REFIT IS BIG BUSINESS IN SPAIN WITH A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE FROM COMPANIES OFFERING A VAST RANGE OF SERVICES
Autumn is again in the offing, captains and management are assessing the ‘injury time’ it’s going to take to get the yachts back on top of their game before next year’s season. The boats have rolled with the knocks, rebounded from the shocks and now need a bit of time ‘off games’ before the big wind-up to next season where they’ll need to be back up to top notch performance:
A nip here, a tuck there, a touch up, a little bit of lift just here if you don’t mind for some, or a complete makeover for others.
Always a favourite stomping ground for yacht captains and crew, ONBOARD magazine has taken a little snoop around the workshops and refit experts serving yachts based on the Spanish side of the Med to gauge their views on the buoyancy of the Spanish refit market, its future and why yachts should head over there.
AIRCON AND FRIDGE
Mark Critchley runs MTSea, specialists in marine refrigeration and air conditioning based in Palma Mallorca. The business is new: Critchley bought the air conditioning and refrigeration system in 2017. He says, “When we bought it we were told we would be quiet over the summer. The previous owner closed every August but so far our only quiet time is Christmas, otherwise we are flat out and that is in spite of increasing our workforce from six to ten in early 2019.”
Looking ahead to the future Critchley is cautiously confident and sees potential growth when Astilleros Shipyard move to STP (Servicios Tecnicos Portuarios) with increased haul out and storage for large yachts. “We know that every year STP seems to get more crowded and stay busy for longer and this means we are busy. If yachts are here having refit work done it usually includes some sort of refrigeration and air conditioning.”
MTsea is recruiting again, will continue to establish its workshop facilities in order to be able to test customer equipment in-house before reinstalling on board. Adds Critchley, “We also want to have more control of our service and products and react quicker to customer needs so we are establishing our own machine shop overseen by a qualified toolmaker who is also a qualified yacht engineer. Plus, as agents of Octo Marine, for us 2020 will also be about establishing and growing the water treatment services for yachts.”
“But why choose Palma?”one might ask. The answers slip off Critchley’s tongue: A great place for crew during big projects, great social yachting scene, good weather, no mistrals! But also, Palma is a yacht specialist hub where the pool of yacht knowledge collects. The TPA Scheme, which permits yachts under temporary admission to do repairs and maintenance without paying 21% VAT is another draw. “Plus,” he adds, “the main yard has no fees for using local contractors and the capacity of the local shipyards is impressive and getting bigger.”
Ruben Doñaque, also known as The Welding Workshop,provides specialised welding, metal repairs and fabrication in Palma de Mallorca. 2019 was just as busy for Doñaque as it ever is with the usual punctual peaks just before the charter season began. He’s hoping for a rise in business over the coming 12 months. He says, “Spain just makes sense for owners and captains now. It makes financial sense and the depth of experienced workers here is enormous.
For us winter is usually the best season and maybe moving into early spring with last minute jobs – part of the natural annual business life cycle.”
Next stop – the carpentry workshops where Jon Winstanley at Modesty and Brendon Jost at CABBS are carving a living out of wood.
Modesty was formed in 1999 by Phil Spear and Jon Winstanley and is one of Mallorca’s leading yacht carpentry companies, specialising in all manner of decking, furniture and interior decoration projects.
Business in 2018/19 was up says Winstanley due to an increase in work in general. “I think most people were very busy,” says Winstanley, “and we also pushed quite hard on the sales side. We were also very busy outside of Mallorca so this also increased our normal range of clients.”
To keep the bottom line figures buoyant, Modesty is working on various fronts aiming to increase the work load, but also extend the breadth of capabilities. Winstanley has not so much noticed a change in projects he’s worked on over the past 2-3 years but the type of project and the clients that approach him have: “There are still the same projects as always in Mallorca but as we have grown larger and stronger we do not have the need to take on all projects regardless. As we have spread throughout Europe, and further, we can afford to be a little more choosy about what sort of projects and clients we want to get involved with.” His plans for 2020 include innovation, new equipment, recruitment and moving into a new specialist area… so watch this space.
