FISCAL ADVANTAGES, AN ABUNDANCE OF PROFESSIONAL AND SKILLED COMPANIES AND A TEMPERATE CLIMATE ARE JUST SOME OF THE REASONS WHY A GREAT MANY YACHTS THAT OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE GONE TO THE NORTHERN EUROPEAN YARDS ARE HEADING FOR A REFIT IN SPAIN
WORDS: FRANCES AND MICHAEL HOWORTH
No one in the superyacht industry can have failed to notice how the scene in Spain is catching up quickly with the facilities offered in France, Italy and even Greece. The changes in the way yachts are taxed is just one of the more recent and better publicised changes that have affected the attitude of Captains and Yacht Managers towards the country. With France getting bad press over the social security laws affecting yacht crew employment, Spain is cashing in on the fact and is set to make a killing at the expense of France.
It is not just what is happening in France. In Spain the attitude to work is changing especially in the shipyards that service superyachts. The siesta after lunch is long gone! The Spanish worker is keen to get the job done. Spain has changed and the refit business is now a modern well run and rather slick industry. It is attracting a great many yachts that otherwise would have gone to the northern European yards or southern France to get the business done. Law changes have definitely favoured Spanish shipyards as charter yachts can now travel between one marina and the next. The greater charter traffic in Spanish waters, the greater the opportunities there are for marinas and shipyards to provide a service for any needs that they may have.
So why is Spain proving to be the answer to the refit location question? The fact is that, in Spain, if the vessel is not EU registered, then VAT/IVA is not payable on refit works and that is one very good reason. This is a serious budgetary consideration when looking at cash flows. Combine that with the recent relaxation of Charter Taxation laws and it is easy to see why Spain has become a very attractive base for many boats.
The ‘Open Market’ policy operated by yards the likes of STP in Palma where contractors are not charged commission by the yard is giving the choice of contractor back to the boats. Besides it keeping competition vibrant and quality very high it is also proving to be a decision making factor in Spain’s favour. Clearly, the network of quality contractors and suppliers that now exists around the shipyards is now very well established in Spain and boats are assured that they will get the best product or service made available to them.
THE ‘OPEN MARKET’ POLICY OPERATED BY YARDS THE LIKES OF STP IN PALMA WHERE CONTRACTORS ARE NOT CHARGED COMMISSION BY THE YARD IS GIVING THE CHOICE OF CONTRACTOR BACK TO THE BOATS.
Such is the profusion of services on offer on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline it can be difficult to identify one as being better than the other.
In Barcelona, MB92 has developed and grown in this sector on the foundations of quality and service provided to all its clients. With over 20 years experience, they have been fortunate to develop long lasting relationships with yacht crews who trust in their ability to provide a consistent service year after year. This personal approach and quality guarantee is certainly attractive for anyone seeking to carry out a superyacht refit in Spain. The location of the shipyard close by Marina Port Vell provides crew with two key advantages. Firstly, it is conveniently positioned for vessels making the voyage from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean or vice versa. Secondly, the climate offers all year round warmth and allows contractors to limit any potential delays due to bad weather, therefore minimising the time the vessel is not available to be enjoyed in the water.
Deck Project is an innovative company based in Barcelona in close proximity to the MB92 facility. Run by Nikita Achkasov the company’s owner, it offers a full package of yacht carpentry services such as teak decking, bespoke furniture and interiors, varnishing and touch ups. Achkasov says, “Having our own material and technical base fitted with professional equipment and tools together with great experience in this industry allows us to meet all the yachtservices you need quickly and professionally and also offer you competitive terms of cooperation.”
Another business in Barcelona enjoying the tides of success is MPYS run by Marcelo Penna Colom. When asked about the benefits of bringing a refit to his business in Barcelona, Marcelo replies that, “With 30 years of experience on the market and with many collaborators in the area we are uniquely placed to offer yachts an unrivalled service. Testament to this is the ISS award for best refit received in 2014 with M/Y Talitha.” Marcelo also confirms that the early adoption of technology has benefitted the business enormously over the years. “As a naval architecture office, using the latest software and materials has always been a priority, for example, in the case of S/Y Mirabella III, we presented a 3D scan of the whole engine room. Once all the equipment was gone, we were able to complete a scan of the whole room in 3D which gave us precise measurements, avoiding the long haul measurements which are rarely accurate”.
