Manna seeks ‘eccellenza’ at Antonini Navi

Aldo Manna, partner and sales director, Antonini Navi.

Aldo Manna, partner and sales director, Antonini Navi.

The Italians call it “eccellenza”. In English it means “excellence”, but it doesn’t sound as cool. For Aldo Manna, partner and sales director of Antonini Navi, it is everything.

Every day I am looking for eccellenza,” says Manna, singing every syllable of the word. “In my life, my family, my business.

That business is the superyacht shipyard which Manna set up with Simone Antonini in La Spezia, Italy in 2020.

We are almost a new brand, we’re very happy. In just three years we’ve got two orders under construction for delivery in 2025,” Manna tells Superyacht Investor.

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Manna, a naval engineering graduate, has spent a lifetime in the marine industry including as a sailing yacht skipper, in sales broker roles in Florida and 15 years at the OCEA shipyard in northern France, specialising in the sale of patrol boats, fishing vessels and full aluminium yachts.

Antonini is from the family behind the naval industry and energy infrastructure company Gruppo Antonini Spa, founded by Walter Antonini in the 1940s to repair metal structures after World War II. The superyacht arm is a natural extension.

‘Beautiful thing’

Manna describes his experience as “360 degrees in the yachting world” and says returning home to partner with Antonini was a “pleasure”.

I was born in La Spezia but in my life I went around the world to get experience and I’m back in my city,” he says. “To invest my time and my money and my dream in my city for me is a beautiful thing.”

Two projects under construction are a 34m steel and aluminium semi-custom yacht sold to an Italian client, and a 32m steel explorer yacht designed by Hydro Tec and Hot Lab. Both began with a keel-laying ceremony in which a coin was placed in the hull to bring the vessel good luck, a tradition the company says dates back to the Roman period.

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Antonini Navi embeds a coin in the keel for good luck.

Antonini Navi embeds a coin into the keel of a new yacht for good luck.

The 33,000 sqm yard – the second largest in La Spezia, says Manna – has also been involved in the build of seven yachts, including hulls and superstructures, for third parties in the 35-62m range, but the company’s aim is to focus on its own work.

We have one slot available so in the future we stop construction for third parties because now with our brand we want to work alone with our internal business,” says Manna, who has also run yacht management company MC Yacht in La Spezia since 1999.

Antonini Navi also has a number of design projects on the table, including three 40-meter concepts based on a modular steel platform which can be customised during the build phase.

If a client likes our concept boat, the UP40 Island, or the SUY 135 then the timing for delivery is season 2026,” he says. “If a client wants to start a new custom yacht the wait is 26 months from contract signing.”

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‘Not many but beautiful’

For Manna and Antonini, though, it is not about how many boats they can build.

It’s a family shipyard, we are not a big company, the client is directly talking to me and my partner Simone. We are stakeholders,” says Manna. “We want to open a new style with direct contact and negotiation with the client; for us the client is like a partner.

My dream is not to sell many, many yachts; our goal is to build beautiful yachts to make a difference. If we take a lot of orders our boats won’t be different and beautiful, and I think Antonini Navi won’t have good success in the future.

In five years, I will be very happy to take space in the market to build below 500GT; not many boats but beautiful boats.”

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Antonini Navi's sports utility yacht SUY 135 is under construction for delivery in 2026.

Antonini Navi’s sports utility yacht SUY 135 is under construction for delivery in 2026.

Manna, who believes consolidating their position in Europe is key before trying to break into the US or the Middle East, has sensed a shift in market sentiment this year and is working hard to educate clients on the appeal of steel.

 Last year we got a lot of requests for 40-45m, but in the last six months the market has changed a bit,” he says. “The main requests now are for 35-38m. It’s so strange. The clients are asking for construction below 300GT with pleasure construction not commercial construction. It’s the changing mind of clients about size and about budget.”

He adds: “It is understanding that the market in steel is more interesting, there is more customisation. GRP is a boat, not a yacht.”

‘Crazy times’

Manna is mindful of the headwinds for the industry in terms of the spiralling costs of recent years.

We are in trouble, all shipyards are in trouble, because the costs are crazy,” he says. “It’s a crazy time but we think we are lucky because La Spezia is an important hub for building and construction so there are a lot of suppliers.

We think in the next months when the market gets more stability and is not growing so fast a lot of suppliers will be able to make a better offer.”

Despite the rising costs, Manna believes demand remains strong for wealthy clients who want to build new boats.

In crazy economic and social times in the world there are a lot of people that get opportunities to make money,” he says.

How many shipyards exist in the world that build in steel and aluminium? How many billion persons are in the world? To build steel and aluminium superyacht needs time and space. For example, now in Italy the most important shipyards are full because there is not enough available space, so the market is in a good time. We are very lucky, every week we get an enquiry for delivery in 2026.”

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