On the first day of The Superyacht Forum 2019, a panel of key stakeholders, from engineers to shipyard managers, discussed issues that the superyacht market faces in terms of infrastructure and what needs to be done to ensure future prosperity of the industry.

Where it concerns hard infrastructure, i.e. the physical assets required to lift and house superyachts during refit and maintenance periods, Rob Papworth, operations director at MB92 La Ciotat explained that shiplift are becoming an increasingly popular investment that has the ability to significantly impact a facilities preparedness to handle more and larger vessels.

“A ship lift is a relatively straightforward investment for us because we simply follow the new build trends. We must assume that the refit market will follow in the wake of new build projects and, therefore, where we see developments in the new build market we try and ensure we have adequate hard infrastructure to service those changes, which lead to the addition of our latest 4,000t shipyard in Barcelona. These investments are being made to cater to the growing fleet size,” Papworth said.

“Hard infrastructure on its own doesn't guarantee project success”

That being said, members of the panel were keen to emphasise the importance of further developing soft infrastructure in line with the hard developments. “Hard infrastructure on its own doesn't guarantee project success,” continued Papworth. “It only allows you to take on the physical asset.”

The panel’s general consensus was that the industry needed to professionalise across the board – be that through offering more realistic lead times for projects or by providing the correct infrastructure for sub-contractors.

“Contractors are still working in a very primitive way,” commented Remy Millott CEO of GYG. “Despite the huge investments that have gone into hard infrastructure, contractors are still working out of containers. There’s great demand on the sub-contractor to deliver huge amounts of work in a short space of time to the highest quality. Therefore, we need to provide the right facilities for those demands to be met.”

Kai Dittmar, CEO of Metrica Interior, added that: “In terms of interiors, a lot of our work is offsite but there is a huge demand for storage facilities on site, we sometimes have to carry materials through rain and wind. We also need to rent houses around shipyards to accommodate people as currently contractors are having to share in flats of five or six people.”

When one considers the development of infrastructure, it is incredibly easy to focus on those assets that support the superyacht itself. It seems that, at times, the market forgets, or is unable, to sufficiently finance and develop those elements of infrastructure that appreciate the needs of the various subcontractors and people working on the projects. If hard and soft infrastructure are not developed in parallel there will always be a disconnect between the expected quality of a project and the final result.

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