The French online news portal Le Marin has reported that Lürssen has renounced the agreement between Blohm + Voss and the port of La Ciotat for the exclusive use of its 200x60m dry dock for the refitting and maintenance of superyachts. The contract was signed last October with SEMIDEP (Société Economie Mixte Développement Economique et Portuaire), the public-owned commercial company that is the sole developer of the docklands, just days before Lürssen’s acquisition of Blohm + Voss was confirmed by the German fair trade commission.
When asked to comment, SEMIDEP CEO Jean-Yves Saussol (pictured) denied the claim made in Le Marin and said that he was unaware of any definitive developments. He admitted, however, that the local and port authorities have been in discussions with Lürssen.
“Following the acquisition of Blohm + Voss by Lürssen, the new shareholders are asking questions about the contract we signed,” says Saussol. “We are discussing those matters, but nothing more at the moment. I think it’s quite normal when you take over a company that you want to know exactly what you are buying into. ”
It is well known that Lürssen’s acquisition of Blohm + Voss was prompted not by any desire to extend its superyacht new-build or refit facilities, but to augment its military shipbuilding capacity with a view to securing a major government contract for a series of multi-role combat ships. In this context, it would not be surprising if it decided to review a contract for the use of a dry dock in the south of France it has no use for.
Patrick Boré, the mayor of La Ciotat (who is also chairman of SEMIDEP), has been more bullish in his appraisal of the situation. “At this point, I have some questions,” he said in a press interview last week. “I told the Lürssen group, I wrote to them through the director of La Ciotat Shipyard to ask: is your merger only for access to the €4 billion German state commission for the naval frigates? And what about superyachting? I need answers to these questions. Depending on the answers, which we expect within 15 days, I will act accordingly.”
Local refits specialists Monaco Marine and Compositeworks, who were ousted by Blohm + Voss for access to the dry dock, are biding their time. “We’ve received no official announcement from the port authority, or anyone else, that anything has changed,” says Rob Papworth, yard director at Compositeworks, who used the dry dock to refit the 138m Lürssen Rising Sun (pictured). “We’ve always said that if we have the opportunity to bring more work to La Ciotat by using the dry dock, then we have clients that want to use it. We’re all waiting for further news.”