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Best Access Control System for Marinas (& 4 Key Considerations)

Elliot Blackler July 26, 2022 15 min read

Although most people are very familiar with what a marina is, we often overlook their security and it can often be hard to visualise, as how can you keep an area that backs onto the ocean secure? 

When different vehicles, stock and variables are involved it is even more important to ensure that the area is secure, and this is part of the reason for the huge rise in access control for marinas.

If you are looking for an overview of access control, check out one of our previous blogs that covers the area as a whole, if you are interested in marina access control specially, carry on reading.

There are a lot of different types of marinas that could be covered, but for the sake of simplicity we will be looking at the broad strokes to help shed more light on an often hard to find topic.

Marina security has needed an overhaul for a long time, and although some of them are being updated, there are still a large number that rely on outdated methods such as metal keys and a security person at the front.

We aim to cover a lot of basics in regards to marina access control in this guide. To summarise we will be covering:

  • Access Control for Marinas Features
  • Marinas Access Control Basics
  • Types of Hospital Access Control
  • Benefits of Marinas Access Control
  • How to Find the Best Marinas Access Control System
  • Marinas Access Control Cost
  • Deciding on the Best Marinas Access Control System

Short on time? Download our Nortech Access Control Comparison

Key Components of Access Control for Marinas 

There are a lot of important features that make a marina access control system a viable and practical solution for locations around the UK and world. Below are some examples:

Year Round Protection

Installing an access control system for marinas will allow you to keep the area secure regardless of time of year. Needless to say, certain times in the UK are peak for boat usage and the winter months are more used for storage and not sailing. 

Land Vehicle Access Can Be Limited

To add even more security and control your system, some marinas may look at having a land vehicle access control solution, i.e. a form of physical access control such as a gate or barrier to the car park. This further limits who can get into the marina area.

Management from Afar

Gone are the days where the security of a location needs to be on-site, with modern solutions such as access control paired with CCTV, most of a marina's security can be managed remotely.

Customisable Solutions

It should come as no surprise that there are a lot of varieties of access control each with their own preferred usages and benefits. Depending on what you need or want most, the solution can be tailored to your marina.


How Does Access Control for Marinas Work?

Access control can come in a lot of different forms, when it comes to marina security there are definitely a few options that are more prevalent and widely used; Although all of the forms of access control work the same fundamentally, some lean more to marinas specifically.

Although each marina will have different types of boats and higher or lower value assets, the core concept is the same, marina security aims to protect the owners, their guests and their boats. 

Finding ways to control, manage and limit who can access the marina is an important step to keeping the whole area secure for everyone. If there are unauthorised people gaining access to the marina there is an inherent security and privacy risk to everyone. 

Marina managers need to be held responsible for finding easy, safe and effective methods to keep the marina secure and protect against trespassing, vandalism and theft. 

The trick to this is to find an effective method that does not create additional stress and effort for the boat owners and other people who need access. 

There are a few different options when it comes to marina access control and some popular methods that are used to keep marinas and their boats secure. In the next section we will be looking at some of the most popular methods that can be deployed at marinas.

Types of Marina Access Control 

Needless to say, every marina is different, outside of the fact that they are attached to the ocean, but the security needs, value of boats and volume of vehicles are completely different from one location to another.

Finding the best security solution for your marina can be challenging but it does not have to be. In this section, we will be exploring marina access control types and the various methods that can be deployed within a marina to create a more secure and controlled environment.


Key Fob Access Control 

One of the most popular forms of access control within a marina is key fob access control, this is for a number of reasons. Primarily it is because it is a simple method that is easy to understand, manage and use for everyone involved. 

Secondly, it is popular due to the fact that the key fobs can be attached to the boat keys, meaning that the boat owner will be able to quickly and easily have access to their access control credential (the key fob) alongside their keys to start their boat.

An additional factor that can make key fob access control a great choice for marinas is the fact that some key fobs are made to be waterproof, making them the perfect solution for a place with a lot of water such as a marina and a boat.

The key fob is a small, often circular tab that is not dissimilar to a keyring that can be tapped against a scanner at the marina, often attached to a gate or barrier, that allows the owner access to the marina with ease.


Smart Card Access Control 

Often associated with hotels, key cards are one of the most widely used forms of access control in the industry and for good reason. This form of access control is user friendly, simple to manage and easy to replace if needed.

The learning curve for a smart access card is virtually zero, you literally tap the card on the reader and if you are pre-authorised you will be granted access.

Smart cards are cheap to replace and simple to remotely manage if you are the company in charge of the marina. So, if someone does lose their keycard overboard it is not the end of the world.

When it comes to marinas, it is worth having an around the clock number people can call if they are unable to access the gate for whatever reason, as with any access control system it is important to put the user first.

Smart card access control (or similarly proximity access control) are often confused with key fob access control, and although they are similar, there are a few key differences between key fobs and prox cards.


Passwords or PINs

We have all heard of passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs) to keep our information secure, and we are all very familiar with what they are and how they work.

In terms of access control, we have probably seen these devices at stock rooms at retail stores or even at the entrance to a gym where they have those rotating metal gates, often informally referred to as cheese graters.

