Large yachts are increasing in size and number. In fact, 755 vessels 80-feet and longer were either on order or under construction compared to 692 in 2013, according to Showboat International’s 2016 Global Order Book. What’s more, these big boats run across the board from sport fishers, open, expedition and sailing to the majority which are motor yachts. It follows that this surge in megayachts will need dockage, service and repair facilities. This is just what the latest expansion targets at the Lauderdale Marine Center, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the largest yacht repair facility in the U.S.
One of LMC’s first expansion projects has been to add five new dry storage slips or ‘laydays’ for vessels up to 150-feet in its southwest area. These, completed in mid-August, increase the facilities dry storage slips to 41 total for vessels over 120-feet.
“We looked at our space distribution for onland storage and 70 percent was for boats 100 feet and under, while occupancy in boats over 100 feet was close to 80 percent on an annual basis and higher than this in season,” says Doug West, LMC president, about what led to the expanded laydays. “We had some land, a grassy field about an acre in size that was previously used for trailer storage, which we paved over and turned into boat storage.”
A second development has been to take 15 of LMC’s nearly 60 acres, what was formerly the River Bend Marine Center, and turn it into an additional 85 spaces: 43 in water and 42 out of water.
The first of these spaces, designed to accommodate boats ranging from 40 to 80 feet, will open at the end of 2016. All 85 will be operational by March 2017, according to West.
These 15 acres were acquired by LMC’s owner previous to the Carlyle Group’s purchase of the LMC in 2015. The Washington, DC-headquartered Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, also owns marina facilities in the Florida Keys.
Two additional projects for the LMC are currently in the permitting process and West expects these to be completed by the summer of 2017.
First, West explains, “There currently isn’t enough room for the bigger boats in the marina. We will be reconfiguring our slip space to move from our current 25 percent of slips for boats 80-feet plus to 36 percent, offering 78 spots total for 80-plus foot yachts.”
Secondly, LMC will be upgrading its 300-ton lift to a 500-ton capable of lifting aluminum and fiberglass yachts up to 180-foot long. There’s also a 75 and 100-ton lifts on property.
“We often get requests to haul boats that are too heavy for us. There is a big demand for this and by next summer we’ll be better prepared to meet this,” West says.
The LMC has a unique business model in that service and repairs, other than hauling, launching and bottom painting, are concessioned out to independent contractors. Currently 73 contractors lease space at LMC, while up to 350 contractors representing a variety of marine trades work on property during the course of a year.
New, as of the beginning of 2016, LMC established a certified contractor program.
“To be certified, contractors have to agree to a number of points, such as adhere to safety training, offer warranties, give estimates in advance and work schedules. As of August, over 100 of our contractors have become certified. This is yet another way we are working to enhance what’s most important to us, the customer experience,” says West.