Shipyard: Ferretti Group’s Italian Heart, Global Reach

Lifestyle

When you’ve been whisked around Italy to see all six of Ferretti Group’s shipyards, the words “we never stop” come to mind. It’s a phrase that Ferretti Group CEO Alberto Galassi frequently uses when speeding through progress reports from a company that oversees seven yacht builders: Ferretti Yachts, Riva, Pershing, Custom Line, CRN, Itama and Wally, the company’s most recent brand acquisition.

Business was good in the post-Covid era, but it moved to a new level last year. Sales worth €942 million in the first eight months of 2022 marked a 36 per cent increase on the same period in the previous year, with roughly 50 per cent of the Group’s order book from EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), 40 per cent in the Americas and 10 per cent in Asia-Pacific.

Furthermore, the Group’s yacht production increased by about 20 per cent last year, while the total area of its facilities expanded over 14 per cent to more than 284,000sqm, with construction of new buildings evident in at least half of the shipyards we viewed.

The new-look Ferretti Group showroom in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The new-look Ferretti Group showroom in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Its workforce includes about 1,600 employees and 2,500 external suppliers, although they’re not all in Italy. Majority owned by China’s SHIG-Weichai Group since 2012, Ferretti Group has an Asia-Pacific headquarters and a service centre in Hong Kong, as well as a Shanghai showroom in the Bellagio Hotel.

In the US, the new-look Ferretti Group showroom in Florida was opened late last year during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Spanning about 2,000sqm, the facility is described by Ferretti Group as “the largest covered in-water showroom in the Americas” and includes a welcome area for customers, offices, 12 covered berths and a Riva Lounge.

The Group’s Fort Lauderdale facilities also include a 4,000sqm service yard that features 16 indoor and open-air berths, while offering service, refits and deliveries in collaboration with the adjoining marina.

CCO Stefano de Vivo oversees the Fort Lauderdale showroom opening
CCO Stefano de Vivo oversees the Fort Lauderdale showroom opening

In Italy, the Group is continuing to implement energy-saving technology in its shipyards, with its solar-assisted trigeneration system reducing fuel and energy costs by about 20-25 per cent, an enormous saving when building on an industrial scale.

The trigeneration technology was first implemented at the CRN facility in Ancona, is being used on the new Wally facilities in Forlì and is also being rolled out on new buildings in La Spezia, where Riva models from 76-130ft are built. Reducing the carbon footprint of its production facilities is one of the Group’s main sustainability objectives, along with eco-friendly materials in its yachts and low-emission propulsion systems.

The Superyacht Yard in Ancona produces CRN, Custom Line, metal Riva and aluminium Pershing builds
The Superyacht Yard in Ancona produces CRN, Custom Line, metal Riva and aluminium Pershing builds

“The trigeneration systems are a big investment. We pay in advance, but it comes back forever,” Galassi says. CCO Stefano de Vivo adds: “And it makes a lot more difference than putting a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system on a yacht.”

Modernisation efforts include new digital monitoring work stations with large, protected touchscreen TVs, which are being tested in Custom Line’s production sheds. If successful, the system could be gradually rolled out to other brands and shipyards, replacing the pen-and-paper tracking system.

Financially, Ferretti Group is flying high, with business soaring since Galassi and De Vivo took over as CEO and CCO respectively in 2014, two years after the Weichai acquisition. However, its huge network of shipyards in Italy are primarily the result of a series of brand acquisitions that started in the late 1990s.

The 62m Rio was one of three CRN launches in Ancona in 2022
The 62m Rio was one of three CRN launches in Ancona in 2022

Founded as an agent for Chris-Craft in 1968, Ferretti only built its first motor yacht in 1982. As product sizes increased and clients demanded more customisation, the company created the in-house Custom Line brand in 1996 to focus on yachts from 30m upwards.

Ferretti Group then expanded its portfolio quickly and dramatically, acquiring Pershing, CRN, Riva and Itama in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004 respectively. Meanwhile, it further expanded its network of shipyards by acquiring the La Spezia site in 2001, while the purchase of Wally was announced at the 2019 edition of Boot Dusseldorf, showing a company never content to sit still.