In terms of advantages over other Med refit choices, Winstanley has this to say; “STP has the huge advantage over any other ‘controlled’ or closed yard in as much as the client can see what they are paying for and can have a far greater control over both quality and cost. Far too many of the yards in the Med end up billing vessels ridiculously high or strange costs and the clients are getting more and more tired of this. It’s the ‘they are rich so they can afford to pay whatever’ attitude that so many adopt. You can accuse the majority of the superyacht owners of many things but, generally speaking, stupidity is not one of them. They have no problem in paying exceptional prices for exceptional services but they are getting increasingly tired of paying exorbitant prices for mediocre services. Mallorca is by no means cheap but you do, usually, get good value for money.”
Carpentry And Boat Building Services S.L (CABBS) was founded in 2007 by Brendon Jost, (known to his friends as Cabbs). Services include: wooden yacht construction, restorations, interior refits and alterations, teak decking,exterior furniture and wood turning.
Jost reports a busy summer 2019: A number of slightly larger and longer projects coming through the doors coupled with return clients doing typical yearly maintenance made it busier than other years. “I really can’t say if this is due to any particular global economic factors to be honest. It feels like there is a better confidence level around in our sector at the moment, but how this plays out with the current political and economic situation in Europe (and worldwide) I really couldn’t say.”
Jost sees predicting future growth in business as nothing other than a recipe for disaster, but he is ‘hoping’ the market confidence continues so that CABBS can grow along with it: “I feel there is the distinct possibility in the shorter term for things to continue to improve, but, again these things could all be affected very quickly with global political and economic changes that could happen. We as a company are quietly hoping for a nice continuous controllable increase in business, lets hope it happens!”
As the company has become more widely known, slowly the projects have become larger and CABBS has grown to accomplish the larger jobs. “The work itself is much the
same but I think as a company begins to grow the perceived confidence in what it can accomplish also increases and this can lead to clients willing to give you opportunities to work on increasingly larger projects.”
Ever cautious, Jost nevertheless has plans for 2020, including expanding the fleet of vehicles to be more versatile and efficient. He also has plans to replace some of the older machinery with new, modern accurate machines to again increase efficiency and accuracy.”
Why choose Palma? “It’s the location, stupid,” Jost might say. Palma de Mallorca is a central hub of the Mediterranean yachting scene and being here surrounded by many professional yachting related companies, it creates a large industry skill base so people know that if they come to Mallorca for their yard period they can get everything done in the one place to a very high standard.
CeraShield is an expanding company offering the application and removal of premium ceramic coatings to paint, glass and stainless steel which offer performance, protection and durability for the exterior and interior of superyachts.
According to Claire Steel based at the Palma HQ, 2019 was Cerashield’s busiest year yet, with back to back contracts all the way through the season since September 2018. Why? Explains Steel, “It’s because now Cerashield is established as a market leader in applying both ceramic and non-ceramic coatings, clients are coming to us directly as their go-to ceramic coatings company. Ceramic Coatings in general have seen an upsurge in the past few years, as the gloss levels of the vessels’ paintwork start to deteriorate around the three year mark and clients are looking for real solutions to get them through to the five year mark when hopefully the vessel will receive budget to repaint.” So, if a vessel has no time or budget to paint then Cerashield can maintain the gloss levels of the paintwork with protective coatings which offer value for money and durability.
“More and more captains, management companies and owners are reaching out to us,”says Steel, “especially as our coatings have a removal gel that when the time comes for a repaint we can apply, remove the coating, and hand it over to the paint company who only have to follow their normal paint procedure specification with
no remedial preparation works necessary and no extra cost to the client.’
In terms of the year ahead, Steel sees no reason for the growth to drop and has confirmed projects for the 2019/2020 refit season. “We are expecting this to be our busiest year yet: So much so that we will be opening offices in Monaco due to a large percentage of our clients being based on the French and Italian coast. We also have a number of projects on the new build sector which are looking to protect their paintwork from new.”
