It is a long and rich history, made of innovations, expertise and great men.
But the history of the shipyards of La Ciotat is first of all the story of a rebirth.

From small fishing boats to steamships with propeller

The activity on the site begins in the fifteenth century with the construction of small fishing boats by local artisans. But soon these family businesses start to build “tartanes”, commercial cargo ships.

From the nineteenth century, the activity grows with the development of steam navigation and the opening of transit to the colonies. In 1835, theharbor capacity is doubled with the construction of the pier “Bérouard”. That same year, Louis Benet, son of a wealthy shipowner from La Ciotat, takes over a small sailboat shipyard, and turns it into a modern company. As a savvy businessman, Louis Benet brings engineers and propulsion systems from England, and launches in 1836, the first French steamship in the Mediterranean, “Le Phocéen I”. It is also on the shipyard of La Ciotat that will be launched in 1847 “Le Bonaparte”, first steamship with a propeller and an iron hull in the Mediterranean. In 1848-1851, the industrial crisis leads Louis Benet to sell his company to the National Courier.

Nevertheless, the shipyard of La Ciotat will continue to develop its activities and skills, despite frequent changes of majority shareholders and therefore names … After “Messageries Maritimes”, it becomes “Société Provençale de Construction Navale” (SPCN) then, in 1940, “Chantiers Navals de La Ciotat (CNC).

From super tankers to the close-down of the shipyards

The ships designed are larger and larger, more and more numerous, more and more complex to manufacture: the last super tankers built in the shipyard of La Ciotat were about 320,000 tonnes! In 1973, more than 5000 workers and employees work on the site.

But in 1978, the oil crisis and competition from Asia led to the first dismissals on the site. The production is again shifted towards the construction of oil tankers and other gas carriers, but also towards the repair of large vessels.

In 1982, the “CNC”, the shipyards of Dunkerque and those of La Seyne are fused together in one company, “Société des Chantiers du Nord et de la Méditerreanée”, called NORMED. This unfortunate decision of the authorities, resulting from an incorrect strategic analysis, will seal the fate of the shipyards of La Ciotat.

In 1987, the last two ships built in La Ciotat are launched. The “Oaxax”, September 19, and the “Monterrey” on December 19.

On July 31 1988, the shipyards close-down … locking the “Monterrey”, still docked inside. The industrial history could have ended there without the intervention of a small group of 105 employees determined to save their worktool and to give an industrial and maritime future to the site. Like a David against Goliath remake, these “105 diehards” eventually win the fight. On August 17 1994, an agreement was signed between the Government Representative, the Presidents of the Region and the Department, the Mayor of La Ciotat and Mr. Pierre Tidda representing the workers. This agreement, still acting as a true “Constitution” of the site to this day, is a commitment between the signatories based on two principles:

  1. Maintaining an industrial and maritime vocation for the site
  2. The unicity of its management

SEMIDEP-Ciotat is created in the aftermath to follow this ambitious roadmap and pilot the project, according to the principles of public service.

From SEMIDEP to La Ciotat Shipyards, or the rebirth of the shipyards

In 20 years, SEMIDEP-Ciotat will operate an exemplary conversion of the site, transforming it into one of the world leader for the refit of Yachts and Megayachts.

In order to be better recognized, SEMIDEP-Ciotat becomes La Ciotat Shipyards, a name now well recognized internationally … History still goes on, for the best!