Superyacht Refit Yards

Choosing your refit yard – the 10 point plan

With an enormous number of refit yards dotted around Europe and the Mediterranean, ONBOARD with the help of Captain Michael Howorth looks at the top ten things you need to look for when choosing a yard for your next refit project

Regardless of size or age, every superyacht will, at some stage in its life, need to be repaired, maintained, or refitted according to its applicable regulation. This means that, from a shipyards point of view, there is a never-ending stream of business waiting around the corner. Where it not for the fact that superyacht repair and refit is a profitable business, none of them would bother to compete with the other. Fortunately for the yacht owner, there are too many superyacht specialist shipyards for them to become complacent and therefore health rivalry ensures they stay on their toes when it comes to acquiring new business.

So, superyacht refit and repair shipyards market are setting themselves up to meet not only the increase in number and size of superyachts seeking to attend in the coming years, but also, they are being forced into meeting the new complexities that superyachts present when they enter the yard. Privately and off the record I cannot find a single yard that does not acknowledge that the people they most have to impress, when seeking new business, are the yacht’s Captain and the Chief Engineer. On the record, they deny this, claiming that it is the owner or the yacht’s manager who are the more important party. Whatever the truth, there remains a powerful element of choice that rests with the yachts crew members when choosing the yard to complete the work. This means that crew need to have a grasp on which factors they must consider when they require repair shipyard services

Commercial shipyards traditionally fall into two distinct types and these depend on the workload for which they are designed. The two comprise of construction shipyards and repair and maintenance shipyards. But superyacht yards tend to fudge the lines of distinction somewhat and builders the likes of Azimut Benetti are actively attracting refit work. The big boy builders have got reputation and marketing might on their side but offer little else to the visiting yacht. The repair and maintenance shipyards have got geography on their side. This type of yard is characterised by its infrastructure and available facilities. Each have landside and seaside elements. The seaside is used for repairs afloat or inside floating docks. While ashore their space is used to store and work on superyachts lifted from the water by travel lift, crane or slipway. The area ashore is also used for support areas such as warehouses, workshops, stores and offices.

Having established which type of yard is the most appropriate the next task is to consider the other factors. Here, the background history, facilities, reputation and geography all play major roles. It is important to look at the benefits one yard offers when compared to others and it is prudent to check on references while considering the yards reputation and specialities. The attitude staff show and their approach to problem solving and future proofing their structures are all equally important.
What is it for example that makes one yard more attractive to customers? What is it that makes a Captain choose one yard over another? The Greece-based Talos Shipyards is mainly a refit yard, supporting the superyacht fleet of PrivatSea, Merchant Ships and Special Vessels, with a high occupancy throughout the year. It is one of the largest shipyards in the Eastern Mediterranean and was recently rebranded as Talos while completing a series of major infrastructure works to improve the services provided to its diverse clientele. The shipyard offers 1,500 metres of docks and piers, 15,000 m2 of buildings and structures on 88.000 m2 of land. Competitive pricing for alongside berthing and all year mooring of large vessels up to 300 metres makes them one of the more attractive yards for repairs and maintenance in the region. It has a good geographical location being just 25km from downtown Athens and less than 40 minutes by car from Athens International Airport. Speaking for the shipyard, CEO Ilias Kalomiris says, “The thing that sees customers coming back to our yard is the diligence, the time of the yacht delivery which depending on the yacht s size is 2 to 6 months sooner of other shipyards that construct similar yachts, our quality which can be seen from the fact we have not a single claim in any construction or refit we have completed till today and the excellent co-operation we have with our clients.”

Shipyards with a good reputation often acknowledge that history has played a major role in their modern-day success servicing superyachts. One prime example would be Lusben The two Lusben yards are part of the Azimut Benetti group and act as the refit specialists within that conglomerate. Described by many as ‘One-Stop-Shop’ for all types of yachts refit and repair projects it has facilities in both Livorno and Viareggio. Over 1000 yachts have found “new life” within these facilities making the company proud for their hospitality, organisation, technology and an extreme focus and attention to details which is the DNA of the corporate philosophy. The company operates with modern facilities, expertise, technical know-how, highly skilled and proud craftsmen, and is capable of handling yachts from 20 to 140 metres.

First established in 1956 in Viareggio as a specialist yacht re-fit yard Lusben was one of the first company to undertake this type of business. The know-how it has gained over its 60 years of superyacht involvement have set a benchmark in the maritime yacht repair sector. Captains talk of guaranteed quality, punctuality and the seriousness attitude of company officials when describing their experiences. When it comes to reputation, mouth to mouth advertising contributes greatly to the gaining of new customers. When choosing a yard listen carefully to talk between staff and owners, managers, captains and crew alike because they play an important part in the choosing process3 HISTORY
In more recent times specialist superyacht refit shipyards have been founded. They have generally been created specially to deal with the ever-increasing work load a fast growing fleet of superyacht offers. The KRM shipyard in Turkey is one such. Founded for the sole purpose of refitting and repairing superyachts, KRM Shipyards specialise in servicing superyachts in the 30 to 40 metre range but is capable of handling craft up to 50 metres. The main facility of the KRM shipyard is located in Tuzla, just a 15-minute drive from the international airport and this allows for quick and easy access for crew and owners alike. As a facility it is part of a large marina with shopping malls, entertainment places, cinemas and a luxury hotel all located within walking distance. With secondary service points in Gocek Antalya Bodrum and Yalova, the company offers a Turkey wide support service to local craft and visiting foreign flagged superyachts.

