The Malta Independent 15 August 2020, Saturday

The Malta superyachts refit & maintenance industry

Sunday, 19 July 2020, 10:38 Last update: about 29 days ago

Wilfred Sultana

Time and progress brings about changes and new challenges. The growth of yachting on the international scene, both as a sport and as an industry, where the Mediterranean immediately established itself as a favourite region, gave Malta new openings and advantageous opportunities. Since the introduction of the Yachting Centre Regulations in 1967 various initiatives were taken both by government and the private sector to give Malta a remarkably sharp ascent in popularity as a leading yachting destination.


With the introduction of appropriate laws and regulations Malta is today a world leader in the registration of commercial yachts, has the largest European flag and is a leading power in the provision of corporate, legal and tax services to both owners and financiers.

The private sector made great leaps forward indeed: today it operates 11 marinas providing some 2,362 berths and has ventured into all fields as service providers to the industry - the like of registration, fiscal benefits, legal and corporate services, tax advisors, marine surveyors, service agents, mechanical and electrical engineering, oil spill services, yacht brokers, management companies, maintenance and repair subcontractors, chandlers, supplies, bunkering and any kind of activity that can be of service to yachts and yachtsmen.

For many years Maltese craftsmen have given proof of their skills in meeting the demands of military ships maintenance and refit. This background was instrumental in giving our workers, of different skills, the opportunity to develop into mastering repair services, both afloat and in floating docks, of various types of vessels such as tankers, bulk carriers, rigs, AHTS and passenger ships too. The establishing and growth of the yachting sector gave our shipyards a stirring new opportunity to join the lucrative bandwagon of a successful industry.

A study carried out by Ernst and Young in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce in 2018, stated that suggestive figures and estimates point to a €100m turnover from operators within the industry. The economic impact of such income, which excluded direct revenues generated from taxation and flag registration fees, is regarded as hugely significant.

Naturally owners of superyachts and owners of tankers or rigs differ in their key criteria for choosing a yard thus essential upgrading measures of various particularities in our yards was necessary.

There is no standard definition, however, a superyacht generally refers to any yacht (sail or power) longer than 40 metres (131 feet). Taking this length as a yardstick Malta offers six shipyards - Bezzina Yacht Yard, Cassar Marine Group, Manoel Island Yacht Yard, Mediterranean Maritime Hub, Melita Shipyard and Palumbo Malta Superyachts, that can accommodate such yachts.

One aspect I feel is appropriate to mention prior to continuing with our theme of superyachts is about jobs and smaller craft in the maintenance industry.

There are innumerable "small yards" sprouting all over the island. Currently the number of "small craft" is phenomenal. Everyone seems to have a boat nowadays. Therefore the jobs surrounding these small craft have increased proportionately, creating more and more jobs in the sector. The range of jobs has also increased. Today there are "sand blasters" who work only on sailing and motor boats up to 20m in length. Sand blasting was only a large vessel/ship job some time ago. These "specialist jobs" start on small craft and move on to bigger and larger vessels eventually ending up working on superyachts. I exchanged some views on the subject with Simon Zammit, general manager, of Palumbo Malta Superyachts, who offer the largest local facilities in the sector.

Palumbo Malta Superyachts cover an area of 45,000 square metres and includes two dry docks namely (Dock 2) 160m long (28m wide) and (Dock 3) 140m long (23m wide). It comprises a 30m-high paint retractable shed extending 140mt as well as cranes with maximum lifting capacity of 50 tons. The yard also offers 400mt of quays for berths space and repairs.

"Malta Superyachts has been running under the new management of Palumbo Superyachts since 2011 and during these past nine years, we have conducted works on approximately 360 superyachts ranging in size from 30m (98ft) up to 147m (482ft) in length overall.

"The biggest two superyachts we have handled for refit/maintenance were m.y. A+ (formerly known as Topaz) of 147.25m (482ft) length and m.y. Serene of 134m (439ft) length. These stand in the seventh and 15th place respectively of The 20 largest superyachts in the world list.

"Our main target has always been to adapt to our clients' requirements and carry out the work in the most efficient, economic and environment-friendly way possible. To be in line with these objectives, the Yard had to invest in the infrastructure to replace outdated machinery and obtain new equipment to facilitate the work procedures and to fulfill the requirements of the fast-growing superyacht industry," remarked Zammit.

Statistics show that there are some 10,000 yachts of 30m (100ft) or longer in the world with an increase of some 150 new yachts each year while the market for superyachts over 80m is becoming increasingly strong. The primary factor behind this increase in size of superyachts is the growing wealth of the super-rich. Credit Suisse calculates that the number of super-rich worth at least $100m rose from 30,000 in 2010 to 44,800 in 2015, while those with assets above $500m increased from 2,800 to 4,500 in the same period.

Yes, Maltese shipyards are well equipped to meet the main criteria looked for by superyachts - reliability, quality and technical capability. However all concerned are continuously monitoring and investing to keep our Superyachts Refit & Maintenance Industry in line with what it is expected to render in a most competitive market.

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