Ask anyone, as I have done this week, and it seems that the name Pendennis is synonymous with quality. You only have to look through the roster of new builds and refit and refurbishments that have come through the company in the last 32 years to see why that is the case.
This month I had the absolute please of interviewing Mike Carr, Joint Managing Director of Pendennis. I started by asking him a little of his past and he explained that he is a qualified Naval Architect, who, after graduating from Southampton University, worked with Vosper Thornycroft for eight years before joining Pendennis in 1989 with Henk Wiekens. Henk is a time served engineer who managed his own yacht building companies in Holland and New Zealand for 12 years before being asked to join Pendennis in 1988. Henk and Mike led the management buyout in 1993 and both have been at the helm ever since.
Actually, that’s not entirely the chronology of the conversation. My actual opening gambit was “those Red Arrows were for your 30th birthday celebration at Monaco??? They were incredible!! I was there!!” I think I managed not to say cool!! Hopefully amused by my mild awe Mike tells me that they were indeed, and then chuckles to himself. He explains that back in 1999 they couldn’t quite believe that they had been there for ten years, let alone being able to comprehend that they would still be here 20 plus years later, so yes, they were going to celebrate that landmark in absolute style. It was also the first public showcase of their new build sailing yacht Vijonara, the 128′ Hoek sloop( featured on our front cover). The stunningly beautiful classic yacht showcased an extraordinary level of attention to detail in the interior and exterior joinery, making her a very special addition to the fleet of 30 other bespoke-built superyachts launched over the years by Pendennis Shipyard. It was definitely worthy of the red, white, and blue display team!
I ask Mike what he thinks is the secret of their success and he humbly responds with luck and help and more luck. I suspect that there is a hell of a lot more to it than that, with skill, attention to detail and incredible customer service being top of the list. And where an enormous amount of this skill comes from is through the apprenticeship scheme set up by his wife Jill Carr MBE, Human Resources Director, who joined the company in 1997. The first group of apprentices was recruited in 1998 and since then the scheme has secured multiple awards, winning recognition as one of the best of its kind in the UK. This is clearly due to Jill’s passion for training local young people in a skilled trade, and as a result succeeding to continually expand Pendennis’ dynamic workforce. Mike says with a smile in his voice that Jill is the glue that keeps it all together.
It is clear that the apprenticeship scheme is working. In the last 22 years they have had over 280 apprentices come through their doors and 40% of their current staff were once apprentices and now hold roles in all positions from senior to junior. Of course, it’s not possible to keep them all and many want to go and stretch their legs on the high seas, but they generally remain ever loyal to Pendennis. Some then stay on the boats and some come back to the fold, but wherever they end up, it is clear that Mike and Pendennis are proud to have given them their start in their careers.
It’s always at this point, when the conversation is on such a high, that I find myself drawn to asking the question that follows Brexit in the most overused words in current parlance. How did COVID affect you? I really wish it didn’t have to come up, but it is sadly relevant to everyone right now. It is however, with great relief that I listen with avid interest to Mike’s response. Firstly, Cornwall, with its wide-open spaces and smaller population, is one of the least affected counties in the UK at time of writing. Mike says that there are still tourists but now they just have to wear masks.
He says that it was of course a challenge. They had the full two week shut down period and when they returned they realised that with their vast numbers of staff it simply was not viable to have everyone on site at the same time, so the 5-600 staff onsite at any one time was split to 300 each, in a shift system. It meant that the yard was open 7 days a week with shifts of four days on and four days off. It was this clever approach that not only safe guarded jobs but also allowed for all of the jobs they had on their books to go ahead. In fact, Mike says they are busy, really really busy. It’s fantastic to hear for the marine sector!
Turning away from Covid, we move back onto happier topics. The main one being their major investment into Vilanova Grand Marina in 2018/19. Conveniently positioned only 45 minutes from the centre of Barcelona and 30 minutes from the city’s international airport – Vilanova Grand Marina provides the perfect base in the heart of the Mediterranean. It is designed exclusively for superyachts and offers 48 berths for superyachts ranging between 25 and 130 metres, including a 24-hour security service and all of the facilities you would expect. The integrated 30,000 sqm shipyard is equipped with the latest technology for performing repair and maintenance works, and benefits from the addition of a Technical Service Centre. This has really enhanced Pendennis’s offering to the superyacht fleet in the Mediterranean region.
In fact, 2019 was a great year for Pendennis for many reasons, not least the installation of a new 800 tonne travel hoist at the Falmouth facility. The previous hoist was shipped to Barcelona as part of the development of the site at Vilanova Grand Marina, giving the Technical Service Centre capability to haul out yachts of up to 620 tonnes. It’s definitely all pointing in the right direction.
I’m wondering where Mike is right now as we are chatting as various people are piping in with facts and figures, mainly based around the number of years they have all been together. It is clearly a very amiable environment, one bred of 30 years of knowing one another. When you really think about it that is one hell of a long time. Mike says he’s in The Yacht Club. I’m immediately a little jealous. Images of masts and blue skies fill my brain until Mike brings me back down to earth with a cheerful bump. He explains that the Yacht Club is actually one of the only remaining buildings in the Pendennis yard and she is in fact a granite building from the 1860s in the heart of the yard. Yes, there are offices with better views, but for them this is home. The beating heart of the action. It’s discreet for clients who have all of the facilities they could wish for in the downstairs rooms and there’s just something real about it, as there is about Pendennis if I’m honest.
Whilst Pendennis still has a base in Palma in STP Mike says that it is more of a toe hold than a foot hold. They are now masters of their own destiny over in Vilanova, controlling all of their actions. And the Falmouth base is going from strength to strength. The substantial expansion of the facility in 2013, which saw the creation of 2x90m and 1x45m marine-facing construction halls supported by the new 640 tonne travel hoist and additional shore based facilities including expanded project offices, trade workshops and crew facilities, saw to that.
I put down the phone, awed and inspired by a company that has never lost sight of its values, ethics, and ideals. Here’s to the next 30 years! Triple Red Arrows fly-by please!!
By Victoria Pearce
Pendennis Shipyard Ltd
The Docks, Falmouth
Cornwall TR11 4NR
T: +44 (0)1326 211344
F: +44 (0)1326 313572
Moll de Ponent, SN
08800 Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona)
T: +34 938 10 56 11