Some modern-day facilities are not even shipyards in true sense of the word. They are instead clusters of nautical excellence and Ports of Toulon is a prime example. Developing refit and maintenance activity among superyachts along the Mediterranean seaboard is the main mission for the Métropole Toulon Provence Méditerranée. They are not a shipyard as such and act as the port authority of a commercial port. Nevertheless, the have, and support a cluster of private companies making Ports of Toulon a place to be in terms of refit and repair such as. Shipyards in the area include IMS, Monaco Marine, Foselev Marine and Ender Navibord, who are part of an informal association of local shipyards marine equipment manufacturers and companies. The nautical cluster provides and promotes on-site hosting of contractors, in order to position Métropole Toulon Provence Méditerranée as a superyacht stopover, refit and maintenance destination for superyachts.  Procedures put in place by the port dealing with health declaration, quarantine can all be discussed with the Harbour Master, Lionel Mosnier.

Frequently it is the facilities offered by a shipyard that win the day and ensure the deal is signed. As part of the Italian Sea Group, the NCA Refit Yard, created in 1942, is strategically positioned inside Marina di Carrara’s port and offers its infrastructures and services to superyachts across the Mediterranean. It boasts the largest private drydock in the Mediterranean capable of handling superyachts up to 200 metres in length. With 100,000 square metres of operative space, 11 warehouses, 2000 metres of alongside dockage, a floating dock for yachts up to 90 metres and a maximum capacity of 3,300 tons the yard prides itself with an excellence for refitting operations and the repairing of both power and sailing superyachts yachts.5 GEOGRAPHY
All the facilities in the world are not going to help when repairs become suddenly critical. As it says on the front of the T shirt: Ship Happens and when it does, geography plays an important part in the choice of a shipyard. Port Denia, the Superyacht Centre on the east coast of Spain, 45 miles from Ibiza and 1 hour from both Alicante and Valencia airports. Offering both shipyard and marina facilities, situated in the heart of the cosmopolitan town of Denia. The refit yard is a good geographical choice for Captains, Owners and management companies looking for a quality yet cost effective location, winter berthing solution or charter pick-up point for the Balearic Islands.

The superyacht shipyard is a refit, maintenance and repainting facility capable of servicing superyachts up to 1200gt with a beam of up to 15 metres width. Consisting of 2 x 80 metre haul out slipways, a 150gt travel lift, a dry dock area of 21,000 square metres and specialist workshops. Because of its good geographical location, the shipyard easily accessible from land or sea, the dry dock area can accommodate all sizes of vessels on the ‘hard standing’.

The town of Denia itself is famous for its culinary delights, and is a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy, boasts a 3 Michelin Star Restaurant, 2 nearby golf courses, a 5-star Hotel, 25km of blue flag beaches and endless watersports and activities. Convenient, competitive and a lifestlye to savour. Buzzing with life, Denia seems to be busy all year round. And the superyacht berths are located in the town centre just a short walk away from the Shipyard. Surrounded by restaurants, nightlife, water sports it seems to offer all the services you could expect of a popular refit location.

Captains should seek a yard with a ‘can-do’ attitude. Often it is a yard’s attitude towards Quality over Cost that is an important factor in the success of any refit. Stjepan Lučin the Managing director at Adria Docks in Croatia says, “Our company since its foundation is constantly aiming to provide the best quality to the Client, while keeping to the budget and offering very competitive rates as opposed to yards in the western part of the Mediterranean.

Adria Docks in Trogir has floating docks with lifting capacities of 8,500 and 800 tonnes, and a 300-metres of service wharf. A travel lift service with lifting capacity of 600 tonnes services hard standing used for extended period for maintenance and repairs. The shipyard can carry out maintenance work at the quayside or in the docks, and can service, repair or modify superyachts up to 150 metres. Adria Docks also offers a testing station with its own installed test cell, for marine and industrial engines of up to 3.4 MW. It provides detailed testing of engines before installation or after reconstruction, with the test results under actual engine load. “The aim is always to satisfy the Client without compromising Quality,” says Stjepan Lučin.

If the recent Covid inspired pandemic has taught us anything it is that work needs to carry on even in the face of adversity. It is here that Attitude joins forces with Health and Safety issues which even before the pandemic struck was an important enough reason to consider choosing one shipyard over another.

