The Balearic government yesterday dealt a harsh blow to the region's booming marine industry by announcing it intends to go ahead with its freeze on marinas. The news was welcomed by the Balearic environmental group GOB, but it is expected to bring little cheer to the nautical industry which will be gathering at the end of the month for the annual boat show in Palma. Yesterday the Balearic government agreed to push ahead with introducing the moratorium which in essence will prohibit the construction of any new marinas or nautical installations in the Balearics. The only room for the nautical industry to manoeuvre hinges on the government agreeing to the extension of existing marinas, but by only ten per cent or less of its current size. There are a total of 61 ports and marinas in the Balearics, 43 in Majorca, nine in Minorca, eight in Ibiza and one in Formentera, but the nautical industry has been fighting for permission to increase the region's facilities for years to meet growing demand for moorings in the Balearics. Last year industry chiefs warned the government that unless it starts to co-operate with the local industry and eases the tight restrictions, the Balearics could start to lose out to new and rapidly developing destinations in the Mediterranean in particular along the North coast of Africa and Eastern Europe where governments, fully aware of the benefits of the nautical industry, are helping to subsidise its development. At the moment, the Balearic Environment Ministry is studying marina development projects in Soller, Portocolom and Andratx in Majorca. Three projects in Ciutadella, Fornells and Cala Moli are on the table in Minorca and Sant Antoni in Ibiza, each one is being dealt with separately. Once the marina moratorium gets the initial green light, the government will have a period of six months within which to definitively approve the freeze. In the meantime however, the development freeze stands. However, once approved, the Environment Ministry will have to draw up new marina legislation within a space of three months. The last marina white paper was over ruled by the High Court in 1994 and the Balearic government says that it is high time new legislation was introduced in order to control the construction of marinas while improving the quality of existing facilities and services. However, the global nautical industry considers the quality of services and facilities in the Balearics to already be of a high quality, the demand is for more moorings, especially for super yachts. Each summer, luxury yachts are forced to queue outside the islands' marinas, waiting for a berth, but the Balearics is facing stiff competition from a large number of growing nautical industries providing equally high quality services.

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