A phoenix from the flames, the editorial by Franco Michienzi

Crises, while undoubtedly negative and sometimes catastrophic, also have a silver lining, planting a seed of positive change that can lead to a better society. The Perini Navi story 

by Francesco Michienzi

In the end, sadly, caution won out and the Düsseldorf International Boat Show did not take place. However, it taught us that the current situation is not just a blip, where all we have to do is wait for everything to go back to normal. Like other crises before it, this one will lead to new scenarios.

It is hard to imagine that we will return to business as usual, following the profound changes we have experienced, both in manufacturing processes and in international relations. A genuine ‘new world’ is taking shape. However, this does not mean that our economic system will be radically different from how it was before; certain trends, like the digital and environmental transitions, had already been visible for some time.

EACH OF US MUST PLAY OUR PART IF WE ARE TO COME BACK TO LIFE LIKE THE PHOENIX. THE ECONOMY, WORK, RELATIONSHIPS, AND HUMANITY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BE REBORN IF CULTURE AND KNOWLEDGE ARE NOT INCLUDED IN OUR PHILOSOPHY OF CHANGE.

Focusing on the nautical sector and beginning with the here and now, we have to ask ourselves what the major short-term challenges are, as well as the medium- and long-term issues. This is a huge topic. All we can do in these pages is sketch out a few general ideas to expand upon in the future. The environmental transition is not just about engines, which will have to be more efficient or completely different in their design. It affects the entire boat manufacturing process, which will increasingly have to ensure that materials are recycled and that products can be reused.

Sustainability must become a tangible vision of a future that will have to be completely rethought. Boats must be optimised for the circularity of their materials, to reach 100% recycled products, requiring a new approach to planning and designing. The digital transition, meanwhile, is closely tied to businesses’ size, with many still too small to revolutionise their production or how their work is structured. The attempts made by the Italian marine industry association Confindustria Nautica to get firms online have not produced great results. Apart from a few exceptions, like Pirelli/Tecnorib and Sacs, which joined forces to create a new business to make the most of their strengths, there have been few positive developments: Italian business owners remain too individualistic in their outlook.

We trust the market, where the rules are set in stone, and where mergers and acquisitions only take place following difficulties and failures. This was seen recently at Perini Navi, one of Italian boating’s most prestigious brands and a bit like the phoenix, the legendary bird found in many ancient myths that is reborn from the ashes after its death. The firm’s rebirth stems from the courage and vision of Giovanni Costantino, CEO of The Italian Sea Group, which bought Perini Navi for €80 million at an auction held at a court in Lucca.

When Costantino decided to float his group on the Milan stock exchange, I imagined it would meet the same fate as the companies who did the same thing a decade or so ago. However, I failed to take into account Costantino’s business strategy: he didn’t spend the money acquired from the operation on a private jet, a helicopter, or a penthouse in London, but instead invested it in a major industrial project, acquiring both manufacturing facilities and a brand that retains its value. The operation has also made the entire group even more competitive.

THE BOATING COMMUNITY CAN ONLY SURVIVE IF IT PAYS ATTENTION TO ALL ITS MEMBERS: NOT JUST THE STRONGEST, BUT ESPECIALLY THE SMALLER, LESS WELL-STRUCTURED BUSINESSES. 

Perini has risen from the ashes and will return to producing wonderful sailing boats, not as a result of its resources or desire, which could not cope with the whirlwind of events, just like the myth of the phoenix, but thanks to the investments made by a businessman who understood its significance and whose sole task now is to rebuild the set of values shaped by many men and women over the years. Values that underpinned the success of the Viareggio-based company and that belong to the entire Italian boating industry.

(A phoenix from the flames – Barchemagazine.com – February 2022)