Cantieri Navali di Sestri: “The lockdown has led to the rediscovery if small and medium boating and the importance of refitting”
Interview with Fulvio Montaldo, patron of Cantieri Navali di Sestri, which has seen a rise in the number of small/medium vessels in the shipyard located in Genova Sestri Ponente, signalling a desire to get back to the sea for small boat owners.
The lockdown has led to the rediscovery of the pleasures and advantages of boating. Not only on mega yachts but also on small and medium sized vessels, which can still guarantee the now-famous social distancing, limit infections with others and enjoy bays and coves even more. And, together with the desire to go out to sea, even small pleasure boaters have rediscovered the importance of refitting, fundamental for enjoying days out at sea safely and calmly, without any unwanted surprises.
This is the impression we have when looking at the shipyard, Cantieri Navali di Sestri, in Genova Sestri Ponente, where, in addition to the main target of 20 to 40 metre long yachts, over the last few weeks, there has been a rise in the number of vessels around 10 metres long, wanting to go back out to sea after they have been checked over. We spoke to Fulvio Montaldo, owner of Cantieri Navali di Sestri.
Fulvio Montaldo, how has the market been after lockdown?
We continued to work during the lockdown, because we were authorised to do so. We had some large vessels, that we brought into dry dock between November and December and we were able to deliver them. The biggest problem was that from February-March the supplies stopped and it was harder to find the materials needed from Lombardy and Piedmont, which are the two regions where we mostly get our supplies.
In addition, after we had delivered these vessels, the other vessels were unable to arrive, especially from abroad, which have come to the shipyard every year. This was the real problem: we lost an entire round of boats in the yard. Half of our yearly turnover comes in between February and May.
We felt the effects of the crisis, like everyone, but it didn’t knock us to our knees. Actually, there was a “surprise” factor, the market of small and medium sized vessels. There has been a huge slice of people who have understood and decided that a boat would be a good solution to the problem of social distancing and all Covid-related problems, and so we found ourselves fixing up a number of boats.
We put every type of vessel imaginable out to sea, even boats in the “lower” part of our market, which is usually from 20 to 40 metres. We have had a lot of boats of around 10-11 metres long. This hasn’t saved the season, because the cost of a 10 metre boat cannot be compared to that of a 40 metre one, but it has helped us keep open.
Has Covid, and all its limitations influenced the owners’ requirements during refitting? Are there new requirements on board?
We have had a number of crews that imposed anti-Covid protocol, but we would have done that anyway. This is to say that no more than two people can be working in the cabins at a time, sanitising the rooms after each job, etc. I have been asked with a certain strictness, and rightly so, to adhere to the protocols and I noticed that the crews were also very sensitive to health safety. More so from the Italians than foreigners, but everyone was careful.
Regarding the market, instead, how has the idea of investing changed in owners after the lockdown?
It is still too early to tell, because we still don’t have valid feedback. For us, the period where we usually work the most, between April and May, has been altered by the lockdown this year. Now we are still preparing the deliveries for the autumn and then the new season. It is still too early to tell what direction the market will take. At the moment there isn’t much because it is normal that that be the case, people are still using their boats. Our proper season for dry berthing begins in October, with the Boat Show.
In your opinion, have the months we spent locked in our homes changed the way we enjoy boating?
Yes. I have notice more enthusiasm, returning to boats, especially small ones, had waned over the last ten years. Boating was a bit snobbed. Over the last few years people realised they could still travel with little money, thanks to low cost flights and other solutions. In short, there was a good amount of low cost tourism. Now there isn’t much of this type of tourism and many have rediscovered boating. Even those with dinghies in the garage, stored there for 15 years, have pulled theirs out, sorted it and gone back out to sea.