Refit Shipyards in Northern Europe - Which to Choose?
Most superyachts at some point undergo a refit, very often the case if they have just been bought by a new owner who wants to put his or her stamp on the style and layout. The upgrading of internal systems, machinery electronics and audio visual are usually undertaken at the same time as interior décor layout and extensions, all bringing the yacht back to top condition.
There are other common practical reasons for a superyacht to go in for a refit including surveys & inspections for audits, five-year statutory surveys required by flag states, routine maintenance work or systems overhauls; antifouling, hull and superstructure painting, rig & spar inspections on sailing yachts which involves unstepping the rig on the dockside..the list in truth is endless...
Choosing a yard
Following a bit of preliminary research, choosing a refit yard can be a reasonably straightforward choice if one particular facility shows a glowing track record with the type of yacht involved. Other considerations often come down to recommendation, geographical location, or finding one which has a vacancy within the owner’s required lead time.
A good refit yard, working with their specialised associates, will cover virtually every requirement of a refit including machinery, electrics, hydraulics, interior design, engineering, carpentry and joinery, metal work, fabrication and more.
Ideally an owner will want to get all the work completed at one yard. While most refit yards offer a wide range of services, some may specialise in a certain area or a yacht may need to move between facilities for different parts of the refit; other yards may stipulate which service agents can work in the yard - or may only allow in house services to be used, all factors to be taken into account when choosing a yard.
Refit or new-build?
While buying a new yacht is always a popular choice, many owners will prefer to convert an existing vessel to their requirements. The yacht may already be close to what they want and just needs a new cinema room, Jacuzzi or additional deck, or it may have potential for the new owner’s particular purpose, like converting a commercial vessel to a luxury explorer for high latitude cruising.
Buying second hand has obvious benefits, but timescale is probably the biggest draw to refitting a pre-owned boat. A new build can take several years whereas a refit might take just six months. It is estimated that the average refit cost including purchase is one third that of buying new.
A selection of Northern Europe’s top yards
There are over 300 superyacht refit yards worldwide but in this article we are taking an overview of the yards in just one region – Northern Europe – a region which is home to some of the largest yards in the world in terms of yacht size, capacity and capability, and for which we have received Captain's recommendations for.
Here we pick out eight of the top Northern European yards...listed geographically by country ....
Pendennis Shipyard, established in 1988, has its headquarters strategically located in the deep-water port of Falmouth in Cornwall, England. The yard is busy with both refits and custom builds and has over the years refitted some benchmark sailing yachts including the three-masted 65m schooner Adix, and the unusually beamy 44m catamaran Hemisphere, which could be accommodated and completed there.
The yard has also given structural and cosmetic makeovers to several classic motoryachts including the rebuilding of 50m motoryacht Malahne, which underwent a 30-month major restoration and had her 80 year old machinery rebuilt, returning the 1930s classic to pristine condition. One of the largest projects completed was the rebuild and redesign of 85.6m motoryacht Aquila (ex. Cakewalk), including a new cinema room and owner’s deck.
Pendennis opened a refit workshop in Palma, Mallorca in 2011 to provide routine maintenance and interim works. To date the company has built over 30 luxury yachts and conducted refit works on a further 250 vessels.
Currently there is a workforce of some 460 highly skilled tradespeople and support staff, a sizeable number of who have benefitted from the company’s apprenticeship scheme.
Compositeworks, one of the largest superyacht refit yards in the world, has facilities in La Ciotat and La Rochelle, providing for every aspect of large yacht refits, from basic maintenance to extremely complex major modifications. The Compositeworks shipyards cater for yachts over 30 metres in length, and have handled megayachts in excess of 100 metres.
In total, the dry-docks at the facilities measure more than 1.5km end to end! The company is still expanding, with the addition of a 190m unit which has just opened in La Rochelle. 6500m2 of build sheds cater for vessels up to 50m. Compositeworks has recently been acquired by the giant Barcelona based MB92, and handles around an impressive 100 refits a year.
Recent projects have notably included the refit of the 107 metre expedition megayacht Ulysses, including fairing and painting of the hull, new crew quarters and VIP balconies.
Founded, believe it or not, in 1798, Balk Shipyard is still run by the Balk family and has transformed over the last 220 years into a state of the art facility. There are two refit halls for yachts up to 45 metres and 65 metres respectively, and a construction hall. All three are fully air-conditioned and equipped with floor heating. Each hall contains a rail system connected to the slipway and an overhead crane so that yachts are easily lifted out of the water and positioned on a rail track for moving to the right hall.