The concept is popular for a reason, it is tried and true and simple and familiar to use, so everyone is very comfortable using these methods. Password access control is easy to manage and can be controlled with ease remotely or on location at the marina.

Often the management company for multiple marinas will control these password and PIN settings from a head office or remote location as opposed to physically at the marina.


Biometric Access Control

When it comes to higher value assets and needing an extra secure method of security, a lot of marinas have started to look at biometric access control.

Biometric access control uses the user's biological attributes to unlock the gates and doors. This is typically their fingerprint but can also be a retinal scan (i.e. scanning their eye). 

These may seem like futuristic methods but they are very much used in a lot of industries and places. A marina is a perfect example of somewhere that could use a higher level of security due to the prices of the boats stored within the area.

Benefits range from giving the boat owners more confidence in storing their boat at your marina to a much safer and secure area, alongside many others.


RFID Asset Management & Access Control

A comprehensive solution that is becoming more and more popular, RFID access control has the ability to verify both the boat and their owner to add an extra layer of security. 

Similar to the caravan access control example below, placing RFID tags on both the registered owners car and their boat allows for only verified matches to enter and exit. Hence preventing thieves from driving high value assets out of the marina in an unmatched car. 

A secondary benefit of RFID tagging for marina access control is that it enables real-time logging of all units on and off the site, helping management track their assets more efficiently. 

Whilst security is the primary driver of this up and coming access control method, the potential savings in insurance for boat owners also provide a compelling case to invest in RFID access control. 

Learn more about how Nortech's RFID Solution can help with Asset Management


The Future of Access Control for Marinas 

Regardless of the type of access control that a marina decides to deploy, they are all forms of physical access control which effectively creates a barrier (be this a gate, a door or a literal barrier) between the outside and the area needed to be secured, in this instance the marina.

As technology evolves there will always be new methods and more effective ways to go about doing anything. This is the case regardless of the industry. 

What is always important though is not about keeping up with trends, but not falling too far behind and having an outdated and ineffective form of technology that creates issues for you and your patrons.

When it comes to marinas, access control has become a hot topic and very popular in recent years due to its simplicity, effectiveness and deployability. 


Benefits of Access Control System for Marinas 

Every marina will be slightly different and it would be naive to think that every marina has the same challenges, security needs and even budget. 

With this being said, we are going to be looking at marinas as a whole and covering the benefits of deploying any form of marina access control as opposed to not having a system installed.

Security Benefits of Marinas Access Control

Higher Security & Vehicle Safety

As we have alluded to above, the ability to have a much more robust security system will lead to much more secure boats and thus boat owner confidence in the marina. Which in turn brings its own benefits.

Pairing a marina access control system with other security measures can increase the efficiency of both, for example utilising a marina CCTV system alongside the access control measures can make a much more secure and controlled environment for everyone.

It is rare to find a marina that does not have some form of surveillance technology deployed, so having an access control system that partners with that only makes the area safer.

Boat Management

Having a much better idea of what boats and people are within the marina is an important step to having a much more secure marina and waterside area.

A marina access control system will be able to tell you who has entered, exited and when they were in and out of the area. This can be incredibly beneficial if you are looking into an incident or just trying to keep everything running smoothly.

Boat management is just an overarching term for having much more control and security within the marina and it comes with its own plethora of benefits.

User Benefits of Marinas Access Control

Around the Clock Access

In terms of benefits for the boat owners or other access control users, there is access to the marina 24/7 as long as they have their access control credential

This is a great user benefit of marina access control because it allows everyone to work on their schedule and not anyone else's.

One of the luxuries of having a boat should be unrestricted access to your own vessel without having to adhere to a time frame, as some older marinas with security guards and gates still deploy.


Peace of Mind

There are a lot of ways you can build confidence in your marina, from good reviews to word of mouth, to walking the walk, i.e. having a high security marina that keeps the boats safe.

When leaving their boat somewhere, owners want to know that it is safe and will be protected when they are away from it, especially if it's an extended period of time.

Providing your dockers with peace of mind when they ship is in your marina is a huge benefit that has a knock on effect on a lot of different areas of your business.

General Benefits of Marinas Access Control

Deactivation is Simple

Having the ability to deactivate an access control card that has been lost, misplaced or stolen means that an access control system is far superior to the traditional lock and key method.

Let’s say someone’s key card falls overboard, they can easily be issued a new card and have the old one deactivated with one simple step. Depending on the marina’s setup, the boat owner could get a new access card within the day.

Marinas can greatly benefit from this kind of system because it provides the boat owners confidence in your ability to keep their boats safe and take pride in their security. 


Hard to Duplicate 

Access control systems are incredibly simple to implement and user friendly however they are not easy to duplicate the digital keys (credentials), each one is managed carefully by the access control software.

Duplicating a metal key is as easy as taking it to a locksmiths and getting them to cut a new key from your old one, part of the reason that metal keys are on their way out.

When we look at an access control credential as opposed to a metal key the benefits are obvious and numerous. 

