Monaco Marine: Thinking big in the world of refit

Written by Ellie Brade

The name Monaco Marine needs little introduction, as one of the superyacht industry’s best-known refit yards, with a network of seven yard sites and the original marina in Monaco, tailored for the refit and service of yachts up to 180m+. Founded by Michel Ducros in 1995, the company has gone from strength to strength and with many plans for the future they’re not sitting idle. SuperYacht Times sits down with Michel Ducros and his son Tanguy to learn more about the journey behind this remarkable industry success story.Michel DucrosIn the nearly 25 years since Michel Ducros established Monaco Marine, the superyacht industry has evolved a huge amount. “A lot has changed, there are many more boats and the size of those boats are much bigger,” says Michel. “Back when we started a 30-metre yacht was a large boat and a 35-metre was a huge boat!” Although the yachts they were servicing were, for the most part, much smaller than today, right from the start Michel had an expansive vision for the future of Monaco Marine. “When we first started out we saw the opportunity of combining quality of work and expansion, by recruiting and training the best managers thanks to the network which allows them to meet more opportunities and challenges than a single site.” This approach included consolidating the shipyard and suppliers under an experienced management operation to deliver a high-quality service.Monaco Marine La Seyne refit yardPhoto: Guillaume Plisson / Monaco MarineThe business began in 1995 with two sites, in Saint Laurent du Var and Monaco, closely followed by the addition of Beaulieu-sur-Mer in 1997. But Michel’s ambitions for the company meant that the long-term business plan included expansion to several more sites. “Best project management and flexibility for our clients meant we had to be able to offer several points of service, and that meant more shipyards,” says Michel. A key event in the company’s history was the opening of the huge La Ciotat site, which totals 45, 000sqm of platform, with facilities including a 90-metre paint shed and two dry docks up to 180 metres.

Discussions first began around the La Ciotat yard in 2000, with the site eventually opening in 2007, which unfortunately coincided with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008. It goes without saying that this timing was unfortunate, due to the wide negative impact on the superyacht industry as a whole. Fortunately, due to the refit and maintenance requirements of an ageing fleet and the quality of its management, the company was able to see out the challenging years that followed the GFC. “There were some tough times, but also some good times,” says Michel. “It was a long 5 years after the GFC hit but we survived because we were continually investing in our facilities and making sure we were offering a world-class service.”

Monaco Marine La Seyne refit yardPhoto: Guillaume Plisson / Monaco MarineLooking to the future, Monaco Marine remains committed to this strategy of network and its Secretary General Chantal Lemeteyer is always looking for opportunities to keep adding to its portfolio. This ambition comes with its own challenges, with quality facilities in key locations proving difficult to find. “It’s not easy to find new spaces, but we are looking and when it comes to shipyard sites for sale or to create we are candidates, for sure,” says Michel. The Mediterranean will always be the main hub for Monaco Marine, with particular ambitions for a site in Italy or Spain, although Michel is open to the idea of a Caribbean facility one day. One of the most recent additions to the Monaco Marine network is a new Marseille site. Announced in 2018, a partnership with the Port of Marseille shipyard will see the opening of a new maintenance and refit hub dedicated to the largest yachts. “It’s a huge project but it will be an absolutely amazing facility.” 

The marina in Monaco is highly enjoyable as a showcase for the group, but the shipyard network will always remain the primary focus. “Our core business is shipyards and always will be, and we are continually focusing on ways to improve the quality and efficiency of our service company,” says Tanguy. “We are steadily working on improving our project management capacity.” Tanguy Ducros Finding and retaining skilled craftsmen and women is always a challenge and the yard is committed to training its staff and keeping the best of them on as an investment in its future. “We make sure all our people keep the DNA of Monaco Marine in all that they do, in order to equip them with the skills they need and keep them with us long term,” says Tanguy. “We believe that people will stay with us if they are always learning and able to keep improving their skillset.” The company has attracted team members from around the world, understanding the importance of a multi-national team as a way of supporting a very international industry. “Today’s industry is led by a wide range of nationalities, and we are really proud to have a team from numerous countries with more than 16 languages spoken between our staff members,” explains Tanguy. A love of the sea, and a commitment to the marine industry is another factor that the Ducros’ believes make the Monaco Marine team special. “The sea is an important part of who we are, as is an understanding of different cultures, especially as cultural difference makes a big difference when it comes to generating managerial relationships with clients.”

In 2018 Monaco Marine announced a formal refit partnership with Feadship, which will include being a part of the Feadship Services Network and also delivering refit support to the Feadship Heritage Fleet. This kind of relationship is a cementing of the long-term relationships that Monaco Marine enjoys with numerous build yards. “We believe this offering is complementary to what we do, and the main thing for us is that we provide an expert service to clients and this kind of arrangement helps us be more efficient and to provide better service and advice,” says Michel. “At the end of the day we have the capacity and facilities for these kinds of projects and working with us helps deliver the best possible experience for yards and their clients.”Monaco Marine Photo: Guillaume PlissonOver the past 25 years, Michel believes that the world of refit has evolved along with the yachts it is serving, and that this is largely a positive thing. “For me, today a shipyard is no longer just a shipyard, you have to offer many other things, such as the crew and service aspect, and shipyards place greater focus on the clients’ experience and journey.” As a key player within the refit sector there are plenty of chances to reflect on opportunities for the refit market to grow and develop. “I think there is always room for improvement, but generally speaking everything is conducted in a more professional way these days, and that has seen many different industry-wide improvements.” 

One major influence on the refit sector has been the increased complexity of yachts, which then demand a higher level of maintenance. “Boats today are much more complex than they used to be and need upgrading every five years or so; we are also seeing a lot more interior work as the second hand market is still buoyant.” Overall, the Ducroses believe that the demands of modern boats mean that the refit sector is always increasing. “The bottom line is that the growing number of second hand yachts undergoing refit work has created an increase in refit work and for customisation.”Monaco Marine Photo: Guillaume PlissonLooking to the future, one area of development is a commitment to investing in sustainability efforts, and the company is relishing the chance to make changes for good. “This is a very exciting challenge, not just for us but for the industry too,” says Tanguy. “We all respect the sea and it is about harnessing community, training people and finding ways to make a difference.”

Now in his seventieth year, Michel has involved Tanguy who oversees Sales and Marketing in the business, which very much remains a family affair. A former sailor himself, Michel is open to coming back to yachting as an owner, with a family-focused yacht possibly on the cards. “I take a lot of pleasure from yachting, and I like to be my own captain, so I will probably opt for a family-like trawler.” A yacht would likely provide some much-deserved downtime away from the business, which Michel is confident is in excellent hands. Or perhaps, more likely, as a base for dreaming up yet more business ideas. It will come as no surprise that Michel still has plenty of ambitions for Monaco Marine, with ongoing plans for growth. “We’re not done yet, there’s still lots to do,” he laughs.  

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