- Business - In conversation with Gianpaolo Lapenna

By Dario Schiavo

In conversation with Gianpaolo Lapenna

Dario Schiavo speaks with Palumbo Yachts’ general manager about the evolution of the shipyard, its new builds and its entrepreneurial capacity…

Palumbo Superyachts yard, Ancona

The story of Palumbo Superyachts started back in 1967 in Naples. Initially, its activities were ship repairs and conversions within the port. From 2000 to 2010 the yard ventured into the world of yachting. Thus was born the Columbus brand, the original brand of Palumbo Superyachts, under which four boats were built between 2009 and 2015: 50-metre Prima (currently Armada); 40-metre Eleonora III (currently Leudin), an aluminium boat, futuristic for its time, with a straight bow and hybrid motorisation, of which two examples were made; and 57-metre Taiba, designed by Hydro Tec.


2016 saw the acquisition of ISA Yachts shipyard and in 2018 Mondomarine of Savona joined the Palumbo Superyachts family. This is how Palumbo Superyachts Savona was born and in 2017 the fourth brand was conceived, Extra by ISA Yachts, with what can be defined as the entry level of ISAA Yachts – 24- to 30-metre fibreglass, semi-displacement and planing yachts. 

Ownership of the yard has always belonged to the Palumbo family, now in its fourth generation. Today, Giuseppe Palumbo heads the Palumbo Superyachts arm as general manager.
The yard says it has every intention of aligning itself with the big names in the global nautical market and is proving that with major acquisitions: contracts for two 80-metre and two 66-metre yachts with top-level signatures.

ISA GT 80-metre Project Future

An 80-metre ISA 025 project named Belita, with exterior design by Espen Øino and interiors by Peter Marino, is due to deliver in 2026. The shipyard has also recently consolidated important partnerships with designers who have supported Palumbo over the years, like architect Enrico Gobbi who, with his studio Team for Design, will create the exteriors and interiors of ISA 031, an 80-metre GT line called Project Future. Its design will embody the continuity of the GT line, which ranges from 33 to 83 metres.

An agreement has just been signed with the Nuvolari Lenard studio for ISA 027, a 66-metre yacht, the studio carrying out both exterior and interior design. Team for Design will also put its signature on another 66-metre yacht, ISA 029, in the interior design, with exteriors by Vallicelli Design.

ISA 66-metre design by Nuvolari Lenard

Against this backdrop of large yachts, it is clear Cantiere Palumbo is aiming for top-class custom yachts. Confirming this are the many other projects that Gianpaolo Lapenna says are under development. “Giuseppe Palumbo’s product vision is clear and is also reflected in the success of the Extra Line and the re-launch of the Savona yard where we are building two more yachts: a 42-metre Explorer Columbus, designed by Sergio Cutolo’s Hydro Tec with interiors by Hot Lab; and a 33-metre aluminium Atlantique series, with interior and exterior styling by Hot Lab.” The Atlantique series is one of Palumbo Yachts’ flagships, and in the same line today there are two 43-metres, a 47-metre and a 33-metre.
Palumbo’s market presence is distributed between Italy (Palumbo Shipyards in Messina, Palumbo Shipyards Naples, Palumbo Superyachts Savona and Palumbo Superyachts Ancona); Rijeka, Croatia (the majority of Viktor Lenac shipyards was acquired in 2019); Malta (Palumbo Shipyards Malta and Palumbo Superyachts Malta) and France (Palumbo Superyachts Marseille).
Before yacht builds became the company’s core business with the acquisition of ISA in 2016, Palumbo’s expansion strategy included a network of shipyards to support the construction of boats as well as service points for yachts throughout the Mediterranean. Palumbo can also confirm an important presence in the North American market, with the sale of its first 42-metre Crossover sale to an American client due for delivery in 2025.

Eleonora III. 

Looking back on his successes, Lapenna says, “In 2011, Palumbo Superyachts classified a hybrid yacht”. This was Eleonora III, the world’s first yacht certified as a hybrid yacht, with RINA Hybrid Pro certification. The RINA rules have in the machinery part a section dedicated to hybrid systems written together with Palumbo in 2011 to determine the safety conditions of a hybrid system. This means that the hybrid plants on the market, apart from some experiments on alternative fuels, are the application of naval technologies that were already well established in 2011.”

I ask Lapenna for his opinion on the opening balconies that designers, yards and owners are now so keen on. He reminds me that in 2011, before this feature appeared in yacht designs worldwide, Columbus had proposed the Atlantique Deck, with fold-down balconies being integral to its Sport Hybrid line. According to Lapenna, “It all depends on the engineering of the design because, especially with boats in roadstead, it is certainly an advantage to have this extra space to live in.”
Asked what the core principle of the yard is, Lapenna says that Palumbo has the ability to make a highly customised product and specialises in product experimentation that is aligned the owner’s vision without incurring extra costs or affecting quality. In short, Lapenna says Palumbo makes high-end quality its driving force.

“A healthy company that wants to grow must never stop,” he says. “As of today, in upcoming programmes, there is the development of the Savona shipyard so that it becomes similar to the one in Ancona for the construction of other boats. In addition, we are working on plans for other models with new designers and suppliers.”

Gianpaolo Lapenna

The yard positions itself in the 60- to 80-metre market and within this segment Palumbo has recently sold four boats in just eight months. However, building smaller yachts entails tighter delivery times, and currently two hulls, ISA 027 and ISA 031, are being built on spec.
In the field of sustainability, Lapenna says Palumbo is “currently investing heavily in the research and development of alternative fuels and non-renewable but sustainable energy sources. Among the many ongoing projects is the development of start-ups to study the production of on-board energy for fuel cells starting from water, the only real source of renewable energy. For a 50-metre that is due for delivery soon, action plans have been put in place to ensure that the vessel is as environmentally friendly as possible. In addition to having been awarded the RINA Green Star Yacht class certificate, this boat has no [animal] hides on board and all the types of wood used ensure sustainability at the bottom of the production chain. In addition, a water-purification system has been provided on board for domestic use and the use of plastic bottles has also been banned, replaced by glass bottles that can be filled at various strategic points on the boat.”
Palumbo Superyachts also considers itself to be competitive in the refit sector, having refitted 341 superyachts  in the past five years. In Savona and Marseille, the dedicated brand Palumbo Superyacht Refit is one of the group’s flagships. “Refit, as you know, creates cash flow but, above all, customers,” says Lapenna. 

Retaining the loyalty of a client is one of the main objectives of a yard, and Palumbo has a client for whom it has built no less than five yachts, with negotiations also open for other models soon to be under construction.

The yard’s focus is equally on the yacht post-delivery, with various after-sales services available from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

The story of Palumbo is yet another confirmation of the Italian nautical industry’s capability, showcasing technology, design and high quality in yachts ranging from 30 to 80-plus metres. This includes both new builds and refits, spanning from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean Sea and offering an extensive range of services.

Profile links

Palumbo Superyachts

Palumbo Superyachts Refit

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In conversation with Gianpaolo Lapenna of Palumbo Yachts


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