has been to Toulon to visit IMS Shipyard, which is currently in the midst of an astonishing infrastructure project to expand its offering.

It is astonishing because of the extent to which it will transport the refit specialist's capacity, but also because the incredibly ambitious timescale in which it is being undertaken.

The yard is adding to its current IMS 300 site by developing a neighbouring ex-navy site, IMS 700, which once complete, will create a refit facility of 130,000m2, making it the largest refit site in the Med. Traffic is predicted to double from 150 yachts, to around 300-400 vessels, of up to 80m, per year.

Incredibly, from breaking ground in mid-March, the first yacht will be ready to accept, on schedule on 1 December with the site fully operational by March 2015, within 12 months of the project's embarkation.

The IMS 700 (ex-naval) site.

IMS president, Denis Pellegrino says the plan to expand has been formulated since 2005, but with the company's acquisition in 2011 by Nepteam Holdings, it has only been recently that the prospect has become a reality.

And Nepteam CEO, Florent Battistella, who was on hand to survey progress with, explained that even with this capital injection it has taken two years of tackling bureaucratic red tape and environmental challenges to reach germination.

The capital required checks in at €23 million for the development and Pellegrino admits this has risen by around €1.5 million since. He forecasts that there could be another €200,000 more required by the project's conclusion, but the increase in capacity and scope afforded by the expansion will undoubtedly be justification enough for this relatively nominal sum. And anyway, he says, "the big problems have already been encountered and addressed."

 Once complete, this shed will be able to house 10 37m superyachts simultaneously.

This is a view that Marc Roussel, who is overseeing the development for construciton firm Eiffage, shares. "The civil works that [comprise] the floating pontoon are the most challenging aspect of the project but it will be finished and complete by 1 March 2015. We have had challenges with access, and it took 15 lorries to deliver the [670 tonne] travelift on its own, but we are planning as we go because this truly is a 12-month project."
Pellegrino adds, "we will be the biggest in this area, able to welcome 50 or 60 yachts without blocking each other at any one time. We can also offer yachts the option to stay long-term if they need to."

Battistella and Pellegrino.

It falls to Battistella to summarise why this is such an impressive feat, and an exciting proposition:
"These guys are turning round a three-year project in one year because we didn't want to lose the coming season. The first boat being lifted out on 1 December proves we are ready so we can then start taking bookings. Currently we are at capacity and can't take more customers so this will be a chance for us to prove we can always say 'yes'.

"This is just the first step of our project and the next phase is ensuring the customer is happy. It's a long term goal as we can always do better but we want owners and captains to think of IMS and think 'no problem'."

Florent Battistella surveys building work.

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