MB92 Group expects a refitting 2022


Superyacht refit and repair specialist MB92 Group is expecting a significant uplift in business next year with the launch of a new 4,300t ship lift, a new sustainability plan and continued interest from clients who want to upgrade or repair their vessels.

Four years into a five-year expansion plan, the group aims to bring its refit and repair services to a wider international audience, as the superyacht sector continues to experience strengthening demand (but dwindling supply) for new and quality pre-owned vessels. MB92 Group was created in 2017 following the acquisition by MB92 Barcelona of the refit shipyard Compositeworks in La Ciotat in the South of France. In September 2019, the European investment firm Squircle Capital acquired 77.5% of MB92 Barcelona.

The group already draws clients from around the world, Pepe García-Aubert, president & CEO of MB92 Group tells Superyacht Investor. “The first 3,000 people on the Forbes list – this is the base of clients. And they are not located in one region – they come from worldwide.” In addition to clients in the US and Europe, including Russia, the group’s order book features names from the Middle East, China and south-east Asia.

The group benefits from its yards’ locations around the Mediterranean for a range of reasons, he says. “The Mediterranean is still the place to be within the superyacht community in terms of leisure cruising. People like cruising its waters and find the security of the Mediterranean area difficult to find in other parts of the world.”

The business, in parallel with other industry sectors, is attracting more younger and new clients than before the global pandemic. Some clients are now in their 40s and 50s, rather than their 60s, which was more typical before Covid. Ben Mennem, CEO of MB92 La Ciotat thinks Covid-19 has prompted would be owners to invest. “There’s an aspect of carpe diem after Covid – buyers not wanting to wait until they are 70,” Mennem tells Superyacht Investor. “Nowadays, first-time yacht buyers can buy an 80m vessel having never owned a vessel before.”

‘First-time buyers can buy an 80m vessel’

The past eight months have proved extremely busy for the group with vessels from the US, returning to the Mediterranean following lengthy Covid travel restrictions that put projects on hold. Clients come to the group for a range of repair and refit operations. “We do absolutely everything from regular maintenance to hull and superstructure modifications and extensions, interior refits and installing swimming pools,” says Mennem. “You name it aboard a yacht, and we do it.”

Improving yacht sustainability is also becoming important for the business. “We are just starting to do work to improve vessels’ environmental footprints,” he adds. “But it is early days on this work.” Green projects might include re-fitting a yacht with a more efficient engines, generators, systems to reduce exhaust emissions, or new more sustainable water treatment systems.

There is also growing interest in hybrid-electric propulsion systems and, on the further horizon, hydrogen powerplants. The motivation for such improvement comes partly from more environmentally aware clients and partly from new regulations. (More on this later).

Meanwhile, the dwindling supply of new yachts has helped to focus attention on yacht refits and repairs, according to the group. “The lack of availability of new yachts could mean owners acquire a pre-owned yacht and bring it to us for a refit,” says Mennem. “Part of it is that you can’t get a new boat for at least a year, but you can buy a second-hand boat tomorrow. And after six months work with us, you can have something that is almost tailor made to suit you.”

Renewed interest in refits is confirmed by research last year from ICOMIA Superyacht Refit Group. It valued the global refit market, valued by turnover, at Є404.7m in 2019/20 for the top 12 yards. That’s a rise of 2.3% on the previous year. The research also noted a 3.4% rise in the numbers of yachts undergoing refits, with an average refit value of Є345,310. Figures that are highly likely to rise significantly this year, as the major manufacturers disclose two-to-three-year backlogs and supplies of quality pre-owned vessels continue to dwindle.

To serve this demand, MB92’s two facilities in Barcelona and La Ciotat have a huge array of lifting capabilities, including two dry docks of 220m and 200m respectively, a 4,800t ship lift, two 2,000t yacht lifts, and various travel lifts and cranes up to 600t. There is also a 50m paint cabin.

The group has a workforce of about 320 engineers, project managers, craftspeople and artisans employed full-time between the two yards in Spain and France. Added to that are more than 1,400 specialist contractors every day during peak periods.

From next September, the group expects a big increase in work for its MB92 La Ciotat business (and local suppliers) with the commissioning of its new 4,300t ship lift, capable of handling yachts up to 110m.

The new facility will provide up to six additional spaces for yachts under 110m in length and aims to be “one of the most sustainable haul-out solutions for superyachts in the world”.

€45m investment for the group

The €45m investment for the group is predicted to boost MB92 La Ciotat’s business and permanent workforce by up to 30%, with recruitments already underway. Also, an estimated 350 jobs or more will be created indirectly within local marine subcontracting companies.

In addition to the standard amenities, the design includes shore power for all vessels, state-of-the-art wastewater and runoff treatment plants that prevent 100% of pollutants by using a green reprocessing system. There will be waste recycling centres for each yacht and even plans for the world’s largest artificial harbour fish nursery along the quays.

Sustainability is more than just green gloss for the company. This year it launched a five-year sustainability plan and discussed current sustainability issues for the industry in a report, ‘The future of the oceans – Navigating towards a sustainable superyacht industry’, which includes commentaries from industry leaders.

In his introduction to the report García-Aubert, is frank: “The world of superyachts faces a stark choice: either become sustainable or disappear. The leisure industry must lead. It cannot wait for the commercial sector to act.”

For MB92, it’s not just a case of yachts and business profits going up (with the new lift) and emissions and environmental impacts coming down. Yachting and the whole maritime industry is on the cusp of fundamental change. “In the next 20 years, we’re going to see a revolution in the nautical industry like we’ve never seen before, a revolution that will imply a greater leap forward than when ships converted from sail to steam.”



Top: An uplifting business – one of ship lifts at MB92 La Ciotat.

Above: The MB92 Group sustainability report is available here.