“We have always had berths big enough for very large vessels,” begins Foot. “We have huge floating pontoons on the outer wall of the harbour, but until now we haven’t had the water depth.” Foot goes on to explain that over the last six months, rather than buying or renting a dredger as per the norm, Solent Refit built its own from a salvaged barge. “Now we will be dredging the whole site at will and our licenses allow us to go down to five metres.
“Over the years, and especially recently, we have had a number of enquiries from larger boats visiting Southampton that want to dock,” continues Foot. “They don’t really want to go in the local docks and the marinas are not big enough.”
Beyond size, a non-national docking option also provides a certain amount of legislative flexibility, making it easier for large vessels to come and go as they please – and if they need a touch-up in places, that’s also an option. There will be two dedicated large yacht berths and 14 berths in total on the pier.
“Obviously it has a spin off for the yard because we all know that no boat sits on a dock for more than about 10 minutes before needing work done, so it should also bring work in,” explains Foot.
The Solent Refit yard was once owned by the US military and, after leaving in a hurry, they left behind a yard that was at once too large for local pleasure craft and too small for commercial use. However, the size range suits the superyacht community down to the ground. Solent Refit has a 10,000 square metre undercover area fed by a railway that once ensured military vessels could be launched and stored in a timely fashion. Work is currently underway to spruce up all facilities to better suit the superyacht clientele for which the yard is ideal.
The message at Monaco will be that Solent Refit is fully operational and comes with benefits that Mediterranean competitors cannot match. “It can be hard to convince yachts to come,” continues Foot. “But the savings they make because of British labour rates are substantial. Our charge rates for skilled craftsmen are around £45 an hour in comparison with Mediterranean rates that equate to around £75 an hour.” Rates in the Mediterranean are not a reflection of over charging, but rather the result of differing social charge systems – generally speaking. “Coming here, even if it’s a boat based in the Med, provided the journey is for a substantial refit, perhaps £1,000,000 or more, would save a significant amount of money. It would certainly cover fuel costs and then some.
“At Monaco we will continue to put forward the Solent Refit. We have several refits underway, six boats coming in to winter and three sheds that can take yachts up to 45m,” concludes Foot.