In the Balearic Islands, the STP Shipyard in Palma Mallorca operates an open door policy allowing all yacht specialist companies access to carry out works providing they have the required documentation to show they are a bone fide operating company. The facility features; a refuelling dock, 600 amp electricity, a 700 tonne travel lift, and five other travel lifts of various sizes. It has berthing for 53 yachts up to 120 metres and over 100,000m2 of hard standing with six keel pits. Onsite contractors have their own workshops, which benefit from 24 hour patrolled and CCTV security. On site emergency services and a fire truck are all operated by STP staff.
Nic Clarke the owner of Pure Superyacht Refit one of the contractors based there suggests that, “Its location and attitude to sub-contractors probably accounts for the fact that so many of the highly skilled sub-contractors found in Europe, are all based within a five mile radius of STP and all predominantly work within the facility.” Clarke estimates that there are over 430 yacht specialist companies located within this radius. He adds, “Because these resources are on tap, we are able to offer the most efficient, productive and sensible way to approach a refit. We can customise the work list based on specific skill requirements, allowing time to carry out the works within cost constraints while still allowing for a totally tailor made project.”
STP’s LOCATION AND ATTITUDE TO SUB-CONTRACTORS PROBABLY ACCOUNTS FOR THE FACT THAT SO MANY OF THE HIGHLY SKILLED SUB-CONTRACTORS FOUND IN EUROPE
Mallorca Batteries is just one of those 430 specialist firms that are located close by the STP facility. David Allen the company’s owner and Managing Director claims, “At Mallorca Batteries we don’t just supply the best products in the world, we live and breathe everything battery!”
It’s a proud boast but one that seems justified given the number of Captains recommending him. He advises Captains to have batteries tested properly and accurately. He says, “We will discover why they failed so that the cycle is not repeated and never believe the hype that surrounds the world of batteries.” He adds, “I don’t think I know of one battery website that does not claim to sell the best batteries. Can they all be right? Experience tells me no!” His company has an arrangement with Enersys who have pioneered TPPL (thin plate pure lead) AGM batteries, and they are finally targeting the marine industry. He tells us, “This lead acid technology has been previously developed for the defense and telecoms industry but is now being adapted for marine applications. Since the development of nickel cadmium and lithium ion batteries there has been a big gap in price and performance from traditional lead acid batteries. TPPL AGM batteries currently offer the optimum performance from lead acid technology at a very competitive price. They are maintenance free and are able to cope with fast high current recharging (can be recharged after 80% discharge in approximately 1.5 hours) including partial state charging. They are also capable of supplying sustained high output currents for peak loads, with a very good cycle life.”
Over the past two years Allen has seen a big increase in the number of yachts coming to Palma Mallorca for refit and maintenance work. He thinks this is due to “The unique collection of highly qualified marine engineers now based on the island and particularly working in STP Palma.”
This observation is backed up by Brendon Jost, whose company; Carpentry and Boat Building Services is also located within the STP complex. He feels sure the quantity of refit work has increased over the past five years. He explains, “We are definitely and consistently growing as are most of the companies here in Palma de Mallorca, however work does fluctuate from year to year. He adds, “I feel the trend is an increase. In my opinion there are many factors involved but some are probably things like a constantly growing number of new ships being built worldwide, the end to the world wide recession just recently and a more localised reason may be that as boats have realised, they can get top of the line service and products here, why should they travel further and pay more?
