With modern facilities in Genoa and Loano, Amico & Co is about to invest in new infrastructure to continue refitting and repairing some of the world’s largest superyachts.
Proudly owned and run by its founding family, Amico & Co is a modern refit base located in the commercial port of Genoa in north-west Italy, just 100km to the east of the French border. Three years ago, the company extended its reach by opening a satellite yard, Amico Loano, in the newly created Marina Di Loano, West Liguria, while back at Genoa it now plans to build a 100m fully-covered graving dock alongside its main workshops. Investment in major new infrastructure is always the sign of a healthy yard, and the new graving dock will compliment three others Amico has access to nearby.“The top end of the superyacht market continues to grow,” explained CEO Alberto Amico. “Nowadays, 60m-70m is a popular size, and we’ve seen many of our customers moving up.”Amico handles around 100 projects a year, from relatively minor repairs right through to full refits lasting a year or more, but has never lost sight of its shipbuilding heritage. The business can trace its roots back to 1799, when master builder Matteo Amico set up a yard in Loano. With the arrival of the age of steam, the yard thrived and was relocated to Genoa by Michele Amico, a descendant of Matteo. His son Luigi registered the yard as a harbour company in 1920, and it continued to prosper as a leader in ship repair and refit.In the late 1980s, Guido Amico applied to the port authorities to open a new shipyard dedicated exclusively to the refit and repair of large yachts.
“We were already the preferred partner and supplier to major shipping companies such as MSC, Carnival Line and Costa,” Amico said. “We also offered our services to other shipyards. We particularly specialised in areas such as anti-corrosion treatments and paint finishes, and this commercial experience has allowed us to offer high-quality work but at a competitive price. As my father was a keen sailor, and owned a modest sailing cruiser, he realised that it was quite difficult to find a good professional refit yard for yachts, so we decided to set one up.”
After making an application to the Genoa port authority, a plot of land in the east of the harbour became available, and in 1991 Guido and Alberto founded Amico & Co. They set about running the business in the same way as their commercial operation, with a modern infrastructure and an in-house team of skilled craftsmen offering top quality work with a quick turnaround.
From fairly modest beginnings, the facilities on this 30,000m2 site have been regularly upgraded and improved, with the imposing administration block the latest addition in 2009.
The hardstanding can support vessels of up to 60m, and opens out on to a well-sheltered technical marina of 20,000m2, providing 20 refit berths, eight of them alongside the wide quay and the inside of the breakwater. The marina is able to conveniently dock yachts of up to 110m, with full connection to three-phase power and vehicular access for refuelling and deliveries. The hardstanding is flanked on two sides by 900m2 of offices, 4,500m2 of workshops, and 10 covered refit and repair bays. There are also two fully equipped paint booths for smaller components, and tenders of up to 9m. The scale of Amico’s yard allows it to handle up to 35 large projects at the same time.
Arriving at the facility by taxi, our first indication that it was busy was a 20m yacht temporarily blocking the main gate. However, space was becoming available again after the strong demand for winter refits, and a large number of yachts had already been launched in time for the Mediterranean charter season. Once we were through security, a lift took us to the second floor of the aluminium-clad office block, which houses most of the administration staff and project management team. From the balcony, we had a bird’s-eye view of the hardstanding and marina, and the compact city of Genoa nearby. Several projects were under temporary workshops around the edge, with a higher mix of sail to power than we usually see in refit facilities. This was no real surprise, as Amico has a reputation for faithfully refitting classic wooden sailing yachts. As we watched, the three-masted 62m (203ft) Baboon was being expertly eased into the main travel lift, her 444t steel hull canting to port slightly as she was emptied of fuel and fresh water to lighten the load.
Teamwork is crucial
Amico lists its services under four main departments: engineering, painting, interiors and deck. Its objective is to deliver these services with full project management and seamless co-operation between all disciplines, particularly important on a major refit, but key to delivering a distinct price advantage over an ‘open’ yard. Our guide for the tour was marketing assistant Alessia Giacobbe, and we started in the carpentry area.
Amico is very proud of the high skill levels it can offer, and while it uses its own in-house teams, it also has a small number of retained and trusted subcontractors, some of which have their own workshops on site. This allows a greater degree of flexibility during busy periods, and also allows the yard to concentrate on teamwork.
The well-equipped joinery workshops are able to make bespoke items of furniture to match — or entirely replace — a yacht’s existing layout, and we took note of the modern machinery available, including a new CNC cutter. A large storage area nearby held stocks of mahogany, teak and various plywoods for immediate use, and for really specialist items of upholstery or interior décor, a number of trusted firms are available locally.