RMK Marine have a complete health and environment protection management system that they have actively followed for more than 15 years. “So,” says Özgür Numan, “We are used to take serious approach on health and safety. With this practise in hand, adapting to the new world’s standards and creating new measures of controls and safety was not very difficult for us. Apart from extended health precautions, we are now paying more attention to procurement terms and the planning matters in order to manage and monitor the delivery of the goods for any project. Also, the online meetings are now the standard for any business. We are performing online internal meetings even when all the participants are in their offices at the shipyard. The gain of time is impressive.”

Covid has brought other surprising results. “Taking into consideration the last two years, in which were affected by the pandemic, we are expecting the grow of our business at Adria Docks,” says Stjepan Lučin.

He adds, “Looking at our statistic data we can see that the pandemic did not affect refit and repair market. We have had even better income in 2020, then in 2019. Considering of our activities and income over three quarters of 2021 and comparing with same period in 2020 we can see that company will have even better results this year. That is the best proof how this market sales has not been adversely affected by pandemic.

He continues, “We have adjusted our way of doing business according to the global pandemic recommendations and obligations in way of prevention of Covid19 infection and protection of our clients, workers and contractors. The most significant alterations were during the full lockdown when most countries in Europe prevented to travel for the purposes of negotiations with the clients. That is when we began embracing modern communication methods the likes of video calls, conferencing.7 SPECIALITY
Not all shipyards are the same and some stand out from the crowd having established a specialty. After all, it would not make sense to the operators of a stell hulled yacht whose superstructure is of composite, to visit a yard where welding aluminium is its prime selling point. KM Yachtservices in Makkum specialises in the refit, repair, maintenance and finishing of sailing and motor yachts of up to 30 metres. Aluminium is their specialisation, and it has always been so. It began in 1997 with Eeuwe Kooi started carrying out minor repairs on them at the current location at Stienplaat 7 under the name Kooi Makkum.
When a little later a hull building neighbour went bankrupt, a number of his customers asked if Eeuwe could help them to finish their yacht, which were under construction at the time. So, he founded Kooi Makkum Yachtbuilders. From that time onwards they also became actively engaged in the sale of new aluminium sailing yachts and now trade as KMY

Often a Captain will choose a yard because of the benefits it offers to his crew. In Italy, NCA Refit, for example, offers the ‘Village’, a high-end area fully dedicated to the free time of Captains and Crews. At the Village, people can enjoy a drink or have a coffee with friends at the elegant lounge bar or have a dinner at the restaurant, work out at the gym or relax with an essential oils massage at the spa. The internal concierge staff takes good care of all guests to make their stay comfortable and enjoyable. Crews have access to many activities for leisure, services for personal care, and will be able to visit some of the worldwide famous Italian cultural and historical spots.9 REPEATING CLIENTS
Many yachts return to the same shipyard year after year. But how or perhaps more importantly why do they do that? Many clients return to a shipyard for a successive refit or maintenance period, testimony perhaps to the positive feedback that its clients have regarding their experience in the shipyard.

RMK Marine in Turkey is a one of a kind shipyard having a wide range of products and services and the refit business is always very active with new and repeating clients. Özgür Numan the Yacht Department Director at RMK Marine Shipyard reports that in 2021, “Our refit activities saw a record business, with more than 70 yacht operations with the largest 8 yachts having an average length of 45 metres. The largest and perhaps the most exhaustive work was on board 75 metre Meserret III (ex. Leander G). Here the task was to accomplish a full renewal of the interior and all the related systems on a 700 m2 luxury area including the addition of a 4-deck passenger lift. Accomplishing this project in 7 months during the pandemic condition was a great challenge and achievement.

Yachts return to RMK because, “We give the same level of attention to every client, but obviously the relation with the repeating clients improves year after year as we better get to understand their needs and they also know us better,” says Özgür Numan. He adds, “We also have a maintenance plan for repeating clients where we plan and quote the following winter period prior to the departure of the yacht. This helps a lot the crew and the owner to plan their following seasons time-wise and financially.”

While it is a fact that yachts do return to the facilities at a shipyard it is often or not the owners that are the repeating customer. Stjepan Lučin the Managing director at Adria Docks in Croatia says, “We think key in this is that the total concept should be in a right balance which means price, quality and experience. Also, we think that everything mentioned above contributes in it. We like to put in just the little bit of extra effort and think that’s one of the reasons yachts like to come back to our shipyard.”

The Italian Sea Group believes, “The reason we are successful in attracting repeat business is because we keep our word over and above the contractual commitment, making people feel at home, creating a community, not putting the shipowners’ representatives in a position to ask for extra budget not agreed, creating a trust, making them feel confident. In 5 years we have done 125 projects and the new business has always come mouth to mouth.”

One final consideration Captains need to take before booking a maintenance slot in a shipyard and that is references. In much the same way one would check the bone fides of an aspiring stewardess so too should a good Captain ask around. Just as reading the CV proffered by a pretty girl is not enough nor should a captain believe a yard representative, website or brochure. Captains should check and check again with colleagues who have recent first-hand experience of a yard.