Today, its six shipyards are led in size by the Ferretti Group Superyacht Yard in the east-coast city of Ancona. Further up the Adriatic coast are the inland facilities of Mondolfo, Cattolica and Forlì, which is home to the company’s headquarters, although several of the Group’s most senior executives are based in Milan, Italy’s financial capital and second-biggest city.

Just over an hour’s drive east of Milan is Riva’s iconic Sarnico shipyard on scenic Lake Iseo, while the brand’s larger models from 76-130ft are built in La Spezia, in the heart of Italian yacht building on the northwest coast. The six facilities vary dramatically, whether it’s east coast or west coast, inland or seaside, in towns or farmland, mono-brand or multi-brand.

Built in Ancona, the Riva 50Metri will be succeeded by the aluminium-hull 54Metri

Furthermore, the full range of yacht models produced by the Group is remarkable, spanning from 8m to over 80m. And there’s a world of difference in the time and facilities needed to build a 27ft Riva Iseo compared to CRN’s upcoming 85m megayacht with a volume of 2,900GT — almost six times the size of the 52m Ciao launched last year.

Ancona: Superyacht Yard

Covering about 80,000sqm in Ancona, a port city with ferry services to the likes of Croatia and Greece, the Ferretti Group Superyacht Yard is the crown jewel of the company’s production facilities. The historical home of CRN, it also houses all Custom Line production and in recent years has become home to the Riva Superyachts Division and Pershing’s aluminium builds.

Facing the Adriatic Sea, the eight hectares feature over 30,000sqm of covered facilities including nine production sheds and offices, a 670-tonne travel-lift plus a dock area offering 14 moorings for yachts up to 100m and protected by long sea walls.

Buildings under construction include facilities for visiting crew and a new office for CRN staff, separate to Custom Line employees, all part of a €50 million investment to upgrade and increase capacity in the shipyard. Typically, about 1,000 people work on site, a mix of employees and sub-contractors, with about half focused on Custom Line.

Custom Line staged 20 launches in Ancona in 2022
Custom Line staged 20 launches in Ancona in 2022

Set on the west side of the shipyard, Custom Line had just two sheds when its production was moved here in 2016, but now has five, with the newest three for the brand’s bigger models. One shed is dedicated to the Navetta 30, which succeeded the popular Navetta 28, debuted in late 2020 and already has five sales in Asia, with two already delivered to Hong Kong and one in Singapore.

Custom Line launched a remarkable 20 fibreglass superyachts last year including hull 10 of the Navetta 30 (hull 11 launched in late January 2023), the 25th Navetta 33, the 14th Navetta 37 and the ninth Navetta 42.

Among the Planing series, launches included the 15th unit of the Custom Line 106’ and hull eight of the 120’, but the biggest splash was the first hull of the flagship 140’, which debuted at the Cannes Yachting Festival before appearing at the Monaco Yacht Show. The next units of the Custom Line 140’, including hull three sold to Hong Kong, are already in production.

With fibreglass hulls and superstructures built externally, Custom Line’s onsite build times range from nine to 12 months depending on model size, before yachts spend a month or two in the water for final outfitting, fine-tuning and sea trials.

Steel, Aluminium Builds

Despite being the quiet achiever among Ferretti Group brands, Custom Line also never stops, with its upcoming flagship Navetta 50 announced midway through last year. Hulls one and two are in build, but as it has an aluminium hull, its construction is being overseen by CRN’s technical team, with the first unit due in mid-2024.

The aluminium hull for the 52m CRN Ciao in Ancona
The aluminium hull for the 52m CRN Ciao in Ancona

CRN, which builds fully custom steel and aluminium yachts from 45-95m, is also on a roll. Launches last year included the 62m Rio and the 52m Ciao, which both had world premieres at the 2022 Monaco Yacht Show and feature exterior design by Dutch studio Omega Architects.

The builder also launched the 60m CRN M/Y 141, an all-aluminium build designed by Nuvolari Lenard. The next project out of the shed will be the 72m M/Y 139, featuring an exterior by Andrea Vallicelli and interior by Nuvolari Lenard. This will be followed by the 67m M/Y 143, Project Maranello, which has exterior and interior design by Nuvolari Lenard and hybrid propulsion.

