Billionaires unwind aboard their multi-million-dollar luxury vessels cruising the Mediterranean, and their ships do so by heading into the excellent care of La Ciotat shipyard in France. The craze for superyachts is insane. Out of the 5,000 superyachts in operation worldwide, more than one-fifth were purchased in the last five years. The planet hasn’t expanded, which leaves these ultra-luxe boats sailing in Monaco, the Côte d’Azur, or the French Riviera. That makes La Ciotat sought-after, geographically speaking. At the time of writing, some of the world’s most noteworthy superyachts are moored at this European ship spa.
Centibillionaire Jeff Bezos’s Koru megayacht, worth $500 million with three gigantic masts, Steven Spielberg’s brand-new stunner Seven Seas worth $250 million and longer than two Olympic-sized swimming pools, and even the fantastic $300 million AHPO Yacht, which is 377 feet long, docked there for maintenance, among other vessels, per Marine Traffic. Upkeep of these floating mansions is imperative, which is why when cruising in the Mediterranean, La Ciotat becomes their default address by dint of location and also exceptional services.
Billionaire Bezos spent his entire summer aboard the splendid Oceanco masterpiece Koru with his fiancée Lauren Sanchez. Their summer escapade seemed rather endless, starting in May 2023. The smitten couple sailed through the Balearic Islands, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Capri, Sardinia, Portofino, and the Baltic countries. In September, the 416-footer schooner was docked at La Ciotat before going dark for a couple of weeks. It is back for maintenance with the support vessel, $75 million Abeona, in tow.
“Being close to the center of the yachting hub in the Mediterranean is very important,” said Philip Joyner, the captain of the M/Y Sky, who prefers to have yachts refurbished at La Ciotat, per The New York Times. La Ciotat shipyard in the 90s has come a long way. At the time, it was the seaport’s spacious docks, nautical infrastructure, and low rents. “Back then, the largest sailboat was 30 meters,” said Ben Mennem, a British shipbuilder who was a co-founder of Compositeworks in La Ciotat.
“Now we frequently have boats over 100 meters that we work on. The dimensions have changed tremendously.” The modernized, state-of-the-art facility today caters to lavish motorized crafts. From dry dock inspections for insurance verification to repair and reconditioning, extensive jobs costing tens of millions of dollars are all taken care of by about 700 people working full-time at the French shipyard.
An important feature is an underwater elevator capable of hoisting boats weighing up to 2,000 tons and a crane capable of lifting boats weighing up to 330 tons. The 188-year-old facility recently launched a new 4,300-tonne ship lift that successfully hauls out superyachts.
When it comes to assets costing over a hundred million dollars, one obviously trusts the best in the business. The upkeep of these elegant and expensive ships is not for the faint-hearted either. U.K.-based Towergate Insurance estimates that the annual running costs of a superyacht are equal to around 10% of the purchase price.
Based on this calculation, the massive $600 million Koru would cost anywhere between $50 million and $60 million to crew, insure, and maintain. The average cost of a refit can sometimes go as high as $20 million. Ben Mennem, President of MB92 La Ciotat, shared, “The 30-50 meter segment is our historic area of expertise and requires a different approach. In order to cater to this smaller yet equally discerning size range, we decided to create a dedicated facility capable of providing our clients with a ’boutique’ experience for maintaining and refitting their yachts.”