Big difficulties for small builders

Company Martorell is President of Spain’s boating industry association, ADIN.

At the Barcelona Boat Show, he talked to BYM’s Aldous Grenville-Crowther, who asked him to start by giving his overview of the Spanish boat building industry.

CM. In Spain, there are mainly builders of boats from 2.5 metres to about 20 metres. A few shipyards build larger boats, of more than 20 metres, but only 2 or 3 boats a year. The typical shipyards here, in Spain, are focused only on the little boats, because - up to now - it has been easier to find places in the harbours. At the moment, there are a lot shipyards in Spain, more than one hundred. It is a similar situation to that in France, where there are also big builders, but a lot more small builders.

There are just a handful of shipyards who build the larger motor yachts in good numbers - yards like Astilleros Astondoa, Rodman Polyships, Tur Marine  who build Faeton and Menorquin Yachts - and they are producing at least 80% of the larger boats and they make up 100% of the export of these boats and about 50% of the total boat production in Spain.

Then there are a few companies, like Rio and Lema, who produce smaller boats in volume, and Duarry produces substantial numbers of inflatables, as does Zodiac from its factory in Spain. North Winds is the only builder of large sailing craft in Spain. They produce at least one yacht each year of 16, 17 or 18 metres, but none of more than 20 metres.

The companies I’ve mentioned produce about 80% of Spain’s production, in monetary terms and the other 20% comes from more than 70 shipyards.

A very few shipyards make megayachts, to special order, perhaps one yacht every two years, always motor yachts and usually of  25 to 30 metres, but sometimes bigger. We do have one designer of megayachts, Marcello Penna Designs and, of course, megayacht refit yards, like Astilleros de Mallorca and Marina Barcelona.

A G-C. In the USA, they have a “Discover Boating” campaign to encourage more people to take up boating. Would it not help the small Spanish companies if ADIN organised something like that?

CM. It is necessary to explain the answer to what might seem a very easy question. UCINA, ADIN’s Italian counterpart has more than 1000 members, FIN has more than 1200 members, Great Britain has more than 2500 members and, in Spain, ADIN has just 165 members. We have a big problem, an economic problem, because - with so few members - it is very difficult to find the money. We have a very small budget. ADIN is a mixture of shipyards and importers for such as Bénéteau, Fairline, other important corporations. It is very difficult to put them all together and make an agreement to start something like that.

A G-C. Is there a way that you might be able to encourage and help these small companies to export their boats?

CM. It is difficult, because they are little companies and they are located all over Spain, so it is difficult to meet them altogether and try to encourage them to go out and sell outside Spain, so they are focusing on the Spanish market. To break into a market outside Spain is very difficult for a small company and expensive. It is a really high investment for them and they are not able to do it, because the main factor of this investment is the warranty to the customer and the after sales service. So, it is very difficult for little companies to break into the export to other countries.

A G-C. Do you get any help from the Spanish Government?

CM. Only for export and with a lot of conditions attached, so it is really difficult; really difficult to meet the conditions. The Export Ministry system helps companies to break into the United States, but only with 20% of the cost, so the 80% is impossible for the small builders. To go to the boat show in Genova, we must have a minimum of 7 companies and then 40% of the cost would be paid, but for a little company that is not enough, they cannot afford the 60%.

At the moment, Spain is comprised of a lot of political compartments; Galicia, Catalonia etc. Each one has its own system and each community has to take care of its own financial affairs and this does not help. The Spanish government is only really interested in assisting companies to export outside the EU such as to the USA and China. At the moment, there is a lot of money available for Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, USA and China, but not for Europe. Europe is a union, but it is not practical.

One basic problem is that France and Italy are selling and building 10 times more boats than Spain, so we cannot compete with them and, if a builder closes it will make no difference to Spain. Also, as Spain imports far more boats than it exports, it is the service companies and the importers that have the influence, not the boat builder.

Here, in Spain, the Government’s focus is on tourism and boat manufacturing is a very minor part of its economy.

A G-C. We see that Spanish marinas are reserving more & more space for larger yachts and some are being built exclusively for megayachts. Won’t this further endanger the small builders and perhaps finally drive them out of business?

Yes, yes, but the port builders are the ones that are making these decisions and they say they want these spaces for the megayachts, so, of course, there will be less room for small boats.

It is an economic question and the reasons are very specific; a little boat only has to pay a little quantity for the mooring and the big boat is paying a bigger mooring fee and spending more in the area. The ideal would be to have harbours with room for little boats, medium boats and megayachts, but it is getting to a stage where there are not enough places in the Mediterranean for these megayachts. France and Italy are almost full and these yachts are very important for tourism, so Spain is waiting for France to be full, so the rest will come here. That is why the port builders are building more and more places for megayachts, as this will be a very important market for the future. Spain will offer good marinas and good service and it also “touristique” here.


A G-C. The majority of large yachts are used for charter. What cruising grounds are there in Spain that would attract megayacht charterers?

I think that Catalonia will be very popular. The Costa Brava is a beautiful and natural coast and there is Barcelona, a big city with all the shops, restaurants, cafés and superb historic palaces and monuments and a yacht that has not gone to the Caribbean, for winter, can be near snow covered mountains. Within 100 kilometres along the coast around Barcelona we have some very good ports and also, further south in Valencia and Alicante, ports are being built for these large boats.

Of course, the captains of the boats prefer to be near a big city, like Barcelona, in the winter, because it has a lot of services and, of course, the crew can go skiing in the mountains!

A G-C. Muchas gracias, Company Martorell.