Three generations in the making

Francisco Sarrias joined Marina System Ibérica S.L. (MSI) in 1994. The company had been founded a few years prior to that by two industrial engineers, one of whom was Francisco’s father. The two partners had for some time been nurturing the idea of building offshore structures for aquaculture. Collaborating with a Norwegian engineering firm they designed a number of mammoth platforms using steel tubes. To complement its aquaculture business, MSI joined forces with SF Marina at the turn of the century. Today MSI not only represents SF Marina in Spain but also in Portugal, France, Algeria, and Morocco.

“The first dock project was a small installation in the Port of Barcelona. Selling the first is always difficult. People struggle to understand the concept and superior stability of concrete pontoons. But once installed we used it as a showcase for our next project, Marina Port Vell, some 200 metres down the road in the old harbour” says Francisco.

Port Vell was part of an urban renewal programme in the lead-up to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. What was previously industrial wasteland was transformed into two yacht harbours and Barcelona’s largest leisure and recreation area, complemented two years later with the famous walkway Rambla de Mar – a natural continuation of the pedestrian street La Rambla.

“Port Vell was an enormous and most ambitious undertaking, and it also became our first local manufacturing project,” says Francisco. Twenty years later, MSI helped Marina Port Vell refurbish and reconfigure the marina to accommodate even bigger yachts. It is now a spectacular location, in the heart of Barcelona, with space for 150 yachts up to 190 metres in length. “It remains our main showroom.”

“I always recommend prospective clients to visit one of our reference installations and see how well our products age,” says Francisco. “My selling points differ depending on the area, as needs, conditions and traditions can vary. Along the Atlantic coast they usually like piles as the tide can fluctuate by up to nine metres. In the Mediterranean there are very few naturally sheltered areas and you need to protect your marina artificially.”

Apart from Marina Port Vell, Francisco is also immensely proud of MSI’s installation at Tanger Med 2, which is a new commercial port in Morocco. “This is our first breakthrough into commercial ports. We mainly work with marinas, but here we installed large and very attractive industrial units. The dock is 70 metres long, 10 metres wide, and 2.7 metres high. The pontoons are anchored using SeaFlex anchors and elastic mooring lines, and they can accommodate four Svitzer tugs,” says Francisco. In addition to the floating dock for tugs, MSI also installed a smaller dock for pilot boats.

Francisco has some other potential projects lined up, which he has been working on for many years. “It usually takes two or three years to get a project from start-up to delivery, and you need to strike a balance between planting seeds and harvesting. It is like making fine wine where the winemaker allows the high-quality wines to age in the cellar for a few years before delivering to the market.”

And just as great vineyards tend to stay in the family for generations, Francisco’s son will be working for MSI during the summer when he is not at university. “I’m not going to force him to make pontoons when he graduates, but I will give him the opportunity to gain some experience now and maybe one day he will decide to join the company.”