The ability to lose a key and it not affect everyone else, i.e. need to change the whole lock and issue new metal keys, a marina access control system keeps all cards unique and safe if lost.


What Do You Look For in the Best Access Control for Marinas?

As we have alluded to, finding the right access control for your marina can be tough if you do not know where to look or the types of things that will be important for you. With this in mind we are giving some examples of factors to consider when searching for the right solution for you.

Addresses Security Needs

It is important to remember that with any security solution there is no one size fits all, even when two locations are in the same industry. For example, what is important for one marina may not even be a concern for another.

Take for instance a marina in close proximity to a city centre, the security risks will be much more prominent than one that is in a more remote compound or location. 

Obviously, factors such as a footfall, value of boats, security systems, lighting, marina CCTV cameras and more will also affect the security needs required from an access control system.

A Boat Owner Friendly Solution

When looking at ways to improve security, businesses often do not think of who is actually affected by the changes they are making. 

This is why it is important to find a solution that works for the boat owners, for example, a waterproof key fob might be a good suggestion as it can be attached to the boat key and won’t get damaged by water.

Simple & Effective

As we have mentioned above, it is important from a user perspective to have a marina access control solution that makes sense but also from a management perspective.

You want a system that is easy to use, simple to edit permissions and quick to issue credentials, you are trying to make everyone’s lives easier, not harder.

Remote Management

Each marina will have their own preferences when it comes to the access control system’s management, a feature that can be part of your system can be remote management. 

This allows for you to keep tabs on the system remotely and even issue new access control credentials from a remote location and not from the actual marina.

With these kinds of devices, one management company can overlook multiple locations and marinas from one central hub as opposed to at each marina.


Cost of Access Control Systems for Marinas 

As we have discussed, there can be different costs that are associated with marina access control. This does not mean that it is expensive but that you may not be able to find a generic cost quote that would give you an accurate price.

With this in mind, we have listed a few examples of things that might affect the cost of your marina access control setup.

  • Level of Job Complexity
  • Location of the Marina 
  • Installation Rates in the Area
  • Amount of Doors/Gates in the Marina
  • Access Control System/s That Need to be Installed
  • Current Security Systems Installed at the marina
  • Marina's Budget for Security
  • Brand or Model of Access Control Technology Being Deployed

Obviously, these are just some factors that might affect the cost of your marina access control solution, and not every location will need to consider X, Y, or Z. If you are interested in exploring your marina’s access control options, reach out to our team to help answer your questions. 

Speculative Marina Access Control Example

Needless to say, no two marinas will be identical and there are countless factors that will affect how expensive, or not, an access control solution will be to deploy.

Below we will give an example of the kind of costs that will be associated with a marina access control solution.


Gates/Barriers Access Control Installation: £1500 - £3000 per entrance / exit


Issuing Credentials to Staff & Boat Owners: £4-6 per person


Maintenance (Yearly): £500 - £1500 per annum maintenance contract


Repair Costs: £80 - £120 per visit 


Additional Costs: Replacement parts, readers, controllers etc, anywhere from £120 - £400 depending on what needs to be fixed.


These costs are purely used to give a rough idea of the kind of figures you may be looking at and should not be taken at face value due to the factors that could affect the costs. 

It is just so you can have a broad idea of the kinds of prices you will be looking at and have a ballpark figure.

To have the most accurate quote, reach out to industrial experts to help you find the best solution for your marina.


Choose the Right Access Control System for Marinas 

There is no one size fits all answer for any location looking to install access control, as we have said, what works well for one place may not transfer to another.

Determining what is important to your location and what your users may want is an important step to finding the correct access control solution for you.

Needless to say, any access control solution is better than none, but there are definitely some that will be more effective and more viable at your marina as opposed to another.

Assessing the needs of your marina is important and hopefully now you have a better idea of the kinds of things to look for, the benefits of access control for marinas and the types of access control you can deploy.

How We Can Help Your Marina

Here at Nortech we have been working in the security industry for over 30 years and have been at the forefront of access control technology since it became more popular and widely available.

Across that span we have helped countless businesses in the UK improve their security, increase user satisfaction and deploy access control systems, from gyms to apartments, to car parks, to head offices, to hotels, marinas and more.

We are passionate about being transparent and helping our customers find the right solution for their business regardless of the industry.

If you are interested in how we can help you and your business, feel free to reach out to our UK based team for help, advice and information regarding access control and other security measures.

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It seems that people and vehicle access control is an incredibly complex world using hard to understand technology, yet it impacts so many of the environments we interact with on a daily basis.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll break down access control, the benefits, and drawbacks as well, including expert insight based on over 30 years experience in the industry operating as an independent British company. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

Please consider subscribing or adding to the conversation in the comments below. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our resource centre.

Elliot Blackler

Elliot is the in-house content specialist at Nortech and runs all aspects of the resource hub. He's passionate about UK manufacturing and how modern content marketing can help bring light to complex industries.

Elliot works extensively with the Nortech team to shine a light on the access control industry for both installers and end users. Always keen to improve, feel free to email him on new content suggestions or feedback!

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