In our continuing coverage of the ever-evolving status of the world’s superyacht shipyards, our next stop is the French city of Marseille, where we engaged Giulio Maresca, General Manager of Palumbo Superyachts Marseille for an update om the yard’s current operational situation.
WM: What is the shipyard’s operational status at the moment?
GM: Authorised by the French government, the shipyard has continued to operate with normal hours, despite all the obstacles posed by the complex situation, and the undeniable…risk of exposure to the coronavirus infection.
Taking every precaution to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of both our employees and our loyal customers, we felt it was crucial to maintain business continuity to the 10 superyachts [ranging from 50 to 95 metres] at the yard, and to keep guaranteeing all ‘life support’ services to their crew [i.e. electricity & water supply, safety service and security, black and grey water pumping, waste disposal, etc.] as well as providing them with human assistance at such an unprecedented [and] overwhelming situation.
However, such a decision, that with no [question], weighs heavily on the staff, was very well received by our clients.
We’re closely [supervising] crewmembers, ensuring they fully respect social distancing… limiting nonessential travel, skipping gatherings, minimising contact with people and maintaining the prescribed distance from one another.
To commute to and from the shipyard when reaching their accommodation or going downtown for essentials like food or medicine supplies, we provide them with protective masks, disposable gloves and a copy of the ‘Lockdown Permission Form’ that the French Government requires each person to carry, attesting to the nature of their trip. Whereas inside the yard, at their captain’s discretion, they are allowed to work on board.
As for the project managers and me, we’ve always been working non-stop. Being a captain, I perform my role of General Manager with the same ethics as if I were at the helm of a ship during a heavy storm, that is, representing Palumbo Superyachts shipyard and personally looking after our clients and team members [and] continuously sharing information with them and addressing their questions… The PMs coordinate the activities of both our staff and subcontractors, alongside carrying out the yard’s day-to-day manning. The same applies to our logistic department that, though reduced, has [maintained] its activity. [However], some contactors who were already on-site at the outbreak of the pandemic decided to stop and leave.
WM: How have recent government restrictions affected your inventory of projects? And how will you address this backlog?
GM: Following the contractors’ departure, we were forced to immediately devise a contingency plan and devote every effort to minimise the negative impact on our already slowed-down progress, including drawing on additional resources from other shipyards from the Palumbo network, where possible.
For instance…we resorted to [this measure] for the complete repaint undertaken on a 95 metre Feadship [superyacht]. When the virus broke out, we had reached the stage of dismantling the scaffolds and started on all the ancillary operations like completing the Sika joint sealing and re-installing the hardware, before the crew could get on with preparing the vessel to set sail again for the summer season.
Due to the circumstances, we set up weekend and night shifts to avoid co-activities and ensure the full respect of physical distancing. Though the task inevitably turned out to be more intense and time-consuming, now we are down to the last touches before handing her back to her owner, proud as we are of our great accomplishments!
WM: Are you able to accommodate subcontractors on-site? And are there any jobs that are proving more challenging than others?
GM: Yes we can, though for a limited number of them, of course. To comply with the Covid-19 preventative measures, we have stopped all the works which involve staying in confined spaces and all the activities requiring close physical interaction or entailing different contractors simultaneously; nonetheless, we’ve kept virtually all projects on schedule.
Sometimes we spread the operations over different decks in order to avoid people assembling on the same one, and every day we carefully review the Gantt charts so to minimise the presence of workers in any given area. We also exercise a hard patrol to make sure the prescribed safety and preventive measures are duly respected, and anyone found in the yard without a mask or gloves is immediately banned from the shipyard until the end of the crisis.
The daily cleaning of the common areas all over the yard has been intensified, and every week a specialised company performs a thorough professional disinfection. No direct contact between the workers, safe distance and specific measures are strictly in place.
This is our real challenge! We are pressing on [regardless of the many] obstacles posed by the unexpected circumstances, bravely facing this unknown, invisible and sneaky enemy, though still being as efficient and quality-oriented as before, and never lowering our guard on the health rules imposed and on those extra ones we have adopted, embracing the motto: ‘Prepare and prevent, rather than repair and repent’!
WM: Are you concerned about what lies ahead this year? Or do you believe there will be a spike in activity once restrictions are relaxed?
GM: Yes, of course I am. I believe that, so far, it’s impossible to predict what the global impact of the pandemic and the business restrictions will be once this is over. How will the market behave, and what will the consequences be for the operators?
The charter market, which has usually set the pace of our refit business, can give us short-term answers; however, the summer season is at the door, so we'll soon know what to expect.
The main thing is to remain positive and focused on a strong and solid recovery of all activities related to the yachting world.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my staff and clients for their loyalty, resilience and positive mindset to battle this challenge together.
During the COVID-19 Crisis as a good will gesture, while many people are at home, in port, on board or working remotely, we are allowing our loyal and expert audience, complete and complimentary access to our SuperyachtNews Premium Content and unlimited access to our digital library of The Superyacht Report - issues 175-200. Click here to sign up now.