In the yard now is 57 metre Dancing Hare (ex. Lady Mona K, ex. Lady Ghislaine) for extensive work through the 2018 spring. Dancing Hare was built by Amels in 1986. She is a great example of a yacht whose new owner wants to bring her up to condition – her last big refit was in 1993.
A notable Balk project was the rebuild of Sandalphon a couple of years ago – she was literally cut in half twice and extended in two separate places. The 31m explorer yacht now boasts a luxury specification and has a bar and lounge on the top deck with panoramic views.
Founded in 1884, Royal Huisman builds some of the finest sailing superyachts in the world. Huisfit, Royal Huisman’s dedicated refit department offers everything from cosmetic repairs to hull and interior modifications as well as machinery, systems and rig overhauls, the updating of electronics, and more, including the necessary in-house design to support these services.
Three locations across the Netherlands can accommodate any sailing or motor yacht up to 150m in purpose built, state of the art halls next to the dockside. Huisfit has refitted numerous Royal Huisman-built yachts including Hyperion, Antares, Arcadia and the 32m Gliss. But yachts don’t have to be Huisman built. The company has also carried out work on Eos, Skat, Samurai and Adèle. Right now the company has the magnificent own-built schooner Meteor, a 169.26ft (51.59m) gaff schooner in the yard.
The large dry dock - 150m long, 50m wide and 10m deep – at Icon Yachts in Harlingen can accommodate four 70m vessels simultaneously, or up to six 50m yachts, with a mast clearance height of 28m at NAP. The yard has 500m of secure protected mooring in a sheltered deep-water harbour, unrestricted by locks, dykes or bridges.
Icon’s Harlingen yard is in a very sheltered location just 2.5 miles of clear access from the North Sea, with no locks or obstacles to navigate.
MY Sherakhan, 70 meter explorer motor yacht has just been given an extreme makeover at the yard, transformed from a classic vintage look to a harmonious modern minimalistic style, in Icon’s words. Electric systems include new cabling to upgraded AVTV systems and installation of the latest high tech onboard systems. Also in the yard is Project Ragnar which is being converted from a 48m offshore supply vessel to a luxurious explorer vessel.
The company is skilled across a range of craft and has also extensively upgraded and repaired the authentic replica of the famous 1908 gaff schooner Germania, named Germania Nova. The facilities and location were amongst the reasons for the owner’s choice of yard.
Founded in 1877, Blohm+Voss became part of the Lürssen group in 2016 and now its major refit activities are undertaken at the Blohm+Voss facilities, under the Lürssen label.
The shipbuilding giant has yards throughout Germany and includes superyacht refit as part of its core portfolio.
With 451,000 square metres of yard, including 92,000 square metres of covered facilities, Lürssen can undertake multiple refits at a time – regardless of yacht size or which shipyard the yacht was built in.
From major renovations to onsite restorations, or year round services to keep a vessel operating at its best, Lürssen can undertake any kind of refit or repair job.
With a staff 2700, Lürssen not only has the space but the manpower of 700+ engineers and naval architects, and a multitude of craftsmen to tackle any project.
Nobiskrug operates from three facilities in northern Germany, all in locations with a significant shipbuilding tradition. With 44,000 sq m of shed space, drydock and covered dry dock Nobiskrug boasts a facility which has no limit in the size of superyacht they can welcome for refit. Their biggest dry dock available at their Kiel facility is over 400 m long and 90 m wide. The company is known for building some of the world’s largest and most iconic superyachts including the revolutionary 140m sailing yacht ‘A’ and the 92m motor yacht Tatoosh.
Top composite boatbuilder Baltic Yachts, founded in 1973, has built everything from 38ft racing yachts to some of the world’s most recognised fast sailing superyachts, including the 2017-launched Pink Gin, at 175m the largest carbon fibre sailing yacht in the world. The company has a full service and refit capability at its waterside headquarters in Jakobstad, Finland as well as a facility in Palma.
Refit services and lifelong yacht support are now considered by Baltic Yachts to be inextricably linked to the purchasing process of a new yacht with regular five-year classification surveys, maintenance programmes and more built in schedules from the outset. New projects just completed include the refit on Baltic 112 Nilaya, including fitting of a new engine, replacement of all standing rigging and extensive engineering and systems maintenance. Regular maintenance was also carried out in late 2017 on the Baltic 108 WinWin, the recently sold 2006 Baltic 152 Pink Gin, Baltic 83 Gof, Baltic 87 Anny and the 83ft motor yacht Sunny Day.