The Business Year

Diego Colón

SPAIN - Tourism

Diego Colón

CEO, Astilleros de Mallorca

Bio

Diego Colón graduated as a naval architect and a marine engineer from the Polytechnical University of Madrid and started his career at the shipyard Constructora Gijonesa in Asturias. Six years later, he moved to Palma de Mallorca as production manager of the local shipyard. In 1990, he was appointed technical director of the Spanish Challenge for the America’s Cup in California. In 1992, he was named general manager of Astilleros de Mallorca and occupied this position for 25 years, after which he was appointed CEO of the shipyard in parallel to his position as president of the Technological Centre (SOERMAR).

With 80 years of experience in the sector, Astilleros de Mallorca has been the engine behind the yacht repair industry and the status of Mallorca as yacht hub.

How has Mallorca’s yachting industry grown in recent years, and how did COVID-19 shape its trajectory?

In the last few years, the naval sector has experienced consistent global growth. Shipyards have seen an increase in orders, especially for bigger yachts. The crisis has strongly affected the smaller yacht sector, which is just starting to recover. The sales of yachts grew considerably in 2020 and 2021. Many yachts were bought and sold, probably because the delivery time was extremely long. People who wanted to buy decided to go directly to the market. The fact that yachts were in ports, needing repairing and maintenance, created high expectations. As for Astilleros de Mallorca, in 2020 and 2021, there was a significant halt in activity. Yachts still needed maintenance, but there was a consistent fall in big projects. People wanted to evaluate the situation before starting more complex projects. The situation is changing in 2022; the stagnant demand from the past two years is driving the market to be stronger than in 2019. The nautical—and more specifically the ship repairing industry—will experience significant growth in the next few years.

What does Astilleros de Mallorca mean to the industry in Mallorca, and what has been its role in the sector’s growth?

Astilleros de Mallorca is an old company with 80 years of experience. Over the years, we have built wood, steel, and merchant ships. In the 1980s, we started building yachts, and in the early 1990s, we started to completely focus on yachts. The path has always been to adapt to changes in the market and look for the most profitable and productive sector possible. This means Astilleros de Mallorca has been the engine behind the yacht repair industry and the status of Mallorca as yacht hub. Currently, we are not the only shipyard, though we are the only one offering it all. We take full responsibility for the work on the yacht, and that makes us unique. Almost 80-85% of our activity is with external companies. We select companies that can carry out the best possible work according to the price and quality that clients want. We have a powerful team on our shipyard that comprises the core of our business and part of our tradition. We work with metal, mechanics, and piping. We maintain this tradition and develop new professionals, which is also important.

What measures is taking Astilleros de Mallorca to comply with the increasing sustainable and green economy standards?

Our department is highly focused on sustainability improvement. We have had environmental certifications for over 15 years, and we also offer to improve the sustainability of yachts that come here. Yachts built 20-30 years ago need to include technological improvements that make them more environmentally friendly. We want to adapt these clients’ yachts to the new standards. Yachts have a life expectancy of 40-60 years, and the market is still operating on them. There is no reason for them not to adapt to more modern systems found on new yachts. Many clients are interested in this and are ecologically aware. Yachts are not looking for profitability in their usage, which is why it is easier to improve their technology compared to old merchant yachts that prioritize profitability.

What are the challenges for the island to maintain its privileged positioning in the Mediterranean?

Mallorca has a broad perspective in the sector. Its potential and strengths come from an ongoing improvement in services from companies. The challenges we are facing are linked to the dedicated yacht facilities on the island not growing the same way the market is. Other destinations have invested in infrastructures in the last few years to keep up with the increase in yacht length. Our main challenge is to adapt quickly to new demands arising from larger yachts. 

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