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Lusben development boosts refit standards

Lusben, the historic refit and repair yard, which is now part of the Azimut-Benetti Group, is transforming the Italian port of Livorno into a one-stop service centre for motor and sailing megayachts. The overarching project also involves shipyards in Varazze and Viareggio. Donatella Zucca reports

Lusben Livorno is being developed to work on the world’s largest yachts.

Lusben Livorno is being developed to work on the world’s largest yachts.

Strengthened by a 2,500 ton shiplift, a 180m (590ft) long floating dock, a pressurised paint booth (ventilated and heated up to 70°C/158°F), and much more, the Lusben development project offers unprecedented standards for luxury yacht refits.
The commitment is made easier by being part of the Azimut-Benetti Group; the largest builder in the world of yachts over 24m (79ft). The biggest yachts are built in Livorno where Benetti is able to simultaneously build three vessels of over 100m (330ft) and launch them within 100 days. Examples include the 107m (351ft) yachts Luminosity and Lana, and the 108m (354ft) IJE.
Part of the Lusben upgrade also sweetens the path for sailing yachts. Since 2022 a new concession basin has been able to accommodate vessels such as the famous 88m (289ft) three-masted Maltese Falcon, which has recently been refitted. A modular inspection pit is being constructed for sailing ship daggerboards up to 70m (230ft), with variable width and depth so as to also receive fully extended centreboards and manage the entire maintenance process.
Giovanni Paladino

Giovanni Paladino

Lusben also features a ‘technical’ marina with perfectly equipped docks and moorings for the largest vessels, supported by free Wi-Fi, concierge and 24-hour mooring assistance including connection/disconnection of electricity supply. A dedicated car park, CCTV video surveillance and a security guard complete the picture.
Currently, and still within the scope of Azimut-Benetti, Lusben also has important infrastructure and equipment in Marina di Varazze and also in Viareggio but it owes much to its own history of offering refits and tailor-made services for every type of vessel since 1956. It continues to offer a 360° customer care dedicated to captains and crew before, after and during the refit process. There are guest quarters and entertainment areas, laundry, tailoring, and cleaning and security services when yachts are unmanned. Various touristic, cultural, sporting and medical services are available via specific partners as well as training courses and fully-equipped offices.
Equally important is the management service covering technical documentation relating to the rules, regulations and requirements inherent to refit and repair activities, which must be obtained from classification bodies to guarantee the safety of people and transported goods.
The famous 88m (289ft) three-masted Maltese Falcon has recently  been refitted at Lusben Livorno.

The famous 88m (289ft) three-masted Maltese Falcon has recently been refitted at Lusben Livorno.

Heading up the expansion of Lusben is Giorgio Casareto, director of Marina di Varazze, and responsible for the development of the other Azimut-Benetti marinas as general manager of the new corporate structure. He works with Giovanni Paladino, the commercial director, Alessandro Lazzerini, who heads up production, planning, logistics and project management, and procurement manager Leonardo Santini.
The total project figure runs at €19 million, of which €12 million is being spent on Livorno alone. Within three years, this substantial investment will see delivery of a new 22ha (54.3 acre) basin area – and thus even more opportunity for refit projects to build on Lusben’s success, which has a growth forecast of around 10% per annum for the next three years. The yard closed 2023 with a turnover of around €45 million but Paladino is cautious, “it’s possible that 2024 could be slower depending on how the market goes.”
In the near future, Lusben will benefit from the close proximity of a 600-berth tourist port thanks to the recent, hard fought 40-year concession obtained by Porta a Mare SpA. This company was founded in 2003 with the involvement of Azimut-Benetti but the Group subsequently pulled out. “The project does not involve Lusben,” Paladino clarifies, “but having a nice marina nearby, like our competitors in Antibes and Barcelona, can only be positive. Having tourist areas and ports around is good.”
Talking to Paladino
Q: You have experience in other areas outside Lusben. Is there a sector or company that has particularly inspired you or given you inspiration for running this business?
A: Certainly Bombardier, in the approach to the product as well as the production, in after-sales service and, in particular, asset management. However, I have also worked in the small cruise ship sector, which has a similar dynamic to the megayacht market. Both, perhaps more so the latter, inspire both asset management and the 360° assistance concept.
Q: Is the growth in newbuild or repair and refit for large yachts the prevailing reason for Lusben’s development?
A: In the near future we expect a significant increase in refit work as in the recent past, due to the pandemic, important developments have taken place with regard to new products. We expect some stability now so that the refit area can be further expanded. Our strategy is synergistic with regard to continuing to be a leader for both newbuild and refit.

