Neighbouring French Riviera shipyards compete for surging refit market


A storm has been brewing on the French Riviera since superyacht refit giant, Monaco Marine was selected by Marseille-Fos Port to develop a new shipyard at the Mirabeau harbour.

The proposal for a maintenance and renovation centre dedicated to 90- to 133-metre yachts (and up to 6,000 tonnes) was signed off by the Monaco Marine and Marseilles authorities in September. The Port began an open bidding process in January to develop the area.

Twenty miles down the road lies La Ciotat, a ship-maintenance bastion in its own right. It was only last year, in October 2017, that La Ciotat shipyards launched plans for a new 4’000 tonne dry-boat lift capable of accommodating superyachts up to 105 metres. With the La Ciotat launch planned for 2020 it is not hard to see why the people there may be slightly peeved by the neighbours moving in next door.

Chair of the Marseille-Fos Port Supervisory Board, Jean-Marc Forneri, was keen to play down the idea of competing shipyards: “This Marseilles project is not intended to compete with its neighbour La Ciotat but proposes a complementary offer that strengthens the regional offer and creates a coherent whole ready to tackle Spanish and Italian competition on this segment.”

Stepping back from the battles on the French Riviera, the conflict of interests actually reveals a highly profitable refitting market.

In an article in Bloomberg last week it was reported that the value of the refit and restoration market exceeded “the new-build market.” The driving force behind this being that in our world of instant gratification customers can no longer be bothered to wait three to four years for their superyachts to be built. It seems the younger buyer is happier to compromise on “newness” and wait for a hand-me-down that is refurbished within a few months.

Greater capacity for more and larger refits are taking place across Europe’s shipyards. Italian refit shipyard Amico & Co began its enlargement of facilities this year “anticipating the needs of the market.”

The move will see the Genoa-based company construct a 4,000-tonne boat lift capable of raising superyachts of 90- to 100-metres. “We are now well advanced with the yard’s major infrastructural developments, a new megayacht marina, and our proposal for a completely Italian refit experience,” said chairman Alberto Amico,  “These are the three main drivers that will allow Amico and Genoa to compete on the world stage as a market leader.”

Southampton Marine Services (SMS) is also reporting an increase in its refurbishment business. In August it announced the completion of its third refurbished, 50-metre classic yacht Alicia in its 60-metre dry dock. SMS had previously refitted Sir Alan Sugar’s superyacht Lady A. Speaking at the relaunch of Alicia, SMS CEO, Peter Morton, said “we’re extremely grateful and look forward to very many future successful projects.”

The message for Marseilles and La Ciotat’s respective ports is clear,  while the refit tide is rising, there are others riding the wave.