Posted Feb. 5, 2015, 2 p.m.
BOOMING BARCELONA - A Superyacht ‘City’ Refit
by Norma Trease, Yachting Matters Edition26 Spring/Summer 2014
Barcelona, one of the world’s most vibrant and intoxicating cities, has in recent years become an increasingly relevant and popular yachting destination. Already home to some of the best known Superyacht businesses around and with more making their homes here as they utilise the excellent support from municipal officials, Barcelona and the nearby Balearic Islands are poised to take advantage of their prime locations to host even more of the largest and most beautiful yachts afloat. It’s a story of vision and rejuvenation that has brought to life a much needed new resource for the global yachting community.
As the largest city bordering the Mediterranean and with a huge, always busy commercial port, Barcelona was first introduced to the yacht world when they hosted the 1992 Olympics which broadcast stunning images of the harbour as a backdrop to the Games. That year saw the opening of two of Barcelona’s most important yacht facilities: MPV (Marina Port Vell) and MB’92 (Marina Barcelona 92.)
Located within the original inner harbour of Barcelona, a natural bight first discovered by the Romans and Phoenicians, Marina Port Vell was opened as BCN’s first yacht marina just in time for the Olympics and has hosted some of the world’s finest yachts ever since. In 2010, the UK firm Salamanca Group acquired the marina and has been engaged in a major renovation and expansion project, which will before the end of this year see the delivery of 165 state-of-the-art yacht berths for vessels up to 140m, with extensive amenities including a wine bar/restaurant and a stunning marina services building. The airy glass and steel building, designed by award-winning designers SCOB and El EquipoCreativo and built literally over the water, will house a new reception area, management offices, gym, spa, and a hyper-cool indoor-outdoor crew lounge, a space sure to please hard working captains and crew. Also located there on the upper level will be over 20 offices for marine-related businesses and above that an impressive rooftop lounge/entertainment space.
Salamanca Group Vice-Chairman Uri Nachoom, who has moved to Barcelona to personally spear-head the finishing of this major project, is an enthusiastic supporter of his adopted city and its bright future: ‘the timing of MPV couldn’t be better and we are thrilled to be contributing to the economic fabric of Barcelona. The hundreds of jobs we are creating here will help the city continue its obvious growth and vibrant health. We are proud to be partners in creating a hub of yachting excellence here at MPV and we look forward to being a home port for many world-class yachts who will surely enjoy the quality marina and service that we are creating for them in what we believe will be the Med’s best yacht facility.’
Just as elsewhere throughout the port of Barcelona, MPV has become a magnet for new yachting businesses that are flocking here to establish themselves ahead of the pack. Already committed to new offices at MPV are BWA (Blue Water Alliance) which will base their Spanish headquarters here, headed up by the dynamic AntonelladellaPietra. Coming soon is also S.O.S. Yachting, a company founded by Alex Mazzoni that specialises in helping yachts with legal and contractual issues. Sotheby’s Realty believes that both berth sales and real estate services to clients will make their new double-sized office here another success for the firm.
Very exciting is the opening of Elite Crew International with their first office away from their home base in Fort Lauderdale. Karina Roholte Befeld, Founder of ELITE says ‘We are very excited to be involved in the extensive growth in Barcelona. With our expansion to the new location in MPV we will be closer to theexclusive clientele that we cater to and we will personally be able to offer an even higher level of global service to Owners, Captains and Crew alike.’
MB’92 is a serious repair and refit shipyard with every resource needed for large motor and sailing yachts and it is an official warranty yard for several Superyachtbuilders including Lürssen and Feadship. Under the careful leadership of Managing Director Pepe García-Aubert, MB’92 has followed a steady path of growth, expanding and modernizing their facilities constantly. Beginning in 2004 they began a major and visionary expansion plan, almost doubling their already impressive facilities. Their enormous graving dock only recently held a collection of yachts large enough to impress the most knowledgeable of yacht fans: Eminence, Dilbar and the mighty Eclipse - totalling a whopping 352m. They can accommodate individual yachts up to 180m and have assets including a 210m dry-dock and a 125m floating and covered paint shed. With ever larger Superyachts becoming more prominent in the yard’s operations MB’92 have been very careful to continue its support of yachts in the 30m to 60m range with its 150 ton Travelift and 2,000 ton Syncrolift.
García-Aubert explains, ‘We have the good fortune of being in what many consider to be best city in the Mediterranean, with a port that has extraordinary potential and important investment projects besides ours, like those of Marina Port Vell and Marina Nueva Bocana. We will continue working for the excellence of the nautical industry, both recreational and professional, with the involvement of the City Council and the Port of Barcelona. We plan to transform the city into the new Superyacht centre for the Mediterranean.’
MB’92 not only looks after over 100 major yachts each and every year, but is also home to several other leading yacht service businesses including worldwide yacht paint specialists Pinmar, who have a retail shop and office, they have of course for many years made excellent use of the MB92 paint sheds. Hello Yachts, a yacht agent and concierge service led by the lovely Helena Guardiola, has been based here for years and recently moved into one of the many newly renovated historical buildings on the MB’92 site.
MB’92 has also attracted a number of other businesses which will now call Barcelona home including Bond Technical Managementand the world’s largest marine insurance broker Willis. ‘We realised that, in order to grow our Superyacht business and raise our profile in the Med, we needed to physically be here’ says Mark Feltham, managing partner of Willis, further explaining, ‘we spent the best part of two years looking at all the obvious locations before concluding that Barcelona (more specifically MB’92) fulfilled all the criteria on our list. A rapidly growing, well respected and already established shipyard in a city that was clearly keen on attracting more Superyacht clientele ticked all our boxes.’
