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Insight: Examining superyacht refit investments

Refit
Written by
Georgia Tindale

In recent years, one of the most striking industry developments has been the growth of superyacht refit. With well-established players in the Mediterranean and Florida quietly enjoying this growth over a longer period of time, Northern European players like the Netherlands and Germany have only begun to reap the benefits of this increase over the last 10 years or so. Derecktor Fort Pierce ShipyardAs the industry grows, shipyards from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe have recently been taking their refit investments to the next level. Yards are investing in significant upgrades to their facilities, from large synchrolifts capable of lifting over 4,000 tons - which could enable yards to deal with very large yachts over 100 metres - to floating docks, to building special, purpose-built facilities dedicated to refitting superyachts. We spoke to representatives from shipyards all around the world, from Europe to the US to Australia to find out their take on the superyacht refit market and their predictions for the future.

When it comes to justifying the substantial investments made in superyacht refit at Monaco Marine, which opened a brand new refit yard in La Seyne-Toulon in November 2018, the answer for Tanguy Ducros, Chief Commercial Officer at the Group, lies in the close examination of the superyacht market. “If you look attentively at the growth of this market, it’s normal that the facilities are expanding to match this increasing number of yachts. According to some market surveys, the market size should reach $74.7 billion by 2022 which is massive compared to the current size. Hence, it is normal that the capacities are increasing - an opposite development would worry me.” Indeed, as the global superyacht fleet continues to grow by close to 150 units per year (according to SuperYacht Times iQ) and with all of these vessels requiring surveys and repairs during their lifetimes, the growth of superyacht refit facilities to match is hardly surprising.MB92 La Ciotat shipyardPhoto: MB92For Pepe García-Aubert, President & CEO of MB92 Group, the increased size of superyachts over the past two and a half decades is another factor which bolsters the justification for these infrastructural investments (such as the 4,800-ton synchrolift which will be inaugurated by MB92 this summer in Barcelona and the 4,000-ton synchrolift in La Ciotat which will be completed in 2022). He explains, “For over 25 years, we have always taken the time to listen and respond to the needs of our clients and the market. In this time, the fastest growing segment has been in larger vessels (between 80 and 120 metres in length) and, as a result of the schedule limitations on dry docking such vessels for refit, I believe that investment has been essential.” 

Indeed, the investment of approximately 33 million dollars in a brand-new refit yard in Fort Pierce, Florida offers Derecktor Shipyard an exceptional opportunity to set themselves apart amongst U.S shipyards, according to Communications Director John Koenig. “We believe a great opportunity exists in the U.S to serve the very large yacht market as there are few yards meeting the particular requirements of these vessels. Derecktor Ft. Pierce will focus on motor yachts of 60 metres, 900 tons and up and sailing vessels 30 metres and up and of almost any existing tonnage. It is anticipated that the facility will boast the world’s largest mobile hoist (1500 tons) as well as a 3500 ton or greater drydock. It offers direct deepwater (8-metre) access from the Atlantic with no overhead obstructions, making it unique among U.S yacht repair facilities.”Derecktor ShipyardsPhoto: Derecktor ShipyardsFrom an owner’s perspective too, refitting a recent yacht as an alternative to buying a new build comes with the obvious advantages of a vastly reduced lead time before delivery and the enjoyment of the yacht can take place. The Dutch shipyard, ICON yachts has cannily tapped into a much-discussed market trend in order to find its niche within the refit market: the trend for exploration vessels. Marcela de Kern Royer, Business Development Consultant at ICON Yachts explains: “The new build waiting list is very long, therefore if you want a new build of over 70 metres built in the Netherlands you must wait a minimum of between 4 to 5 years. We see a lot of extensions and upgrades of existing yachts, where clients realize they can have a bigger yacht and new interior in a short time frame instead of investing in a new build.”

She continues, “The big trend is yacht conversions because you can build it in half the time and almost half the cost. After the success of Legend, and our current conversion project Ragnar in build, we can proudly say that we are the leaders in superyacht conversions and we are happy to cover that niche.”Icon Yachts floating dockFinally, there is evidence of clear untapped potential in refit if you look at countries such as Australia. The Boat Works shipyard, based in the Gold Coast, Queensland is looking to double its footprint to 54 acres in total through the construction of a new superyacht refit yard. Although, as a representative from the yard explains, this new investment has been stimulated by “customer supply and demand [which has] naturally brought way to the upgrades, thanks to a positive turn with our consumers’ boat purchasing”, the support of the regional authorities has also been vital. As well as committing to a dredging programme which will deepen access points into the marine precinct, the government’s Superyacht Strategy for Queensland also has a vital role to play. 

As is explained in the Strategy, they have a vision that “by 2023, Queensland’s share of the global superyacht sector will have increased by 10 per cent, and that Queensland will be recognised as the key superyacht hub in the Asia Pacific region. To achieve this, the state government will take conscious and decisive action to leverage the natural competitive advantages Queensland presents.” With this in mind, therefore the commitment to bolstering refit investments in Australia offers a fascinating insight into potential future growth in the region - although only time will tell if this will come to fruition. The Boat Works North yard artist impressionPhoto: The Boat WorksBearing the above in mind, therefore, it seems likely that shipyards all around the world will continue to increase their investments in superyacht refit facilities over the upcoming years. The justification for these investments is clear, as both the size and the number of vessels in the global fleet continues to grow and today’s discerning owners become wise to the advantages of refitting recent vessels over buying a new build.  

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