As the firm’s Owner/Manager Jost’s responsibilities include general day to day workshop management, dealing with suppliers and of course meeting with clients about current and future works. He believes clients choose his facility over others mostly because of the quality of the work offered. He says, “We feel we can match any yard in Europe quality wise. Cost is another factor.” He explains, “Being a smaller company without the huge overheads of a massive installation we can therefore charge a lesser rate. Service is equally important.” He tells us, “We pride ourselves on giving the best service possible and having a very one on one relationship with our clients”. Then there is the knowledge, and skills his workforce has amassed. He says, “Our team is made up of some very experienced people that have been in this industry for 25 years or more. This allows us to use this experience to the maximum to achieve the best possible results.”
WE PRIDE OURSELVES ON GIVING THE BEST SERVICE POSSIBLE AND HAVING A VERY ONE ON ONE RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR CLIENTS
When considering whether to refit or not, many yachts contemplate returning to the shipyard that originally built her. However, says Matthew Morgan, Custom and Refit Project Manager with Oyster Yacht Services in Palma, “This is not always practical, and many yards have service centres and refit operations away from the build yard who are perfectly positioned to offer the same service that would be provided at the build yard. Morgan, whose firm is part of the Oyster Yachts Group and has a presence within STP Palma says, “For example, we are now managing more Oyster service and refit work than is processed at the build yards because it has the access and infrastructure to deal with owner’s needs. The only possible exception would be a dramatic incident such as a serious grounding or where the vessel is close to being an insurance write off, then the build yard may be the best place for such reconstruction and shipping vessels around the world these days is less of an issue than it was 10 years ago.” Morgan’s responsibilities cover all stages of the works, from getting the work in, quoting on new works, managing the process and the refit, dealing with the client from the initial stages to the hand over.
He says, “We have employed dedicated teams of craftsmen working alongside engineers and designers to provide a holistic approach to refit works. Our facilities are tuned to deal with vessels up to 45m with space ashore or afloat.” He suggests his workload sees him spending 15% on locating work for his yard with the majority of time spent in the yard overseeing the work. He adds, “We have our office facility at Moll Vell, right next to the STP shipyard. Adjacent to that, we have 200m2 of storage space which we use to store tenders from boats that we are working on and additional tools we need. Inside the STP shipyard, where we handle bigger boats (anything above 65ft), we have our workshop container. Next to the Audax shipyard, where we service the smaller boats, we have a workshop. This is where have the fabrication facilities and paint and varnish shop.”
Located in Ria de Vigo, on the northwest coast line of Spain, with convenient access for yachts traversing between the Americas, Caribbean and the Mediterranean and up or down from the Fjords/Baltic routes the Atollvic Shipyard has earned an enviable reputation for being a can-do yard. Diego Gómez, Key Account Manager explains, “We are known for completing sophisticated and complex new builds, hull extensions, interior refurbishments and engine upgrades to high quality standards in record breaking time. We offer very good ‘value for money’ due to the good equilibrium between the skills and labour cost of our people and the professionals in this region, far removed from the higher rates in the Mediterranean.” With over 45 years experience in the marine industry the yard specialises in superyacht refit and repair from 20 to 75m with a maximum 15m beam. Two large covered sheds offer yachts protection from the elements. Gómez says, “Because we are part of a much larger family group (Vicalsa), we have access to ‘in-house’ expertise in four key areas with a deep knowledge and the necessary equipment investments in the yacht service.”
If the growth in the number of superyachts employing Spain as a refit base had to be put down to a single factor most would probably agree that the modern day communications between crews is being used to express concerns about some shipyards at a time when others are being praised. Word of mouth is clearly playing a major part in the expansion of Spain’s refit business.
Speaking about his experiences at the Atollvic Shipyard whilst refitting Seawolf the former salvage tug turned superyacht, Captain Shaun L. Preacher said, “As Project Manager as well as Captain, I found the yard personnel to be self-motivated, highly skilled, with a work ethic that is second to none. The skill with which they performed their work is on par with the finest yards in Europe and the finished works on Seawolf attest to their abilities. I would bring any future project either re-fit or new build to Atollvic Shipyard and would certainly bring Seawolf back here again.”