Perhaps the most exciting of all the new set ups in MB’92 is the newly opened Nautical Academy, located in the gorgeous Sovren House. The facility was only recently renovated by MB’92 to house this important new concept business which offers yacht crew training in everything from STCW and fire-fighting to executive level training for chefs and pursers. Cpt. Steve White, owner of brokerage firm IYR, and founder of the Nautical Academy, is definitely bullish about the great future ahead for Barcelona’s yachting scene,‘we have had a wonderful response to the Nautical Academy since opening our doors only a few months ago – we see Barcelona as an increasingly important business hub and feel that more and more of our business will come from here. The yachting community in Barcelona is powerful and the chance to work co-operatively with the many great partners here makes doing business not only successful but enjoyable as well.’ Obviously the Nautical Academy is a resource for yacht crew that will have a profound impact in making their professional lives easier, and is also a fantastic addition to the business scene in Barcelona.
We must not forget the many businesses which have long made Barcelona home and which continue to thrive and grow in this hot-bed of yachting excellence. There are for instance the crew uniform company Deckers, headed up by David Ireland and founded decades ago in Palma and now with outlets throughout Europe. They have had several offices in Barcelona over the years and are now perfectly situated in MB’92 itself and yet located only a few meters from MPV, as David told us, ‘we are so close to the large yachts, our clients, it is a win-win situation for both us and the yachts, it is perfect, and as we see more and more of our clients pulling in here every year our client base can only grow’. Also here are dynamic yacht agents Evolution, headed up by husband and wife team John and Belen Shinske. They have a large retail shop in addition to offices in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. Highly experienced yacht agents Intra Marine have been based in their office-with-a-view next to Marina Port Vell for over ten years. Sergio Ravenet, owner of Boatwash, which started out detailing on mid-sized boats and supplying Helly Hansen Workwear to mega yacht crews, has further developed into yacht management as Boat Charter BCN, a charter business promoting day/weekend trips from Barcelona. He confirms his vision of the future ‘At the moment there is a big demand for chartering yachts locally during the summer months with day charter clients that are seeking to just go anchor off the beach or take a day trip to Sitges on a nice yacht. I think this demand will increase in the future after the new MPV marina is completed.’
Crew uniform supply company, Smallwoods, is another pioneer, expanding from Fort Lauderdale, first to Antibes and now to Barcelona. Hunter Cwalinski, the son of Smallwoods founder Helen Smallwood-Cwalinski has moved to Barcelona and says ‘we came here to test the waters for 12 months in order to determine whether the market warranted us establishing a full time office. After only five months we've gotten our answer, which is a resounding ‘yes’.Barcelona is on the rise in the yachting industry and we have every intention of remaining a part of it.’
The ripple effect of yachting on the city of Barcelona cannot be discounted, with the rise of related businesses nearby such as the new Hotel H10 Port Vell, and the residence 1840 Apartments which are called home by Hunter Cwalinski, Paul Lowndes of Salamanca Technical Services (MPV project managers), and the new Managing Director of MPV, Marcel Brekelmans. There are plans afoot to establish crew houses in the neighborhood as well (which could be called an investment tip.) It wouldn’t be a yacht port without great crew bars, and the very popular bar/restaurants MakaMaka and FOC definitely benefit from yacht crew trade by offering regular crew theme nights –and any day of the weekthey are THE places to meet and greet friends from near and far.
There has been a lot of press regarding the changes to the dreaded Spanish Matriculation Tax. This hull tax, which has stymied chartering in Spanish waters for decades, is undergoing major changes. Significant exceptions to the tax have been announced, which will greatly increase the number of charter yachts operating in the region as the regulations continue to loosen up. One of the leading experts in this subject is Alex Chumillas, owner of legal and tax firm Tax Marine – who also helped lead the charge to convince the authorities to make this much needed change.
Recognizing the importance of the yacht sector to the local economy, MPV, MB’92, Tax Marine, the Port Authorities of BCNand the local government have founded the Barcelona Nautical Cluster, dedicated to supporting marine-related businesses and spreading the word about the business-friendly atmosphere that exists here. This organization has been very busy, organizing a study of the economic impact on the region of the yachting trade, including reaching out to established organizations such as the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) and visiting other yachting destinations including Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and St Maarten. Mentioning other new developments, including the recent announcement of the soon-to-come marina Nuevo Bocana Nord by Formentera Mar, Mr. Toni Tio, Director of the Nautical Cluster, believes that the nautical sector offers only good economic prospects for Barcelona - not only for Superyachts, but for local businesses which specialize in yachts under 20m. He says ‘this area of economic development is a good project for BCN. This business area is a fact, with the reality of projects like MB’92, MPV and now Nuevo Bocana, BCN is becoming a trademark destination. The authorities are obviously now understanding the strategic potential of yachting in Barcelona and the entire region. We are here to support the efforts of every nautical business and expect to see healthy, continued growth.’
So, please do come visit Barcelona, where the weather is great, the city is incredible, the food is wonderful - and the yacht scene is hot, and growing fast!
Author Norma Trease, our Editor-At-Large, is also the head of Salamanca Marine, a division of Salamanca Group.