Superyacht refit specialist Compositeworks in La Ciotat has announced an agreement with the Atlantic Refit Center in La Rochelle to operate its two dry-docks of 176m and 107m in length, with exclusive access to the larger one. The merging of Compositeworks and Atlantic Refit Center, under the Compositeworks brand, is due to be completed by the end of the year, and is part of a bold strategy to expand its refit services in the Mediterranean and beyond.
"We are very pleased to be able to offer our clients more options for where they can receive a Compositeworks refit, with all the guarantees in terms of time, cost and quality that implies,” says CEO Ben Menem (pictured). “We strongly believe we can bring our expert service and technical know-how to La Rochelle, which over the past 10 years has already developed an excellent reputation for superyacht conversions and paintwork.”
“Our knowledge and experience of major refit projects, such as the award-winning conversion Enigma XK, fits well with the increasing demand for a more technical approach and state-of-the-art facilities,” adds Stéphane Marcelli, director of the Atlantic Refit Centre, shown in its current state in the first image in the above slider. “I have long believed in La Rochelle as a first-class destination for both yachts and their crews and am thrilled that to be working with Compositeworks in order to fulfil this potential.”
In conversation with SuperyachtNews, Mennen revealed that negotiations had been underway since late 2015 — well before SEMIDEP, the state-owned developer of La Ciotat’s docklands, announced in June that Blohm + Voss had secured a three-year concession to use its 200m dry dock. The news came as a disappointment to Compositeworks, which had also been in the bidding for the lease.
Located in a fully ISPS coded secure zone, the La Rochelle site is the only facility between Calais and Gibraltar devoted exclusively to superyacht refitting. Moreover, it can marshal a substantial network of marine subcontractors in Saint-Nazaire and along the Atlantic seaboard. In the first stage of an extensive upgrade of the infrastructure, Compositeworks is in the process of finalising plans for covering the largest dry dock with a permanent climate-controlled structure to a height of 34m, due to be completed by next September, at an estimated cost of between €6-8 million. There are also potential plans to expand the facility into the surrounding basin.
The only potential drawback from a client perspective is that, in terms of transport, La Rochelle is not the easiest place to get to. Mennem, however, does not believe this will dissuade yacht owners and their crews, pointing out that there are direct flights from Southampton, from Nice via Lyons, or from various European cities to nearby Nantes and Bordeaux.
“We see that Pendennis is working well and that a lot of yachts are refitting in Holland or Germany, so heading north is not a problem for these boats,” he says. “We believe it’s more a matter of creating a state-of-the-art facility and the yachts will follow. In addition, the town itself is stunning and the surrounding region offers plenty of activities for visiting crews.”
As the summer cruise season comes to an end, the CW yard in La Ciotat is already full to overflowing. The merger with Atlantic Refit Center is part of an ongoing expansion strategy as the growing megayacht fleet continues to stretch refit resources in the Mediterranean. CW already has agreements in place with neighbouring shipyards in Marseilles to use their facilities for refits on megayachts up to 140m. It is now looking to secure similar agreements or mergers with other yards outside France.
Atlantic Refit Center image: Justin Ratcliffe