The Refit Reign in Spain


Never let it be suggested that social media has no real effect on the superyacht industry. If ever proof were needed then look no further than the business of refitting yachts in Spain where, if the growth in the number of yachts using the shipyards there had to be put down to a single factor, it would undoubtedly suggested that social media chit chat between crews is being used by Captains and engineers to recommend

one service over another. Equally if yards get things wrong those same communicators are quick to voice their feelings to the superyacht community as a whole.

Word of mouth clearly plays an important role in the expansion of Spain’s refit business. Speaking about his experiences at the Atollvic Shipyard whilst refitting Seawolf, Captain Shaun L. Preacher said, “As Project Manager as well as Captain, I found the yard personnel to be self-motivated, highly skilled, with a work ethic that is second to none. The skill with which they performed their work is on par with the finest yards in Europe and the finished works attest to their abilities. I would certainly bring any re-fit project I have to Atollvic Shipyard.”

The collection of highly qualified marine engineers based in Mallorca and particularly those working in STP Palma also come in for a lot of praise. There are over 400 yacht specialist companies located within a 5 mile radius of the shipyard. Each is able to offer efficient, productive and sensible approaches when it comes to a refit. Work lists are drawn up based on specific skill requirements, allowing time to carry out the works within cost constraints while still allowing a totally tailor made project that suits the clients needs the best.

Captains and engineers like the fact that the Shipyard operates an open door policy allowing all yacht specialist companies access to carry out works providing they have the required documentation to show they are a bone fide operating company. The facility features; a refuelling dock, 600 amp electricity, a 700 tonne travel lift, and 5 other travel lifts of various sizes. It has berthing for 53 yachts up to 120 metres and over 100,000 m2 of hard standing with 6 keel pits. Onsite contractors have their own workshops, which benefit from 24 hour patrolled and CCTV security. STP staff operate all on site emergency services and even have their own fire truck.

Clearly, the network of quality contractors and suppliers that now exists around the shipyards is now very well established in Spain and boats are becoming be assured that they will get the best product or service made available to them.

Captain Jake Hall of Hampshire II has high praise of the facility and in particular of one contractor based there. He says, “During last winter, Hampshire II needed a full exterior paint refit among other winter work. We employed Nic Clarke, the owner of Pure Superyacht Refit, as our Project Manager during those six months.”

“Part of the paint refit included a hull colour change, which required all the hull shell doors to be removed. The process was delicate and required the coordination and management of multiple parties, both local and foreign specialists, commercial port authorities, STP and paint contractors. Nic handled this process very impressively, his communication skills and professional approach resulted in us getting the right permissions to use the commercial port, a very difficult task on its own as the commercial port is normally restricted to yachts. His foresight and understanding of a very complex operation helped us tremendously in getting the job done on time and correctly. An experienced manager would’ve have struggled at the basic level of this operation and Nic did a superb job in keeping control of the whole process and the multiple facets involved.”

“Nic’s experience in refits and his demands for the highest of standards has also benefited us as he is part of our quality control and success of the projects carried out. His opinion and knowledge can be trusted in all areas of refit work, exterior deck related, interior cosmetic as well as engineering works.”

The knowledge, experience and relationships Nic has with all contractors and suppliers has allowed myself, my crew and the HODs the freedom to concentrate on our own respective responsibilities, with the confidence of knowing that all the refit works were progressing on schedule and to the required standard. His personal hands on management and project oversight also contributed to continuity throughout the refit when some of my senior crew members rotated on leave.”

Nic is modest when confronted with such praise and acknowledges that, “Business has been good and has progressed at a steady rate yearly.” He adds, “We don’t go after every project but do look out to see if we can find projects that are going to need the sort of assistance we best provide.”

So as a result of all the social media activity, is there an increase in the number of yachts choosing Spain over other countries? “Yes,” says Nic Clarke at Pure Superyacht Refit. “I think as more and more people experience the service we can provide in Palma the confidence that we can perform to the highest standards of delivery has resulted in word of mouth recommendations which naturally has increased the demand for Spain for refit works. Also as this confidence grows so does the size of the vessels now choosing Palma. Our average size vessel with a good portion of business coming from the 70 metre plus range.”