Q: In a post-pandemic climate that is rife with political instability and warfare, what is the large yacht market asking for in terms of refit, and what are the main issues?
A: At the moment, the market is asking the refit world to accommodate vessels to the schedules and volumes required. This is not trivial as it depends on infrastructure; there aren’t that many shipyards. The first requirement, therefore, is to have adequate infrastructure, and the second, efficient performance. This needs to take into account the lengthening of the seasons, the demand to have yachts available, and the lengthening of their time of use. Yacht owners require even complex work to be completed in a shorter time and the dynamics become more complicated when the vessels spend longer at sea. This means that it’s becoming important to have widespread presence so that yacht owners can be supported in multiple places.
Q: Do Livorno, Viareggio and Varazze have different shipbuilding structures and company dynamics or are they pieces of a single company strategy?
A: They are different structures that partly follow a group strategy. The approach to the customer is identical and there are no differences in terms of workmanship or in the methods of managing the yacht. The change in structure, however, gives us diversification. For Varazze, the strategy is to refit vessels up to a maximum length of 48m (157ft) and to focus on those with heritage value so as to best use the shipwrights skilled with wood that were employed back when it was a Baglietto shipyard. For Viareggio, the centre of gravity is yachts of 35 to 52m (115 to 171ft), and in Livorno it’s limitless dimensions to cover the very largest yachts.
Q: Can you give some examples of new equipment, especially advanced technology, that is being installed in the yards?
A: In Livorno, for example, the ship lift has more advanced technology than the travel lift and the painting booth is operated in a controlled environment. We use 3D technology to provide drawings, calculate internal volumes etc., for yachts so that we can deliver an interior design proposal. At the moment, we don’t have an AI application for the shipyard although I would see this linked to onboard systems.
The focus at Lusben Viareggio is work on yachts of 35 to 52m (115 to 171ft).

The focus at Lusben Viareggio is work on yachts of 35 to 52m (115 to 171ft).

Q: What investments are your priorities?
A: Modernisation of the entire site, including the squares, existing buildings, storage areas and crew lounge. The main infrastructure investment, however, is the area for large sailing yachts. Existing technology is being upgraded and there are also organisational changes. We have set up a corporate body that takes care of commercial, operational, quality, project management and customer care. It’s a more structured and modern organisation.
Lusben Varazze refits vessels up to 48m (157ft), taking special advantage of its shipwrights skilled in working with wood.

Lusben Varazze refits vessels up to 48m (157ft), taking special advantage of its shipwrights skilled in working with wood.

Q: What are the most requested services by owners, crews and captains of large yachts?
A: The crews are asking to be looked after in terms of accommodation and recreational opportunities and want functional logistics and efficient services. Fitness, gym, spa and sporting activities are also important. In Livorno, we are developing an entire crew area and Viareggio already has guest houses and lounges for the crews as well as proximity to restaurants and pubs. Captains and crews ask for efficiency in terms of tools, such as cranes, and processes, such as unstepping.
Q: How does your plan fit with environmental concerns?
A: We are working on it. Currently, we are modernising certain technologies and sustainability is an element that we have always actively looked at. We are collaborating with the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) to define eco-compatible standards for construction sites.

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Lusben development boosts refit standards