With its history of anarchism and fervent national pride, Catalonia may seem an unlikely place for a flourishing superyacht culture. But the old port of Barcelona and its surrounding neighbourhoods are in the midst of a dramatic transformation that within a few years will likely have turned Port Vell into one of the great yachting capitals of the world.

And one of the interesting changes afoot is how, through the The Nautical Academy, the marine industry is stepping up its engagement with the local population and promoting education and jobs in the yachting and cruise industries.

“Engagement with the local demographic of 18 to 25 year olds is really important to us, as well as to the city and the commune,” says Steve White, founder and CEO of the The Nautical Academy.

The Nautical Academy is situated at Sovren House, within the MB'92 refit complex

Salamanca Group’s investment in a renewed Marina Port Vell, redesigned and repurposed exclusively for the largest superyachts, along with the expansion and development plans under way at the adjacent MB’92 refit yard—both of which lie in the very heart of Barcelona’s seafront—are already increasing the influence that yachting is having on the area. The Barcelona Nautical Cluster, an industry association launched in 2012, is bringing local yachting businesses together to promote a culture of cooperation and mutual interest.

“Salamanca are investing such huge amounts of money in Marina Port Vell, it’s going to be an amazing facility,” says White . “Once people have started chartering here again and it becomes the main port for people to go to the Balearics to do some cruising and then yachts start wintering here, it’s going to be an unbelievable spot. That means there will be great opportunity for locals to get involved in the maritime market.”

The aim of The Nautical Academy is to be an all-encompassing school dedicated to the higher end yacht market. Working with shipyards, management houses, and the leading businesses in a wide array of subsectors within the industry, the Academy is aiming to offer a comprehensive education to mariners interested in the high-level of service that the cruise a yachting industries demand.

“The commune is very interested in getting students subsidised, through the school and into yachting and cruise ships,” White says. “There is scope to take in some of the young people from the Barcelona commune and feed them through into a maritime life.” White expects that most of the local intake would go into the commercial cruise ship career path, which by virtue of its size offers greater opportunity for placement.

“These are highly educated people coming out of this school who will need jobs, so we see quite a lot of prospect there for them,” explains White. “We’re working actively with the commune now to find avenues of employment for these people. It’s a work in progress. We’re looking at awareness days and visits and talks about the industry.”

Sovren House

Among the Academy's upcoming courses is one on desserts taught by the chefs of Espaisucre, voted the best dessert restaurant in the world in 2011, and ETO courses taught by Bond Technology Management's industry-leading experts. 

White has worked in the yachting industry for over 20 years and knows the landscape well. As he considers the position of Barcelona in the superyacht world, he shrugs off the residual sentiment of French Riviera yachting culture looking down its nose at Barcelona. “It’s ridiculous, but it’s how it is,” he says.

“I worked in the South of France for many years, so I know exactly what it’s like. They have the infrastructure, and they have the vast majority of the yachts. You’re never going to move Monaco or Cannes, that’s where the rich and famous want to be. But it’s hugely expensive and they don’t have the level of refit capability and professionalism that’s on offer here at MB’92.”

“Barcelona, the city, the port, the refit yard, the marina, all of the supporting businesses and soon the local population will all be invested in making this a hugely successful centre for yachting.” 

Barcelona: One of the world's most colourful cities, and a future superyacht capital

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