The Patrone shipyard is preparing to celebrate 100 years in business. The fourth generation is taking over at the helm and has plenty of innovative plans while remaining true to the firm’s traditions
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
Long live the gozzo! The Patrone shipyard has been operating for 100 years, covering a substantial proportion of the history of boatmaking in western Liguria. It all began in 1922 in Ceriale, near Savona, when shipwright Giuseppe Patrone left his job as a foreman at Baglietto and started his own business there.
In the 1960s, Giuseppe, who didn’t have any children, was joined by his nephew Niccolò. But Niccolò was also childless, and so the business was transferred to Piermichele Moreno. He explains: «My grandfather had a hotel in Ceriale, and provided what we would now call catering for the shipyard. He also housed the clients who came to test out the gozzi fishing boats that the shipwrights built. I started working alongside Niccolò, and in 1984 I took over the business». Since then, Piermichele Moreno has been managing director or, as he is known in the family, the ‘third helmsman’.
BENEDETTA AND GIANARNALDO ARE THE FOURTH GENERATION AT THE HELM OF THE COMPANY. ALTHOUGH THEY ARE STILL VERY YOUNG, THEY HAVE ALREADY ACCUMULATED SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCE IN MARKETING AT VARIOUS SHIPYARDS.
The shipyard has always been a family-run affair, and it will remain that way: a new generation has already taken its place at the dashboard. Benedetta and Gianarnaldo Moreno, Piermichele and Ornella’s children, may still be young, but they already have the qualifications and experience needed to be the fourth helmsmen. Benedetta graduated in business economics and management and already has experience as head of marketing for various large and prestigious companies and shipyards.
«She became a top manager at the age of 28», her father notes with a hint of pride, «two years before Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of FIAT, who achieved it at 30». Gianarnaldo is younger and is currently studying for a degree in nautical engineering in La Spezia. The qualifications look like they were decided at the family dinner table to provide the required skills for handing over the business. «Choosing my university was a joint decision», Gianarnaldo explains, «although the desire to start working in the yard is stronger than the one to complete my studies». Nautical engineering, unlike naval engineering, is more focused on small and medium-sized boats, which is precisely what Patrone and Sciallino are renowned for. «We brought Sciallino back into the fold», Piermichele Moreno notes. «The person who founded it in the 1960s was working for Patrone, and we bought it back in 2015».
The two brands both specialise in gozzi – or to be more precise, the traditional gozzo ligure. Will gozzi ever go out of fashion? «Why should they? They are solid boats and easy to pilot, with plenty of space for enjoying the sun and the outdoors. They can deal with any sea conditions and require very little maintenance. Is that not what the majority of pleasure boaters in the Mediterranean still want?». One thing is for certain: during the firm’s many years in business, it has produced a vast number of wooden and fibreglass boats. «There’s at least one in every Italian harbour», Moreno adds. «For every 100 gozzi we make, half remain in Liguria, 25 go to Tuscany and the rest go elsewhere in the country».
There is no shortage of foreign sales either: the boats end up as far afield as Japan and the United States, with many buyers in France, Croatia, Spain, Greece, and Montenegro. Approximately 80% of the company’s turnover is derived from selling new models, with the remaining 20% coming from refitting. «We have updated some of the Sciallino models», Gianarnaldo Moreno explains, «changing the waterlines to improve the performance and increasing the level of customisation, so owners can choose the timber and fabrics they want».
The fourth generation of helmsmen note that their is a relatively small shipyard, with just a dozen employees, and in this context, everyone needs to know how to do everything. They define themselves as a boutique shipyard; an artisan business that prioritises build quality, creating tailor-made boats built by hand.
Piermichele Moreno adds: «On this century-old tree, the branches may change, but the trunk remains the same». Unpicking this metaphor means the father has faith in his children. He knows they will innovate, but without straying too far from the shipyard’s values and history. «The Porsche 911 has always been one of my sources of inspiration. It is legendary and always the same in some respects, but there is a massive difference between the vehicle they built thirty years ago and the car of today». The same needs to be done in the boating world today if we are to innovate while keeping the tradition alive. Improve, update and take advantage of modern technology, but still offer the classic style that gozzi fans are looking for.
THE SHIPYARD IS CELEBRATING 100 YEARS IN BUSINESS IN 2022.
IT WAS FOUNDED BY SHIPWRIGHT GIUSEPPE PATRONE, WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN
And Gianarnaldo seems to have a clear idea of where to take the company: «I would like to expand production. We will be unveiling some new models soon, but I also think we should be looking beyond the Italian borders. We need other points of contact with cutomers, even abroad, to attack that market too».
The new models Patrone is planning include some with hybrid or fully electric motors, perfect for use on lakes or as boat taxis for large hotels. And they haven’t ruled out a new headquarters either. «We would like to move back closer to the sea, in part to make our refitting service quicker and easier. It’s something we’re looking at, but we haven’t made a decision yet».
«THE NEW PATRONE 100 IS INSPIRED BY THE FLAGSHIP MODELS OF THE SIXTIES AND THE SEVENTIES, GIVING NEW ALLURE TO THE “DOLCE VITA” ERA OF YACHTING. IT IS THE EMBODIMENT OF THE GLAM HERITAGE OF PATRONE, MADE TO SATISFY THE STYLE AND NEEDS OF THE CONTEMPORARY BOAT OWNERS».
Their current premises offers 5,000 m2 of open-air space and sheds and is very close to the motorway, making transportation very simple to handle. They also quietly adopted a very green renewable energy solution some time ago: solar panels on the roof of the boat sheds that provide 60 kW of energy. «More than enough for our needs», Piermichele Moreno confirms.
(Cantiere Navale Patrone, a century to remember – Barchemagazine.com – April 2022)