Brendon Jost, whose company Carpentry and Boat Building Services better known locally as CABBS, is also located within the STP complex. He feels sure the quantity of refit work has increased over the past five years. He explains, “My business has been relatively steady and increasing each year. The type of work we are asked to do varies every year and no two years ever seem to be the same but the overall volume of work is increasing. He adds, “To be truthful I really wouldn’t know if a yacht has already decided to come here over another port, or whether social media activity is to get the credit but I can tell you I am steadily getting new clients despite the fact that most of the captains I talk to seem to know about what Spain has to offer and especially here in Palma de Mallorca.”

Also based in Mallorca Modesty was formed in 1999 by Phil Spear and Jon Winstanley as yacht carpentry company, specialising in decking, furniture and interior decoration projects. They developed, within the company, two separate teams with one specialising in teak deck works and the other in interior refits, exterior furniture, capping rails, gratings so as to be able to provide a full service to all their clients. Using noninvasive laser measuring equipment and CNC machinery, the company is able to measure, design and fabricate a new deck accurate to within 0.5mm over 45 metres.

One great advantage of this is that all the stages of measuring and design are carried out in-house given them a far greater control over the end result. Modesty has an in-house interior design department and also an upholstery company enabling them to offer a complete interior refit service. Whether to co-ordinate a project with the owner’s design team or provide a complete turn-key service they take total control from the initial concept right through to the handing over of the finished product.

With over 20 years experience crewing superyachts, Absolute Boat Care under the directorship of Duncan Sykes, understands the requirements and demands of captains and owners alike. Based in the STP shipyard the company offers a wide choice of antifoul solutions and employ a large, professional team who always have the capabilities to undertake on any job, whatever the size.

BMComposites consists of a highly professional team of managers, designers and technicians experienced in the field of composite yacht construction. This flexible and innovative team have combined experiences that spans over three decades and includes some of the largest and most innovative composite projects attempted to date. Speaking for the firm Mark Branagh says, “We are committed to using the latest developments in carbon fibre technology and CNC tooling to ensure efficiency in production and the highest quality end product. He adds, “Our production team use the latest cloud based systems for tracking man hours and materials. Our management team have access to daily time and progress reports and can provide clients with a wealth of information.”

Set up in 1990 and known island wide as The Welding Workshop, Ruben Doñaque, a long established family run engineering business in Mallorca, offers specialised welding, metal repairs and fabrication. They work with all metals and alloys, such as stainless steel, aluminium, mild steel, copper-nickel and others.

Rubén is making sure that the family´s legacy still continues to thrive. Never turning down any jobs even no matter how small hey may seem, and always providing a very ingenious and professional service, his team strives to provide the best solution and service to their customers, getting the job done as quickly as possible and producing the best quality products.

Miller Marine is an international marine consultancy providing services specialising in Marine Surveying, Naval Architecture and Project Management. They are governed by ISO quality standards, our professional institutions and the authority delegated from key Flag State Administrations and EU Notified Bodies. They have in their Mallorca base a team that can survey yachts and provide a full range of services including Condition & Pre-Purchase Surveys, Statutory Flag Surveys, Project Management, Naval Architecture and Design throughout the island. When asked if business has increased recently in Spain Tracey Miller says, “As the volume of boats in operation has increased (both private and commercial) the Spanish marinas and shipyards have responded by increasing capacity (to provide space to haul out larger /higher tonnage vessels) and adapted their infrastructure to make them a serious contender for owners, captains and project managers. The surge in business has enabled many of the shipyards to develop the quality of workmanship and provision of services has improved in recent years.”

So if Spain is on the up and up which countries are losing out? At Cabbs Brendon Jost is not so sure. “But I would say probably France may have lost a bit, I have heard that their laws are making it less attractive for boats to do work there, again that’s just hearsay I can’t confirm that. I would also say that as the installations are becoming bigger and bigger here then areas like northern Europes would be losing a bit of the smaller refit contracts probably just due to the location of Palma and not having to travel so far north to do the work.”

