Located in Italy’s northeast corner, with a long-established shipbuilding tradition and world-class marinas, Trieste is now marketing itself as a cruising destination and value-focused refit centre
Michael Verdon Reports
Trieste, situated in Italy’s northeast corner bordering the former Yugoslavian country of Slovenia, may be the superyacht world’s best-kept secret. The Adriatic city, which for 600 years was the Austro-Hungarian empire’s main port on the Mediterranean, has developed one of the most comprehensive maritime infrastructures on the Adriatic.
Shipbuilding giant Fincantieri is headquartered in Trieste, and its long-term presence has attracted dozens of equipment suppliers and marine engineering firms that cater to the yachting and cruise ship sectors. Names like Wärtsilä and GE are well-known in the superyacht world, but many other regional firms have long traditions in shipbuilding.
According to the Trieste Chamber of Commerce, Trieste’s “blue economy,” or its income from maritime activities, is about 14.6 per cent of its annual GDP. That compares to 2.9 per cent for Italy as a whole, and 5.0 per cent for Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region where Trieste is located.
Despite the importance of shipbuilding to the local economy, Trieste has never really developed its potential for superyacht refits, or for that matter, as a cruising destination. Because of its location, it tends to compete with less expensive yards and marinas in nearby countries like Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia, rather than the facilities of the Tyrrhenian Sea on Italy’s western coast. Trieste is also in the shadow of Venice, 100 kilometres east, and its glamorous neighbour tends to capture the lion’s share of superyacht visitors.
That may be changing, as SB discovered on a recent visit to see Trieste’s extensive marine facilities. The city has attracted some of the world’s best-known superyachts, including Al Said, Eos, Ecstasea, Pelorus, Luna and Topaz, both for refit work and as a cruising destination.
The city of 205,000 is a gem on the blue Adriatic. Once Austrian, Trieste is modelled on 18th century Vienna, with boulevards, sweeping Baroque architecture, and even a Roman amphitheater. A fortress on the hill overlooks the harbour, while the “White Castle” in nearby Miramare gleams on sunny days. Trieste has the largest ocean-front piazza in the world. There is an Italian sensibility and a metropolitan air, but the locals are proud of their Austrian heritage.
Several maritime organisations are attempting to increase their superyacht trade with a more integrated marketing approach. Trieste Yacht Berths and a group of five local firms called Trieste Refitting Systems (TRS), are being backed by the Trieste Chamber of Commerce to get word out to the superyacht community that the area has an extensive and historic shipbuilding infrastructure, skilled labour and competitive pricing. Besides backing the groups with marketing materials, the Chamber of Commerce also funds a Trieste stand at the Monaco and Miami yacht shows.
“We want to support start-ups operating in sectors which have made our city great,” says Antonio Paoletti, president of the Trieste Chamber of Commerce. “We believe that having a network of specialist firms will provide the best solution.”
Roberto Sponza, marina manager at Porto San Rocco, had an idea last summer that if he could bring three marinas catering to the superyacht sector under one umbrella, then all three might have a better chance to find clients.
While keeping their businesses separate, Porto San Rocco, Marina San Giusto and Trieste Terminal Passeggeri decided to form a non-corporate alliance under the name Trieste Yacht Berths. The new entity not only has a single point of contact, but also a unified pricing structure.
“We decided to promote Trieste as a destination, instead of our individual marinas,” says Sponza. “We realised that the city and region have much to offer visiting superyachts. Trieste is a beautiful destination, with excellent cafes and much to do in the surrounding mountains. But it would also be a very viable place for crews to stay during longer refits.”
In the Trieste area, there are about 70 berths for yachts from 30m to 220m, with world-class facilities to match. Trieste Terminal Passeggeri, adjacent to the stunning main Piazza Unita d’Italia, is in the heart of the city. But the main cruise ship facility has berths for 240m yachts.
Marina San Guisto, sitting nearby, markets itself as Trieste’s main superyacht marina. The bustling marina
is mainly filled with sailing boats, but its separate Pescheria pier is designed for yachts up to 100m. Another section for superyachts will be finished by next summer. The berths all have electric, water and WiFi, and the marina is monitored by CCTV.
Porto San Rocco, a custom-built marina complex in the small village of Muggia, is about a 10-minute drive from Trieste. The marina, built in 1997, has 546 berths. Fifty berths are designed for yachts from 24m to 60m. The Luigi Vietti-designed complex surrounding the marina includes a four-star hotel, 350 apartments, restaurants, shops, yacht club, helipad, fitness centre and two swimming pools, as well as the Camper & Nicholsons’-designated marina with, fuel dock, 24-hour security, concierge services and even underwater surveillance cameras. It is one of the best-planned marinas on the Adriatic Sea.
The marina was designed with wide roads so vans can perform maintenance work or detailing at the dock. The nearby Cantieri Navali San Rocco shipyard does larger refits and maintenance work. The 41,000m2 shipyard has 4,000m2 under cover, and has a 160t travel lift, 120t truck, and 22t crane.
Ready for refits
Marino Quaiat, owner of Officina Navale Quaiat, sounds a similar refrain about the refit and repair sector in Trieste. “We compete against shipyards in Croatia that are the oldest navy yards from the Yugoslavian days,” says Quaiat. “Their rates are about the same as ours, but we have much more technical expertise in this region.”
The long-established presence of Fincantieri has spawned dozens of equipment and services providers for
both the cruise ship and superyacht sectors. In December 2012, Quaiat formed TRS, realising that offering a full-service alliance would have a stronger “one-stop-shop” appeal with captains and yacht-management firms than if each company were to look for business on its own.
Quaiat’s own company, which is a Volvo-Penta distributor, handles the refit work on propulsion systems as well as other mechanical systems. His partners include Meccano Engineering, Cergol Engineering, Zinelli & Perizzi, and Ocean Team. This full-service spectrum of diversified companies (again, it’s an alliance rather than a corporate entity) covers every facet of a refit, whether it’s a simple change of interior décor or a structural vibration problem.
A cluster of other marine businesses that TRS can use, according to the expertise required for any given project, is in the same building as Quaiat’s firm.
Meccano Engineering can provide the initial feasibility studies and project managers for engineering issues, while Ocean Team’s 7,000m2 dry dock provides one of the best facilities on the Mediterranean. In between, furniture-makers Zinelli & Perizzi deliver the artisan part of the refit, having made custom furniture and fittings since the early 1900s.
A visit to Meccano’s HQ, in a historic building near the Trieste waterfront, provides a glimpse into the depth of services available. Its 35 staff members, which have worked on many dozens of superyacht projects for the leading Italian yards and provided technical solutions for some of the largest US-owned superyachts, include naval architects as well as systems, electrical and structural engineers.
“We provide everything from the initial feasibility studies to final technical drawings,” says Valter Cergol, a founding partner with the firm. “We have good relationships with the major classification societies and marine surveyors.” Meccano, which built a solid reputation in the yachting industry, now provides its expertise to commercial vessels, passenger ships, offshore supply vessels and even submarines. “We can provide 70,000 man hours per year to our clients,” says Cergol.
Trieste also has a secret weapon against other regions in Italy with Ditnave, an organisation that can coordinate technical solutions for both refits and new builds. It is a bridge between the region’s shipbuilding industry and research universities.
“We apply a common-initiative approach between the yacht-building and research sectors,” says Paolo Richiardi, Ditnave’s director of operations. “If, for instance, a yacht owner wants new electronics not
yet on the market, we can facilitate contact between the shipbuilder and university for
It is this can-do spirit, which is present across the fledgling superyacht sector, that will fuel Trieste’s growth.