The arrival of the 100m+ gigayachts on the superyacht scene over the last few years has had a positive impact on Cerashield’s growth: the sheer size of these vessels restricts the vessel being granted downtime for a repaint. Here Cerashield step in with revolving ceramic coatings programmes wherever the vessel finds itself for its annual maintenance schedule. “We fly a team out to undertake the works which keep areas of the vessel which have down-glossed looking good at all times as the yacht travels around the world.”
Growth is the watch word for Cerashield in 2020: New offices in Monaco, including management and a local workforce; There is also representation in Thailand, UK and Malaysia.”That’s where our competitive advantage lies; all our preparation and application teams are fully mobile and will travel to any shipyard in any part of the world to undertake their clients works.”
Due to demand the company has also launched a range of exterior cleaning products including a wash down soap, a ceramic topper, a detailer for stainless steel, glass and paint and a degreaser for removing stubborn marks. Says Steel, “All of the Cerashield cleaning products are pH neutral and are completely compatible with our ceramic coatings. They also work with the coatings to improve durability and longevity.”
Carbon Fibre Composites
Based at STP in Palma, BM Composites are experts in the field of composite yacht construction. Combined experienced spans 30 years and the company uses the latest developments in carbon fibre tech and CNC tooling.
Commercial Director Luke Hendy reports an increase in clientele during the 2018/19 season largely thanks to off-island business. He says, “We had one ginormous project last year and that made a difference. We’re also now providing a much more end-to end project solution instead of just one small part of an overall project. These days we offer full project management providing design, engineering, fabrication – all in¬house.”
For the forthcoming refit season Hendy is confident: Business has been ‘huge’ over the summer and throughout the year, plus a large M5 project in Italy involving the concept, design, engineering and fabrication of some huge parts. The spurt in business results from the high quality team that BM Composites has consolidated at the STP HQ. Hendy explains, “ In the past it was hard to keep staff because our work was either feast or famine. As business has steadied, we can now keep more people and we have more availability. That’s a big advantage for clients as we can cope with last minute demands and cater to them better. We now have 20 staff working in production and more than 7 in the office.’
So business has stabilised and grown and so too have the projects: “We are now on a different level in terms of what we can tackle. Now we can do major changes on site rather than go to a build yard. That’s a really important message. The type of projects are now more important in terms of size and type.”
The depth of experience of the team, the supply chain, knowledge of the refit sector (considerably more complex than the build sector) both large and small puts BM Composites ahead of competitors believes Hendy. “Now we can post satellite teams anywhere in the world: we’ve been to Chile and China -we’re equipped team-wise to go anywhere for jobs small or large. In 2018 we tackled one of the largest composite repairs in a refit yard worth 25,000 hours of work. Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength.”
For the year ahead Hendy is set on increasing the in-house product line such as ladders, passerelles, fenders and flag staffs and developing online sales through the website for composite materials by Gurit. He also wants to introduce more automated machinery and recruitment wise he’s always looking for skilled and part skilled composite boat builders. “For me,” says Hendy, “the ideal client plans ahead, knows what they want to achieve, has clear direction. This allows us to do our job better. Booking late puts on too much pressure – an ideal client is a forward thinker and knows exactly what they want to do.”
PROPELLERS AND PROPULSION
Barcelona Propellers has specialised in the calculation, selection and manufacture of propellers and marine propulsion equipment since 1952. Managing Director, Carol Mendoza Pons, reckons the biggest change in business for 2019 was a move towards refits on larger yachts, with the production of small propellers and shafts for small local Spanish shipyards now pretty much a thing of the past.
She says, “The projects we see now are more refit-focused, and on recovering the Class of Classification from societies as RINA, Bureau Veritas or Lloyd’s. So we have to make new shafts or propellers for yachts that have been without class for some years and now the owners want to get Class back, because perhaps they are going to sell the yacht, or for more new international requirements.”