Below the joinery shop was a small stainless steel fabrication department, with a team dedicated to the careful removal and storage of a yacht’s fittings prior to major works. Next door was the 9,000m2 engineering department, with its own office and management team strategically located near the tall entrance, which offers excellent vehicular access. “You can tell which department the craftsmen work in by the colour of their overalls,” Giacobbe explained. “For example, electricians are in blue, and carpenters are in brown.” Our first impression was of the friendly banter between the departmental staff as they bustled about the yard. “We have a permanent staff of around 70,” Giacobbe said. “Everyone knows everyone else, including our retained subcontractors, which makes for great teamwork.”
We watched as a large passerelle was being modified, and the English-speaking technician explained that some of the daily workload involves basic re-engineering. “I think some items were originally installed by a T. rex,” he grinned, mimicking a pair of short, stumpy arms. Because of its ship repair heritage, Amico has a can-do attitude when tackling any engineering problem, however complex. The company is an authorised service centre for MTU, Caterpillar and Northern Lights, and undertakes everything from routine maintenance and major servicing to complete repower packages. Last year, it worked on 18 major engine overhauls on site, along with the more routine shaft extractions and realignments, new stabiliser installations and vibration measurement and analysis.
Every job provides information and feedback, and this is all captured in a working procedures and information management system called AMIS, custom-made by Amico after its first 10 years of operation. Every detail of a task is logged, including initial evaluation, planning, budgeting and quality control, and the data stored as a reference for future projects. AMIS is in a constant state of evolution, and is a useful tool when working on Class and Flag State requirements.
From the engineering shop, a walk across the hardstanding took us past the three large sheds that dominate the northern perimeter of the yard. These each measure 30m tall by 20m wide and 60m deep, and have walls 50mm thick. Customers appreciate the convenience, as it allows their yacht to be lifted and placed undercover within a day, and gives full protection throughout the refit.
Painting is a speciality of the yard, and apart from the high level of final finishing to standards exceeding ISO 2813 and ASTMD 5767-A, a separate company, Luigi Amico Srl, focuses on bare metal preparation and anti-corrosion treatments. In one of the nearby sheds, a 60m yacht was in the final stages of its primer coat, and was about to receive the first of several layers of Awlgrip for a mirror-like finish.
Noting the deceptive size of the construction sheds, we saw the sheer diversity of the yachts being worked on. In total, there were 25 projects underway, some afloat but the majority ashore. These included a striking blue-hulled 50m Wally sailing yacht, a 50m Benetti, and a 74m Nobiskrug, while in one of the sheds a remarkable US navy tug conversion from 1935 was receiving a covering of new steel plates on its workmanlike hull. Everywhere we looked, crew members from the various yachts were tackling less onerous tasks, with anchor painting and chain calibration the most popular job of the day.
Back in the main office, we were shown the new crew facility, which is open 24/7 and provides a games room, cooking facilities and internet connections for personnel staying with their yacht. Genoa is a popular place for a refit as the historic centre is a 15-minute walk away, and the airport, which has private jet facilities, is 25-minutes by car. Amico offers a concierge service, providing visiting owners and crews with car and scooter hire, accommodation, tourist advice and reservations, along with container storage and freight services. The Alps, too, are tantalisingly close for those with a passion for skiing, and one snow-capped mountain was visible from the yard.
Branching out at Amico Loano
A short sea passage to the west will take you to the town of Loano, Amico’s birth place and now the location for a new marina completed just before the full impact of the financial crisis. Set into the eastern corner is Amico’s new yard, covering a total of 8,500m2 and able to haul out vessels of up to 550t, thanks to Genoa’s main travel lift being shipped here after being superseded by its new 835-tonner.
“We were busy from the day we opened,” said shipyard director Gianmarco Franceschi. “With Amico’s reputation in Genoa, we had no shortage of business from existing customers, plus enquiries from new ones.” The town of Loano is also a very pleasant place to stay, with a long stretch of well-managed beach and plenty of good restaurants. Security at the yard is excellent, and the main shed has an engineering workshop, a carpentry shop, and a paint booth. Projects ashore can also be fully enclosed for full paint services, and crews have access to a number of smaller cranes and hydraulic platforms for routine servicing. With the marina due to have an increase in superyacht facilities (see Infrastructure, page 10) during 2013, this branch of Amico is set to become busier yet.
Back in Genoa, our final visit was to the three large (180m) graving docks a short stroll from the main gate. These are run jointly with two other companies, with one of the docks sporting a sliding cover, and a gate that cuts the dock in half. While a key asset, Amico is looking forward to the convenience of a purpose-built graving dock right beside its own quay.
“This will make us much more efficient,” explained Filippo Censi Buffarini, Amico’s technical and customer care manager. Formerly an employee of Riva and Benetti, he has been with Amico since 1999, and travels widely to visit clients prior to each refit. A close relationship with each customer is a vital part of the service.
“We are going to build this graving dock to our exact requirements, and based on all the experience we have gathered over the years,” said Buffarini. “It will be a major investment, but will guarantee we can continue to offer a competitively priced service to yachts of up to 100m, which seems to be the direction in which the market is heading.”