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La Ciotat Set to Initiate a New Maritime Cluster


On October 30th 2019, prior to the laying of the foundation stone of the La Ciotat’s Yachting Village, La Ciotat Shipyards (LCS), the local public company managing and developing the shipyards of La Ciotat, organized a professional roundtable discussion regarding the creation of an industrial cluster for the trades of maintenance, repair and conversion of large yachts as possible first steps towards the set-up of a new maritime cluster around La Ciotat.

The round table, moderated by Jean-Yves Saussol, CEO of LCS, brought together several high-level participants including Mr. Antoni Tio Sauleda, President of Barcelona Cluster Nautic, Mr. Ben Mennem, President of the company MB92 La Ciotat, Mrs. Isabelle Dimech, CEO of ID Yachting decoration, Mr. Gilles Guichet, CEO of the company Sud Moteurs, Mr. François Lambert, General Delegate of GICAN and Mr. Serge Bornarel, General Delegate of the UIMM Alpes-Méditerranée. The exchange confirmed that La Ciotat had all the needed ingredients to initiate a cluster approach thanks to the presence of important players capable of bringing the largest yachts in the world (currently, the site hosts no less than four yachts over 130m) and to a fabric of partner companies that the Yachting Village will further strengthen.

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The creation of a true ‘cluster’ however requires a thorough analysis of value chains to achieve a common axis of development and especially a joint mobilization of enterprises and institutions. Referring to the successful example of Barcelona, Toni Tio emphasized the absolute necessity of a ‘clustering’ approach in order to keep up with a fast-growing industrial world, particularly in the naval sector.

François Lambert stressed the need to include this approach with the work being done on a national level, in order to take full advantage of a logic of complementarity between companies and between sectors, beyond the normal course of competition. In this respect, if everyone agrees that the yachting industry has real specificities which justify the development of an ad hoc industrial cluster, they must not be an excuse to turn their back to the components of the shipbuilding industry, for which France has a recognized excellence worldwide.

When asked specifically about the issue of rivalry between the sites of Marseille and La Ciotat, Gilles Guichet stressed that if competition between operators exists and is normal in the business, it should not mask the genuine complementarity that is created between the main operators nor between subcontractors. Often, the management of the most important projects require the collaboration of the area’s companies. There is therefore a common interest for all the companies to grow together in order to achieve the same level of excellence. La Ciotat’s Yachting Village, whose main beneficiaries are companies based in Marseille, is a perfect illustration of this.

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For all participants of the roundtable, the issue of training was also mentioned as one of the fundamental pillars of the cluster approach, albeit an ambivalent character. On one hand, the naval industry’s trades offer more attractive prospects for young people than ever before while on the other hand, the training of professionals that meet business needs is constantly changing and can be overwhelming.

Isabelle Dimech recalled that excellence is learned first in the field then on the job. Therefore, work-linked training should be promoted as much as possible. All participants also stressed that soft skills are at least equally important as knowledge or "know-how" in the recruitment criteria and that English proficiency is, like it or not, an essential prerequisite for working in the yachting industry. Ben Mennem nonetheless expressed his optimism given the excellent quality of the young project managers he recently recruited.

On the same subject of training, Serge Bornarel also talked about the simplification brought by the recent reform of professional training that induced the designation of a single contact for companies of the sector and welcomed the fact that national education is evolving in the right direction. To illustrate these trends, François Lambert recalled the approach of the "Campus for the Naval Industries" launched in November 2017, which develops specialized and certified training programs ranging from CAP to engineering degree with the ambition to support the sector‘s expansion, notably by searching for talents that will build the maritime world of tomorrow.

Guest speaker of this roundtable, Mr. Frédéric Moncany de Saint-Aignan, President of the French maritime cluster and sponsor of La Ciotat’s Yachting Village, summarized the exchanges of the morning by focusing first on the question of excellence, the true common thread of the development of the industry in general and of the maritime sector in particular, and secondly on the notion of territory, that must however be appreciated on the right level.

Globally, France is an actor who has major assets but has no means to divide or to play against his side. If the yachting industry has obvious specificities, he also highlighted the major points of convergence with various cross-cutting issues in the maritime sector as a whole like ‘green ship’, security and port safety, or digitizing. On all these issues, the yachting industry could gain from strengthening its ties with other actors of the national maritime economy.

In conclusion, Mr. Moncany stressed that the development of a strong and coherent industrial cluster in the maritime and naval sector is, beyond the purely economic aspects, an influential stake to allow the country to carry weight in the international arena.

Images: La Ciotat Shipyards


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