Prost told the press, “and Vauban’s strength lay in working with location. Before I took on this project, I walked the entire port on foot and then I toured it inside and out by boat. It’s an exceptional site that is striking both by land and by sea. My conceptualisation is not to fight for prominence with the existing architecture, but to compliment it and utilise its panoramic character. We can’t think solely of the port, we must consider the city too and reestablish a link between the two.”