If you had walked to Barcelona’s port one morning in 2020, you would have glimpsed one of the most valuable private yachts in existence.

At 180m, Azzam is among the longest private motor yachts in the world. It boasts accommodation for 36 guests and 80 crew, and 4,000 professionals were involved in its six-year build, according to Boat International. It has a golf training room and the chandeliers have been specially designed so they don’t rattle at speed.

Last year, the vessel spent a period moored at Barcelona’s MB92, the world’s leading provider of refit and maintenance services for “superyachts”.

The company works on more than 100 such vessels – generally defined as being at least 40m long – each year. At more than four times that length, Azzam is unique – at least for now.

“When I began working in the industry back in the early 1990s, 50m boats were considered huge,” says Pepe García-Aubert, chief executive of MB92. “The largest would be up to 75m, whereas now that is becoming standard. Increasingly, we are seeing boats of more than 100m.”

Barcelona stands uniquely placed to gain from the world’s swelling fleet of superyachts. The city’s position as the gateway between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, summer and winter hubs of the yachting season, make it an optimal location to refit and repair.

It is also a natural home port for superyachts exceeding 60m due to the facilities offered by the luxury Marina Port Vell, one of the Mediterranean’s leading marinas.

Some 574 unique yachts entered the Barcelona region at least once between January 2015 to June 2020, according to Superyacht Intelligence. Arrivals of more than 60m increased from 44 in 2015 to 78 in 2019, and some 20 arrivals since 2019 have been more than 90m long.

The trend fits with Spain’s growing reliance on the maritime industry. The Port de Barcelona handled more than €67 billion of foreign trade in 2019, supporting the jobs of 37,000 people.

All in, it accounts for a quarter of all Spain’s maritime foreign trade, a proportion that is likely to increase in tandem with the world’s reliance on e-commerce.

“The data alone shows the importance of the port,” says Mercè Conesa, President of the Port de Barcelona. “But our main contribution to the economy of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Andorra and also southern France is to provide infrastructure and services that help importers and exporters to be competitive in global markets – and I think we’ve been successful in doing so.”

Barcelona’s reputation as a favourable place to do business is a major contributor to its emergence as a hub for the wealthy. Some 108,726 HNWIs, defined as having assets of at least US$1 million, live in the city. Of those, 729 are UHNWIs, worth at least US$30 million.

Meanwhile, some 5,000 private jets from around 85 different countries land in Barcelona in a typical year, up from fewer than 4,500 five years ago, according to data from aviation analyst WINGX.

Superyacht arrivals through the port typically include royals, chief executives of the world’s biggest companies and famous entrepreneurs, according to Ignacio Erroz, general manager of Marina Port Vell, which neighbours MB92 and is fast becoming a centre for knowledge and innovation.

“Yachting is seen as a wholesome activity for people who want a family-oriented lifestyle. It offers the possibility of being in a private and controlled environment and choosing your destination without any restrictions,” he says. “This is key: you get the finest and most luxurious experience travelling around the world, at home.”

Inevitably, all this is attracting investment, and in 2019 Squircle Capital, a European alternative investment firm, purchased a controlling stake in MB92.

But while vessels themselves are set to continue to grow, the bigger trends in super- yachting now lie in sustainability, according to García-Aubert.

“There is huge demand to improve on the sustainability of the vessels, from the collection of waste to improving propulsion systems and lighting,” he says. “Every time I see a new build something is improved, and the advances in hydrogen propulsion are particularly exciting.”

With sustainability emerging as a key trend in the superyacht industry, companies across the world are striving to become leaders in the field. “Marina Port Vell will be a key player in implementing a sustainability scheme,” says Ignacio Erroz. “We are committed to being the preferred option for a new generation of shipowners and captains.”

Knight Frank Wealth Report 2021


About The Blog

January 29, 2021 by Taras Vynnyuk