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SUPERYACHT #521
Sep 2005

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news


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Article by
Fabio Petrone


THE SHIPCHANDLER OF SO.SE.MA.

All true Leghorn born people find their roots in the city's port and to the sea. And this is certainly the case with the Ciano family, which for many generations has made Leghorn its home. The family is characterised by typical qualities of this city: an innate independence, a freedom-loving spirit and a great desire to achieve. Thanks to these qualities, past members of the family found success. On merchant ships, first under sail and then motorised, or in the Mediceo Port. And they did well because of their enterprising hard work. One of them, a sailor, Galeazzo Ciano, took part in Gabriele d'Annunzio's heroic landing at Draç in Albania.

In short, an impressive family name, also associated with ship- chandlers activity as of 1885, when a certain Antonio Ciano, then a freighter captain, made a votive offering to the Madonna of Montenero (an ancient sanctuary on the Leghorn hills) after his second shipwreck. He promised that if he managed to return to land safe and sound he would give up sailing. He kept his word and his votive offering of thanks can still be seen in that sanctuary. But a sailor could not completely renounce his connection to the sea and so Antonio opened, right in front of the Mediceo Port in his beloved Leghorn, one of the first ship chandlers in Italy. He no longer had the rolling deck of a ship under his feet but he put his love of the sea into his new work.

The company which is now known as So.Se.Ma. (Società Servizi Marittimi - Maritime Services Company) was the result and, with the intensity typical of a true Leghorn person, Mario Ciano tells us, "You never end up working for the sea and with the sea by accident. When it comes to anything that has to do with that world, you're always driven by a particular emotional connection, a bit like 'mal d'Afrique'".

And it is with this "emotional connection" that the Ciano family has been working in naval supply for 120 years. The three brothers of the latest generation (Mario, Massimo and Vittorio) divided their activities ten years ago. The ship-chandler part of the business, with the new name, So.Se.Ma, has been carried on by the eldest brother, Mario, who has continued with the company's original work, assistance to commercial and passenger ships, a tradition going back six generations.

But, for a tradition to be kept alive there must be new initiatives and new energy. Hence, three years ago, Mario Ciano and his partner, Chiara Francesconi, decided to start a new business line, assistance to super-yachts, charters in particular.

Below, he tells us about this new activity.

We asked him if Chiara Francesconi is the same person who, until a few years ago, worked at the Emerald Coast Yacht Club.

Yes, she's the one. She is the daughter of a sea captain and has always loved sailing. For eight years, she reported directly to Commodore Gianfranco Alberini. Then she worked in press offices (for Jacopo Marchi and Paolo Martinoni) and on the organisation of the first Sailing Tour d'Italia. She worked for Gatorade/F40 multihulls, various JMA sports sponsorships, etc. Thanks to her experience with yachting and promotion, we were able to open new premises in Viareggio, with a commercial office which she runs, "So.Se.Ma. Yacht Division." Meanwhile, our overall activity continues to be based in Leghorn, with a staff of twenty, six vehicles for deliveries and returns, an in-house shipping agent to facilitate customs operations, a 2000-sq.m warehouse, 3000- cu.m of cold-storage space...

What kind of service do you offer to super-yachts?

A service which distinguishes us: highly professional, organised, efficient, scrupulous and all-round.

What are the most common requests?

Each supply is unique, from basic wine and food requirements, made more "spicy" by particular tastes, to technical supplies, to safety equipment, to postal services, international shipping and customs procedures. We often deal with very high-level guests and their opinions about our work are fundamental to our future success.

What are your customers' nationalities?

We work almost exclusively with foreigners, attracted by our ability to make extra-fast deliveries. We have only a few, but very much appreciated, Italian customers.

Apart from emergencies, what is your usual delivery time?

We usually ask for at least a week but this is most often wishful thinking. As a general rule, finally, we deliver, depending on the customer's needs, within a maximum of three days. We are able to access provisions very, very quickly and we are rarely unable to deliver a complete order.

As far as duty-free is concerned, given that we have enormous experience with supplying ships, we are waiting for the blessed law on superyachts put through by Paolo Vitelli to enter into force.

Is there a limit to the size of super-yacht you serve?

No, on the contrary. The bigger they are, the more suitable they are for our type of organisation.

What can a customer ask, and not ask, of you?

Our customers can ask for anything and, in the near future, even more. Thanks to the arrival of Benetti - Azimut in Leghorn and to real friendships, in particular with an American journalist, Norma Trease, who has been working in the yacht industry for years, we are a hotbed of ideas. It is extremely rare for us to say no to our customers. If it can be done, it will be done. In fact, our slogan is, "You asked for it, SoSeMa Yacht Division provides it". It is, however, essential that we then deliver.

Are your services seasonal?

No, absolutely not. We work 365 days a year, including weekends, when necessary. We learned this working with ships. For them, there is no such thing as Saturday or Sunday and the same holds true for yachts, whether chartered or private, with owners and/or guests on board.

Where do you provide your services?

As far as both fresh and frozen food is concerned, we deliver in the Tyrrhenian area from the C“te d'Azur to Naples and, on the Adriatic side, from Ravenna to Venice. However, when requested, we work just about anywhere around the peninsula, even on the islands, including Sardinia and Corsica.

What is your major challenge?

Fresh and frozen food. We deliver with our own vehicles because we trust only our own refrigerated units and our own drivers. In the summer especially, it only takes a minute for goods to perish and if this should happen, we would lose the customer or create inconvenience. We work to solve problems, not to cause them!

How do you guarantee these standards?

First of all, we enjoy our work very much. We are a young team, we are all between thirty and fifty years of age. And then, we always try to make our purchases at the source, avoiding middlemen. We have a major advantage in this regard, thanks to the huge quantities of our catered supplies taken by crew ships (Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, etc.), which gives us a leverage for excellent prices, top quality and extremely fast deliveries.

What does the word quality stand for in your work?

Quality and service are the bases of our sales policy, along with a reciprocal relationship of esteem and co-operation with our customers. We are management customers for major wine producers (Antinori, Ruffino, Monteschiavo, Dievole, Elena Walch, etc.) and we are continually on the lookout for new suppliers and distributors. We have invited our foreign customers to the estates I just mentioned, an event which we are organising for the end of September, after the summer season. The idea is to make them familiar with our Italian wines, which are on a par with French wines, although the latter are more requested by our foreign customers.

What earns your customers' loyalty?

Our professionalism, competence, correctness, efficiency, friendliness, punctuality and knowledge. When we promise and confirm something, we provide it, always.

For further information: Chiara Francesconi, SO.SE.MA. Yacht Division, Via Dei Pescatori, 11 - 55049 - Viareggio, Tel/Fax +39 0584 395612, Mobile +39 348 0856773 - e-mail : chiara@sosema.it - Head Office and Warehouse, Mario Ciano, SO.SE.MA. SRL, Via Dell'Ecologia 7/9 - 57122 - Livorno - Tel +39 0586 426131 # 813 - Fax +39 0586 427219 - e-mail : info@sosema.it