For 2020 the focus will be on a new project to develop propellers that will improve the cruising speed and save consumption at the same time. She adds, “We are also developing new equipment for pitch measurement – correction with specialised software and hydraulics for repairs and even more accurate balancing devices so we can give even more accurate reports to our customers.”
Next year she hopes to make inroads into export to new boat builders in other countries at the same time as balancing and adjusting pitch in the propellers of larger projects in the refit sector. With three generations of experience and its own workshop Barcelona Propellers used
to supply over 1000 units to small local shipyards up and down the country. This experience, believes Mendoza Pons, means the company is well placed to complete refit repairs, balancing propellers and making new big shafts for Classification societies. Because she says, “We have the quality of the past and the technology of today.”
Petra Carran is Managing Director of Oyster Yachts a build, refit and brokerage company set up in 2013. Carran claims Oyster Palma has been going from strength to strength since launch and boasts a 24 strong dedicated team covering brokerage, crew placement, technical and engineering works, service and refit, haul-outs, guardianage, berthing, customer service and accounts.
Says Carran, “We have experienced an increase in the number of major projects undertaken in 2019 and we’re expecting this strong demand to continue for the rest of the year.” She believes the business growth is thanks to three reasons: aligning recruitment and project growth to be able to increase the breadth of service; repeat customers for annual servicing refits, guardianage and modifications and because the company does not restrict its services to Oyster Yachts. “As that becomes more widely known clients who do not own an Oyster are choosing to use Oyster Palma for their major projects as they know that they’ll receive Oyster quality of craftsmanship,” says Carran.
As the company continues to take on more skilled craftsmen, it is able to take on larger, more technical service work. Says Carran, “Awareness is growing outside of the Oyster fleet that we deliver high quality work, at industry benchmarked prices. We enjoy strong working relationships with captains, owners and managers and they’ve become our biggest advocates – drawing more projects to the Oyster Palma team. Even those who do not own an Oyster can experience the 5* service that Oyster owners enjoy.”
Plans for 2020 are more of the same: expand the team and the resultant additional service that can be delivered. “We certainly have plenty of ideas and plans that we will be bring to fruition in the coming year.”
Navantia is the Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company, which offers its services to both the military and civil sector. It is the fifth-largest shipbuilder in Europe, and the ninth-largest in the world with shipyards around the globe.
Antonio José Sánchez García is Sales Manager at the Repairs Centre at Cartagena. 2019 was a good year for Navantia Repairs Cartagena, continuing a trend that began in 2018 with not only the number of yachts increasing but also the complexity of the projects undertaken. Sánchez García puts this down to the strength of the Navantia reputation. For the coming year ahead he says, “We expect an increase in both the number of yachts and in turnover which in turn will allow us to improve facilities to meet the demands of larger and more demanding yachts. For instance we have increased the power supply to 1.200 amps.”
He reports that these days Navantia Cartagena takes on much more complex refits as well as extension projects, engineering reports and engine and generator replacements to comply with the current much more strict environmental regulation. Says Sánchez García, “We are in the process of increasing our workforce to provide better services to our clients. In a few months we will start improvement works in our dry-dock and we are also updating our syncrolift in order to increase its lifting capacity.”
ONE STOP SHOP
Duncan Sykes is MD of Absolute Boat Care (ABC), based at STP, Mallorca. The company carries out paintwork, varnishing, antifouling, polishing and gelcoat repairs…’any job’, says the blurb, ‘any size Now that STP has acquired a 1000 tn travelift, ABC can now take superyachts of up to 1000 tns out of the water. Says Sykes, “This has opened the 70m+ superyacht refit market up to us even more than before and we now have even more ability to cater for much larger yachts.”
Sykes forecasts that the fact the Americas Cup will be held in New Zealand in 2020 will have an impact on business this winter, as many yachts head over to the Pacific. But still he is confident of a good year ahead with the STP shipyard full well into next year and beyond.
