Recreational boaters understand that wet slip storage presents a number of concerns, from the potential for sun-related fading and mold growth to hull damage, rust and rot.

Dry storage is preferred, but poses some challenges of its own. When boat owners arrive on site, they want to be in the water as quickly as possible, but their launch time can be delayed if a forklift operator isn’t immediately available. Dry storage facilities can occupy an entire property, leaving little or no room for boats in need of maintenance. These warehouse-like facilities often are built with sheet metal siding and roofing, which offers protection from the sun and rain, but won’t necessarily withstand tropical storms and hurricanes, a fact that can lead to higher insurance premiums.

Marina owners who offer a solution to these dry stack challenges will differentiate themselves from competitors, ultimately attracting more business.

GCM Contracting Solutions, a full-service design-build construction firm in Fort Myers, Florida, recently unveiled plans that will redefine the marina industry worldwide – a dry stack smart marina built within a concrete fortress.

ASAR Automation

In 2011, GCM President and Founder Robert Brown began collaborating with an Austrian-based company to co-develop technology that would automate the storage and retrieval process for boats. The goal was to create a faster, more reliable system that would replace the traditional forklift or crane method of storing and retrieving boats.

After years of discussions, meetings and planning, ASAR was born. Automation is not new to the marine industry, but GCM’s new ASAR is a fully-automated, dry stack smart storage solution that offers:

  • A quick turnaround time from storage to the water
  • Space-efficient, aesthetically pleasing architectural designs
  • Lower personnel costs due to automation
  • Reduced potential for boat damage during transport
  • Environmentally friendly electric transport systems

Each ASAR facility is fully customizable, allowing marina owners to change bay heights and racking configurations. It even allows for storage of vehicles in place of a boat so marina owners do not need to provide as much surface lot parking.

 ASAR Marine

ASAR is a smart storage solution that amplifies a marina’s profitability by increasing usable cubic space and operating efficiency. Without having to build in extra space for forklifts to maneuver, ASAR can increase a marina’s leasable cubic space by an average of 30% to 50% while offering an unmatched rack-to-water vessel delivery system. This advanced stacker crane technology stores more boats inside a marine facility, thus maximizing profits for the marina owner.

Below is a graphic representation of a traditional dry stack facility and an ASAR facility. Both occupy the same square footage, but with an interior rail system, the ASAR facility can store multiple boats on each level, from floor to ceiling. Conversely, the traditional dry stack facility contains a tremendous amount of unusable square footage, as indicated in red, because of inherent limitations of a forklift.

ASAR Storage Capacity Graphic

Another limitation with forklifts is that large vessels cannot be stored at high levels. Lifting capacity is severely limited at higher elevations. For example, imagine holding a 5-pound box with your arms straight out in front of you. You will notice that as you move the weighted box further away from your body, it takes more effort to hold the box steady, and you may begin to lean forward. This same 5-pound box has the effect of a 12-pound box on one’s shoulders. With ASAR, by carrying the vessel’s mass on center rails across the drive aisle and utilizing an extending platform shuttle to place the boats, ASAR rises above the limitations of a forklift method. This allows marina owners to store multiple small, medium or large boats on any level.

Safe Harbour Dry Stacks

Prior to 2008, the standard material to frame dry stack facility construction was steel, with metal racking systems and ribbed side panels enclosing the space. With tropical storms and hurricanes pounding Florida each year, GCM implemented a tilt-up, all-concrete construction method on a new marine project at Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club & Boatyard. The Naples, Florida, project became the first all-concrete dry stack facility in the world.

In 2016, Rose Marina, located on nearby Marco Island, underwent major renovations and redevelopment to also become an all-concrete dry stack.

Most recently, Gulf Star Marina on Fort Myers Beach demolished its decades-old facility and contracted with GCM to rebuild the marina using all-concrete tilt-up construction.

Safe Harbour Dry Stacks is a subsidiary of GCM Contracting Solutions, offering turnkey construction solutions specifically for the marine industry.

Comparing the Two: Metal vs. Concrete

Pre-engineered metal buildings still are commonly used in the marina industry because they are cost-effective. As an authorized Butler Builder, GCM Contracting Solutions and Safe Harbour Dry Stacks offer marina owners the best of both worlds. Covering both metal and concrete dry stack facility construction, GCM provides the engineering expertise and technology to make virtually any building design or concept a reality.

Butler® Pre-Engineered Metal Building:

  • Versatile Design Options
  • Factory Punching
  • Staggered Panel Splicing
  • Weathertight Seams
  • Flexible Ridges
  • Steel Rod Bracing
  • Acrylic Coated Structures

Concrete Tilt-Up Construction:

  • Steel-reinforced strength at every opening
  • Reach beyond 65 feet high with consistent strength
  • Faster build time helps control construction costs
  • Fosters confident financing
  • Delivers energy efficiency and lowering operating costs
  • Reduces both interior and exterior noise
  • Allows flexibility for design aesthetics and storage demands
  • Retains a greater resale value

Why Concrete is Growing in Popularity

While both concrete and metal are feasible, concrete Safe Harbour Dry Stacks are built to resist pressure. Solidly pinned and cemented into place, each concrete panel provides support for the structure and protection from hurricane-rated wind. Thus, they render superior integrity compared to other types of building materials.

Aerial view of Gulf Star Marina under construction.

Concrete storage facilities offer a tremendous value and superior protection:

  • Four-Hour Fire Protection – Using 7¼- to 12-inch thick concrete panels to create a compartmentalized structure can slow down or stop a fire from spreading, which in turn can significantly lower the potential damage and repair costs caused by a fire.
  • 175+ MPH Wind Rating – An all-concrete structure with steel reinforcements at every opening can achieve over 175+ mph wind rating and provide greater protection against tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Lower Insurance Premiums – The design, increased security and safety of an all-concrete structure can help reduce insurance premiums by up to 15% for marina owners and boaters who store their vessels in a Safe Harbour Dry Stack.
  • Protection from the Environment – A fully enclosed facility offers greater protection from the elements, giving boat owners peace of mind and security in knowing that their vessel will remain safe and stay in top condition while not in use.

The World’s First: Combining Concrete Construction with ASAR

GCM’s latest project, Gulf Star Marina, will be the first in the world to featured ASAR’s stacker crane technology. The 29,000-square-foot tilt-up concrete facility will be able to accommodate boats up to 40 feet in length and features a fueling station and ship store.

With waterfront real estate at a premium, compact ASAR facilities like that at Gulf Star Marina enable marina owners to generate a higher return on investment by accommodating more boats than a traditional facility.

Gulf Star Marina Rendering

ASAR Marine is the latest innovation from GCM, an industry leader since its founding in 1988. GCM provides innovative turnkey solutions for a wide range of commercial needs, from state-of-the-art marine facilities and large manufacturing centers to restaurants, retail stores, corporate offices and more. With its knowledgeable and experienced team, GCM is known for getting the job done right, on time and on budget for new construction, build-outs, remodels and renovations.

Combined, GCM Contracting Solutions, Safe Harbour Dry Stacks and ASAR make up an unparalleled, innovative and dynamic team of professionals servicing the marine industry.