Refit in review at The Superyacht Captains' Forum 2019
An insight into The Superyacht Captains' Forum during the ninth edition of YARE…
From 20th – 22nd March, Viareggio became home to captains, key industry stakeholders and various shipyard representatives for the ninth edition of the Yachting Aftersales and Refit Experience 2019 (YARE), during which The Superyacht Group hosted its annual inauguration of The Superyacht Captains’ Forum. The three-day event combined tours to key shipyards with interactive workshops and a curated panel discussion encouraging debates regarding the best approach to refits, and how to futureproof the superyacht industry.
Martin Redmayne, CEO of The Superyacht Group, and William Mathieson, Editorial and Intelligence Director at The Superyacht Group, began The Superyacht Captains’ Forum with an unfiltered overview of the current state of the market, taking into consideration areas of stability, notably seen in the consistency of deliveries from Italian shipyards, making up two thirds of all deliveries recorded, as well as areas of slowdown, for example, in the number of delivered superyachts within the 30-40m range, with a surprising but gentle increase in the 90m+ range.
This shift towards a consolidated new build market, has ramifications for every sector of the industry, with market profiles evolving in kind. By way of example, “Despite boats getting bigger, we still seem to be giving all refit projects the same timescale and this needs to change”, suggested Redmayne, which provided food for thought and caused ripples of acknowledgement among the audience.
“Over the next five – 10 years, we will be looking at 50 active [new build] shipyards on the market place, and a fleet of approximately 6,500 – 7000. We now need to look at how we can look after that fleet, from environmental factors to technology, and how to future-proof them”, he continued, commenting on the ageing population of industry experts, and the necessity to develop the process of refit and prepare the next generation of experts. “The refit market is our long-term future”, he concluded, a fact evidenced by figures that highlight just how much refit activity is being generated.
Commencing the Captains’ Debate with the question, ‘what is the most important factor of any refit project?’, Redmayne invited Terry Allen – McFarlane ShipDesign, Feargus Bryan – Edmiston, Captain Malcolm Jacotine – 360 Marine, Ken Hickling – Sherpa63, and Sam Thompson – JMS Yachting, to share a spectrum of what transpired to be very candid opinions.
While Bryan immediately suggested that expectation management is the most crucial factor for all parties, other panellists disagreed, stating that it is the nature of a refit for last-minute changes to appear, particularly regarding the design process and resulting aesthetics. Supporting this opinion, additional captains and managers from the audience expressed their beliefs that designers are culpable for incurring additional costs and delays in refits. Shipyards were also held accountable by one panellist in particular, with Allen suggesting that any vagary within a project provides an opportunity for unexpected additional costs to materialise, which some panellists rejected, suggesting that so long as a shipyard has been chosen based upon the specific type of project and operational profile of the vessel itself, this can be avoided.
Redmayne concluded the debate by gathering the following key takeaways from each panellist: communication, honesty, planning, collaborative working and realistic budgeting, before the afternoon of workshops began.
The workshops covered a plethora of topics, from ‘how to improve the refit process’, with Daniele Di Giampolo – Amico & Co., and Terry Allen – McFarlane Design, looking closely at refit tender documents, to ‘how to implement an environmental and low-carbon impact culture for superyachts and shipyards’, with Lorenzo Pollicardo – SYBAss, suggesting that superyacht environmentalism will only truly resonate with principals if we follow developments within the automotive industry and focus on performance and energy efficiency, similarly to Tesla’s approach, rather than placing undue emphasis on the Corporate Social Responsibility element.
Leading on from a key topic raised in the morning’s debate, one of the attending captains admitted in their chosen workshop that when it comes to choosing a shipyard, the services and proximity of infrastructure are often superseded by the cost provided to the owner, with a premium shipyard refit principal thus explaining that a reduced client budget will result in a lower level of service, due to the resulting lower investment in project management personnel.
The Superyacht Captains’ Forum concluded with a ‘Captains’ Den’, won by OSSH, a company that has created luminous door handles which change colour to communicate vital messages, for example, indicating which doors can and cannot be passed through in the case of a fire, illustrating continuing developments within the industry for on board technology.
Vincenzo Poerio, President of YARE, reiterated the importance placed on the next generation of industry experts discussed in the morning’s welcome talk, as he presented this year’s ISYL graduates with their certificates. The Superyacht Group will be taking a closer look at this topic in their upcoming annual The Superyacht Forum, taking place in Amsterdam this November.
YARE had begun the previous day with tours of Seven Stars Marina and Shipyard, Lusben and Fincantieri, providing an insight into shipyards where some of the yachting world’s most impressive debuts take place, such as Benetti’s new 100m.
The 40,000sqm Seven Stars Marina and Shipyard provides services from winter storage to complete refit and refurbishment, most notably recently elongating a 40m superyacht to 46m in the recent off-season. Benefitting from a fresh water channel into the heart of the shipyard, and employees whose families have worked in vessel repair across decades, Seven Stars has seen its annual turnover reach €11M.
Lusben, Azimut Benetti’s specialist refit yard, was our second stop on the tour and will this week play host to the group’s launch of its latest “gigayacht”, which has been constructed upon one of the impressive floating docks, boasting a 1000t trolley capacity, allowing for superyachts of this scale to be housed and completed with ease.
Mauro Parodi, Vice President of Sales at Fincantieri, informed us of their shipyard’s capacity to work on refits, repairs and custom built new builds of an impressive scale. Previous deliveries, 134m Serene, and the largest superyacht Italy has ever built, 140m Ocean Victory, are a testament to the shipyard’s facilities, which include a dedicated floating dock, providing ease of construction and storage for the weightier projects, while a mock-up area at Fincantieri provides a base for discussions with captains and owners prior to work beginning on any design elements for their clients, in an effort to avoid a recurring topic of day two’s discussions during The Superyacht Captains’ Forum: project delays.
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