That is the first impression of Monaco Marine’s section of the La Ciotat refit facility, which is still under construction.


There are three basic elements to the new Rexroth boat lift: a steel platform, which, can be raised, lowered and tilted from an operator’s cabin,

via steel cables; a mobile unit that travels on rails and a platform, which goes on top of the mobile unit, onto which a megayacht can be floated.

Put like that, it all sounds very simple and, in many ways it is, for we were told that the controls to lift and tilt the platform and those used to manoeuvre the mobile unit are as simple as a computer game. Nevertheless, you can get an idea of the sheer scale of the operation by comparing the relative sizes of van, people and cradles, in the lower left picture and imagining a megayacht, of up to 80 metres and 2000 tons, atop all that. Nevertheless, Monaco Marine believes that a team of 8 will be able to move a yacht to a workspace in 4 hours.

The La Ciotat prime mover has 8 electric winches on each side; the world’s largest Rexroth lift unit, with a capacity of 18,000 tons, has 50 winches per side!

Each winch motor and cable has a sensor, reporting to a central unit in the elevated operator’s cabin. A mobile unit containing a generator provides the electrical power to each of the 16 wheel/hydraulic units on the prime mover, via a complex cable system. Each of those units provides both lift and traction.

For over two centuries heavy items have been moved using steel wheels running on rails. Rubber inevitably deteriorates with time, especially when continuously exposed to the sun, whereas this rail system could be functioning a hundred years from now.

The La Ciotat system is laid out as a grid. Central rails lead from the boatlift across the 33,000 square meter concrete apron, with a series of rails - at right angles - at either side. To achieve the 90° turn, the yacht, on its cradle, is lowered to the ground, whilst the wheel assemblies are turned. The yacht is then picked up again and moved into the paint shed, or to one of 14 work stations, where it can be connected to a service point that contains all that is required for living on board. Not surprisingly the electrical supply to the site is high, about the same as the local hospital!

To prevent cracking, from the heavy point loads, the concrete is rather special, with the top 6 cms made up of resin impregnated lean mix.

For washing down, in compliance with European regulations, waste water goes into drainage channels connected to a 600 cubic metre purification system, before discharge into the sea.

All the air, in the 90 metres long painting facility, can be changed 3 times per hour. It is passed through filters, to remove fire hazardous solvents, heated and, finally, ejected to atmosphere in compliance with the region’s rigid environmental standards.

The sophistication and size of the painting facility, compared to the few machine tools in the small engineering workshops, will be a surprise to those familiar with refit facilities at major build yards. In fact, SEDIMEP plan to build sub-contractors workshops on site. In the meantime, Monaco Marine will be using around 200 companies from the surrounding area.

If Captain Ian Soutar, of MY Clarity, is anything to go by, the initial focus on cosmetics is right. His priorities are painting first, engineering last; saying that a winter refit might be €140,000 on cosmetics and about €7,000 on engine servicing.

SS Delphine (pictured below before her restoration) is expected to be the first yacht to use this new facility.