ABC will be focusing on expansion and looking for team members with the skills needed to cater for its clients. Sykes says, “We want to ensure clients receive all they can from just one contractor rather than having multiple contractors and multiple bills, for example. We also now do all our own sika work; we tent our own areas; we have our own in-house carpenter for carpentry work: skilled experts all under one roof!”
STP is an open shipyard Sykes reminds us, unusual in the Med. This means in STP clients can choose their own contractors on their own time. “Most other shipyards in the Med have a pool of contractors that work for the yards that you must choose from,” says Skyes. “In STP that’s not the case, you choose the contractors you want!”
YAS Protec is the worldwide leader of temporary protection material. With headquarters in Valbonne, France, it also has operations in Germany and Barcelona, Spain.
Even though more and more yachts come into being, the specialised infrastructures to receive them remain limited suggests David Sieur, Chief Executive of YAS Protec. So, he says, there is more and more work on each site. In addition, shipyards continue to invest in order to modernise and respond to the demand. In terms of his own business, yes, he thinks the upcoming winter season will be busy: “Our order book has filled up quickly with some great refit projects. Our proposition is fairly unique but an essential one in the refit and repair market. We have seen the increase in overall projects in Spain, so we have naturally followed and opened the office here, it just makes sense to have a team here on the ground providing our guidance and assistance at close quarters.”
YAS Protec has only recently established a base in Barcelona, Spain and over the summer little by little, Sieur continued to hire personnel and structure the company to better meet the demands of the Spanish shipyards. Next year the focus will be to build on these foundations.
“We will continue to train our Spanish personnel with the same training methods and company philosophy that we use in France and Germany. Our goal is to offer our customers the same quality of services in different European countries.”
Sieur believes that as yachts become larger and more complex, both in terms of size and technology, projects need to be ever more carefully studied and prepared for working within the boundaries of ever tighter professional working procedures. He also sees a move towards less and less of a price, skill and service gap between European countries. “European regulations require each country to meet the same standards. The consequence is that in the end, even in terms of price, countries like Spain, Italy and Malta are catching up with France and northern European countries.”
So, the yacht refit world amalgamates in terms of skills, price and service, the businesses expand to take on a growing market, professionalism seeps into everysector cranny. The refit sector hubs are no longer monopolised by a particular country and yacht owners/ captains have a choice. And the choice does not need to be based on skills or price, it can be based on where they actually want to spend the long and sometimes lonely refit period. Many more than just a merry few are raising their hands (and moving their yachts) saying, “España, por favor.”
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Well not so much ‘new’ because Armada Engineering have been delivering ground-breaking solution in marine hydraulics and engineering for the past 30 years from their base in Falmouth, UK. But through market demand in the Spanish refit arena, Armada have proudly opened a facility at MB92 in Barcelona.
Armada Engineering Managing Director Joff Collins says, “The fast-growing superyachts sector represents a fantastic opportunity for Armada Engineering. This is an area where we already have excellent experience, having worked on some of the world’s top superyachts. For example, we designed the hydraulic starting system for the world’s fastest superyacht, which is owned by the Aga Khan. There is huge potential for our business to expand its superyacht customer base across Europe and further afield. Our new base in Barcelona will enable us to grow this area of our business significantly and we are really looking forward to working as part of the team at MB92.” The new workshop at MB92 Barcelona is the latest development in a period of rapid growth for Armada Engineering, which has seen a string of new contract wins since its management buy-out in 2017 and its brand relaunch in July 2018.
Armada design, build and install innovative, state of the art systems that are bespoke to our clients’ needs. The sleek designs incorporate highly efficient, leak-free functionality combined with the minimisation of noise and vibration, a vital bonus for the superyacht industry.
Collins emphasises that, “For maintenance of superyacht systems, our team of engineers based in Falmouth and MB92 can be mobilised to any location in the world. They will work closely with the ship management team and yard and take responsibility for maintaining optimum performance of all our systems.”
So in short, refit and repair in Spain is growing, supported by an ever expanding team of experts, that are willing to work together to deliver projects on time and in budget. They are both innovative and willing to invest in their future to keep pace with the world of superyachts design and engineering.