Following the recent update on the French regulations regarding seafarers’ social security obligations – covered by SuperyachtNews here – the French refit community has responded to the news with enthusiasm. The regulations in question, which entered into force in July 2017, imposed a compulsory registration with ENIM (the French social security regime for seafarers) for crew employed any foreign-flagged yacht in France for a period of more than three months, thus posing a serious threat to the French yachting sector.
Since the implementation of these regulations, the French Nautical Industries Federation (FIN) and other key players in the French yachting community, have been campaigning against this measure. Due to the regulations' real potential to penalise the refit sector in particular, La Ciotat Shipyards and its president Patrick Boré, Mayor of La Ciotat, were heavily involved in the negotiations from the outset. As a result of the campaigning, the administrative arrangement has been modified, and non-resident crew on yachts undergoing refits are now exempt from ENIM affiliation.
"The situation was particularly worrying for La Ciotat Shipyards, which is investing heavily to establish itself as the world leader for refit of megayachts,” explains Boré. "The refit of megayachts imposes long stopovers for crews of several dozen people – they were therefore particularly concerned by this measure. During the 2017-2018 season we experienced a 20 per cent decrease in our activity, which affected all operators of the shipyard. Of course, this decrease in activity has also had serious consequences on the employment of local labour since nearly 2,000 people work on-site during high season."
"During the 2017-2018 season we experienced a 20 per cent decrease in our activity, which affected all operators of the shipyard."
It is, therefore, with great satisfaction that La Ciotat Shipyards has received the new guidelines issued by ENIM, which take into account the arguments of the industry. These guidelines mandate a special exemption for crew on vessels during periods in which they are undergoing works in shipyards. Such crew are no longer required to affiliate with ENIM, regardless of the duration of the technical stop, as long as they do not reside on French territory.
According to Boré it is a great victory, not only for La Ciotat Shipyards, but for the entire industrial sector in France. "Our intervention in partnership with the French Nautical Industries Federation has helped to expedite the processing of this case and to voice the specific issues of the refit sector compared to other activities related to yachting,” he concludes. “Shipyards are different from marinas. It is a great relief for La Ciotat Shipyards, their on-site operators and employees, but also for our loyal customers, who we know will renew their confidence in us next season. The reform of this measure will also enable us to work more confidently on our goal of becoming the world leader in the refit of megayachts."
Ben Mennem, CEO of Compositeworks, has also reacted positively to the news. “This decision regarding social security for crew during refit periods is an important turning point for our shipyard and we expect it will have an extremely positive impact on both our shipyards in La Ciotat and La Rochelle, with a knock-on effect on our local economies,” he comments. "I would like to thank the ECPY, the MB92 Group team and La Ciotat local authorities who came together in a real time of need for the yachting industry in France.”
The modification of these regulations is an important lesson for the yachting industry, as it shows the positive progress that can be made through proactive and organised lobbying, an influence that is so often underestimated within the superyacht industry.
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