Following their 25th anniversary celebrations last year, MB92 has been busy in a number of areas, all aimed at providing clients comprehensive service. Work continues at pace on their 4000t Shiplift which is due to be completed in 2019. Alongside that work at the facilities in Barcelona, the company has expanded operations through the mergers of Blohm&Voss La Ciotat and Compositeworks, with all three entities now being integrated into the newly formed MB92 Group. The group is currently delivering around 100 projects per year and with the average size of superyachts being launched over the last 3 years at over 100m in length, the MB92 group believes it is now positioned as a global refit centre able to cater to every client need now and into the future.

If ever there was someone we could ask about who is losing out to Spain it is MB92. They believe, “France and Italy are the two main locations currently losing strength in the refit and repair market, not only because of Spain’s gain but also because of the recently implemented regulations and taxes.” They add, “Industrial ports or shipyards with less activity and industry around its facilities are losing clients searching for easy logistic connections and leisure activity for their crew team. The new generation captains are constantly searching for potential new refit hubs. Nowadays we can say Barcelona and the Balearic Islands are one of the top destinations they need to look at.”

“Furthermore,” they say, “Refit centres located in France were badly affected by the ENIM updates released in early 2017 affecting the non-French flagged vessels forced to be subjected to the French social security system for seafarers.”

Recent tax changes, fiscal and social regulations and Maritime safety standards updates have affected the clients’ purchase intent becoming a potential explanation of Italy’s and France’s loss of clients. Miller also adds here, “I have seen an increase in vessels changing from private to commercial to take advantage of chartering in the Balearic Islands and Spain offers a great base to obtain high quality crew and services. I’m not sure if other countries are losing work. The volume of work has increased. Other countries such as Spain are merely responding by offering facilities to take the increased demand.”

Nic Clarke at Pure agrees it is “France and Italy,” adding, “Mainly due to location and price.” Pure specialises in overseeing and managing significant refit projects ranging from all service trades and providers, re¬finishing paint works, engineering, interior fit outs, survey and class compliant works. Nic Clarke says, “Pretty much everything that a superyacht requires to maintain its operation and performance, but we are currently trying to specialise in refits and interior exterior furniture. However we have enough depth of knowledge to do most things like teak decks and teak deck repairs. However if given a choice we prefer the interior joinery.”

Nic Clarke’s Pure has worked on 60 metre CMN and a 72 metre Feadship recently while Cabbs have worked on a number of vessels from a J class sailing yacht, Large Motor boats by Feadship and even a Turkish Gulet. Work included paint works, engineering, interior fit out works, full paint refinishing and in the case of Hampshire II, a hull colour change, engineering and interior upholstery and carpets. Cabbs have undertaken teak deck repairs, caulking repairs on the J class, refitting of bathrooms which they have done a lot this year for some reason on the Feadship and Gulet. Jost says, “We have also done some cabin alterations and forward exterior furniture on the Gulet.”

He added, “As far as I am aware all the clients have been extremely satisfied with our work. I haven’t had any requests for any guarantee work yet either which is always a good sign. They were passing comments like, the boss is extremely happy with the results, that the exterior settee is his favourite spot on the boat, and that we did exceptional work of the bathroom refits. It is nice to hear things like that.”

With business booming in Spain what does the future hold? “Good,” says Nic Clarke, “However it is challenging as the yard is getting booked up earlier and earlier right now there is 50% booking already for Sept 2019, which makes it challenging when brining in significant refits as we only get the approvals in July and Aug of that same year. Brendon Jost is equally confident, “I think the prospects look very good. STP is looking at increasing the size of the vessels they can haul out onto the hard so that will attract larger vessels I am sure. There are always more and more superyachts being built so I think it’s quite positive. The crisis seems to be well and truly gone now so people are ready to spend on their toys once again.”