CRN signed two more projects last year: the 70m M/Y 145 and the 85m M/Y 144 (2,900GT), its biggest project to date, topping the 80.5m Chopi Chopi (2,363GT) launched in 2013. The hulls for both new models should arrive in Ancona towards the end of this year.

Ciao launches in Ancona in May 2022 ahead of her world premiere
Ciao launches in Ancona in May 2022 ahead of her world premiere

Meanwhile, the third and last Riva 50 Metri is in build following the launches of Race and Fifty in 2019 and 2021 respectively, while construction has begun on the all-aluminium 54 Metri, which has been sold.

Production continues on the remarkable Pershing 140, the 43m, triple-waterjet aluminium superyacht with a top speed of 38 knots. Hull one, Chorusline, was delivered to its Hong Kong owner in 2019 and output has since been steady, with the Ancona shipyard scheduled to begin work on hull five early this year.

Launch of the first Pershing 140, an aluminium model now up to hull five
Launch of the first Pershing 140, an aluminium model now up to hull five

Following the “we never stop” mantra, Ferretti Group last year announced the Pershing 170, a 52m, sub-500GT aluminium tri-deck featuring an ‘all-season private terrace’, with the first hull arriving at the Ancona shipyard in early 2024. “It’s a busy shipyard,” Galassi says, with understatement.

Mondolfo: Dominated by Pershing

Pershing’s main base is the futuristic-looking, 45,000sqm Mondolfo facility, which is about an hour’s drive up the coast, but about 3km from the sea. Opened in 2004, the fantastic, glass-fronted office building feels as high-tech as a Pershing, yet is located just a stone’s throw from where the brand began in a modest set-up over four decades ago, in an area better known for farming and wine.

The futuristic office of the Mondolfo facility, home to Pershing’s X and GTX series, as well as Wallywhy and two Itama models

The office rooftop offers a view of a small shed 150m away, where in 1981 Tilli Antonelli co-founded Cantiere Navale dell’Adriatico, which started to become recognised as Pershing after the 1985 debut of the Pershing 45 motor yacht designed with Fulvio De Simoni, who still designs for the brand. Based on this launch, Pershing will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2025.

Highlights of the office building include internal access to a suspended walkway that offers a dramatic internal view over one of the site’s two similarly sized production sheds, A and B, which face each other. The site’s 13,000sqm of indoor facilities include an innovative 500sqm painting hall — big enough for the new GTX116 — where the vessels are powder coated.

The travel-lift, which carries up to 130 tonnes, completes operations with beaching and launching into the 2m-deep, 8m-wide test pool, which is just long enough to fit the 35m GTX116. Depth is no problem as its draft is just 1.45m, part of the appeal for the US-based buyer of hull one and the Italian owner of hull two.

Farmland view out of the glass-fronted office building in Mondolfo
Farmland view out of the glass-fronted office building in Mondolfo

Completed boats — which included the former Pershing 115 — are then put on a truck and transported to Fano, 30km up the coast, with the last few weeks of production typically spent on the water. The GTX116 is the brand’s most exciting new model since the Pershing 140 as it takes the brand into the ‘sport utility yacht’ sector.

It still boasts the sporty power Pershing is renowned for, with triple 2,000hp MAN V12s plus waterjets providing the 116-footer with a top speed of 35 knots, yet it has been described as “a performance SUV, the Lamborghini Urus of the sea”.

Mondolfo continues to build Pershing’s powerful X series, which comprises the 5X, 6X, 7X, 8X and 9X (92ft). The 7X premiered at Boot Dusseldorf in 2020 and has already secured close to 30 sales, while the 48-knot 6X that debuted at Cannes in 2021 is also proving hugely popular.

Night view of one of the two main production sheds
Night view of one of the two main production sheds
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The Mondolfo site is running at 100 per cent capacity – “maybe 110 per cent” — according to Pershing sales staff, as the facility is also building some Wally and Itama models. These include the Wallywhy200 — an 89ft, 200GT model coming to Asia – Wallywhy150, Itama 75 and Itama 45RS.

Look out for the beautiful green hull used on the first unit of the Wallywhy150, the 150GT 79-footer set to debut this year.

This article first appeared on Yacht Style.

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