Following the announcement on 29 June that Blohm+Voss had successfully secured the lease of a 200 x 60m dry dock at La Ciotat Shipyards, there has been a mixture of reactions to the news.

SEMIDEP-La Ciotat, the quasi-governmental body charged with the economic development and management of La Ciotat Shipyards, has openly stated that the decision was based on Blohm+Voss successfully meeting the criteria of its tender, and whose skillset ideally matched the segmentation considered pivotal to the 35-month lease.

A source close to La Ciotat Shipyards, who wished to remain anonymous – although SuperyachtNews can confirm they are not associated with any company mentioned herein – has suggested that concerns about a potential over-reliance on companies already operating in the area, played a stronger role than has been suggested to date.

La Ciotat Shipyards

“This point [over reliance] was discussed by some of the directors on our board, but it was not the basic motivation,” replied Jean-Yves Saussol, CEO of SEMIDEP-La Ciotat, in response to this query. “It was very simple; we went through the three criteria [see below] of the tendering process and Blohm+Voss proved to be the better deal for the development of the 80m+ business in the yard.”

The criteria Saussol refers to are listed below:

• The quality of the envisaged project, particularly in relation to the development of business and employment for the region
• The credibility of the application, especially with regard to professional, technical and financial strength
• The quality of the financial proposal, especially with regard to the sharing of loyalty fees with SEMIDEP

“If you want to offer the best service to your clients you have to segment; you cannot be everything to everyone,” Saussol added. “We already have companies, such as Monaco Marine and Compositeworks who service smaller yachts, and they do this job incredibly well. It should not necessarily be surprising that they were not considered the best operations to serve the bigger boats…Of course there will be competition, it is the law of the market, and you cannot prevent people from competing on the fringes of their markets.”

The boundaries of this segmentation however, is one of the reasons for the discontent felt by alternative parties who tendered for the dry dock, and it may have fueled further the conjecture that has surrounded the deal since.

“There is a certain amount of disappointment around here about the decision,” explains Compositeworks’ director, Rob Papworth,. “SEMIDEP-La Ciotat has discussed market segmentation, yet 30 per cent of Compositeworks’ turnover is within the 80m+ segment of the market and we have serviced 25 per cent of the world’s total yachts over 80m. The megayacht market is one of our key objectives for future growth”.

138m 'Rising Sun' with Compositeworks

Monaco Marine has also expressed disappointment following the unsuccessful tendering process and has since requested the details of the Blohm+Voss offer.

By suggesting that there will be competition “on the fringes” of the 80m+ market may be doing a slight disservice to La Ciotat’s longstanding residents, some of whom already have a loyal following in the 80 and even 100m+ sector of the market.

Monaco Marine

“We feel fully confident that, had we got the three-year concession, we would have been bringing in the €20+ million refits, and we still feel that we will bring in these refits, just it may not be in La Ciotat anymore,” continues Papworth.

Historically Compositeworks has dealt with a number of projects this size, so much so that, until the signing of the lease with Blohm+Voss, it had been the only shipyard to use the dry dock over the last 10 years, regardless of the fact that the dry dock was officially for public use. Furthermore, during the €16 million development of the dry dock Compositeworks was conducting 80m+ work outside of La Ciotat including the docking of vessels up to 140m.

“We are concentrating on developing our team to make sure we fulfil all the needs of all the large yacht clients and we are currently discussing three or four different options with regards where to operate on these projects,” Papworth explains. “We already have two locations secured where we can work on boats over 100m. It is all about offering our clients options.”

While the 80m+ market accounts for 30 per cent of Compositeworks’ turnover, the proposition set forth by Blohm+Voss sees the 80m+ market put at the very heart of its plans. Moreover, Blohm+Voss’s desire to expand its refit facilities to the Mediterranean came at the behest of its customers.

“It was our customers’ request for us set up a refit-facility in the Mediterranean. The services we offer will complement the services provided by other companies on the yard. Blohm+Voss will bring additional business to La Ciotat as we focus on refits and maintenance of megayachts of 80 metres plus in length and have a strong reputation for undertaking complex refits on time and on budget,” explains Fred van Beers, CEO of Blohm+Voss. “Our goal is to partner with the companies currently in the yard to fully utilise our mutual synergy potential…In fact, our strong desire to partner with companies from La Ciotat and surroundings was one of the reasons why La Ciotat Shipyards (SEMIDEP) has selected Blohm+Voss."

“Having a third operator in the yard is not why the decision was made, but in the end it is a positive outcome of the agreement,” Saussol concluded. “This is a way of securing business with specialised market segments; it brings stability, less dependence on a single company and greater opportunity for those local businesses working within the sector.”

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Monaco Marine La Ciotat

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