The boat that rocked Croatia
Croatia’s blossoming tourism industry has moved seamlessly from hip alternative to hip mainstream in the past few years. It now contributes 11% of the country’s GDP and employs 12.7% of its workforce.
The backbone of this progress has been the small and medium enterprises that have taken advantage of the country’s assets to appeal to visitors, not least the Adriatic coast and the beautiful port of Dubrovnik. And EIB support has helped one such company put together a truly appealing maritime project.
Making it happen
“We received EUR 850,000 through the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) credit lines” says Karmen Kutnjak, Managing Director at Adriatic Cruise Line (Jadranska krstarenja). “This really made things happen, as we were granted a better interest rate than was available on the financial market in Croatia. This made everything viable and offered a great starting point,” EIB backed funding enabled the company to complete the acquisition of a Belgian-built 45m vessel the MS Sea Star, Croatia’s largest event ship.
Adapting to warmer climes
Built in 1991, the Sea Star arrived in Dubrovnik at the start of the summer in 2010, and spent over two months in the shipyard for a thorough refurbishment to make it fit for purpose. Says Kutnjak, “the Sea Star was built as a multi-purpose vessel, but had not been used as such. Today, it is tailor made for exclusive day and night-time cruises as well as one-day business meetings and conferences and presentations. It can also be used for parties, be they themed, anniversaries, weddings or similar events. Anything really. It has a capacity of up to 400 people.”
From port to port
The Sea Star can welcome guests on three levels. The main deck is an open space that can be customised for business or pleasure. Part of the refit involved opening a 150m² sundeck on top, allowing passengers to take advantage of the Adriatic’s lustrous climate, while the galley and interior and bar were comprehensively renovated, allowing gala dinners, cocktail parties and dances to take place on board.
A flying bridge was also built, and extra gangways added: although based in Dubrovnik, the ship sails sedately around the Adriatic at up to 14 knots, and “needed flexibility for docking due to the sizes of Adriatic ports,” according to Kutnjak. “The majority of these ports are really old and in those days, the ships were proportionally smaller.”
The Sea Star has been sailing the Adriatic since late summer 2010, and generally operates between April and November, Although Adriatic Cruise Line is keen to exploit the ship all year round. The Sea Star is so flexible in form and use that while it may operate out of the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, the whole sea can be its oyster.
 The Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Hrvatska banka za obnovu i razvitak)