Every yacht project presents an opportunity to learn something new. But, while continuing your education is paramount, doing so in the middle of a major refit or new build has the potential to produce disastrous results.
The most important lesson I have learned during my 35 years of yachting is allowing time for proper planning prior to undertaking any new endeavour. Because no matter how simple it might seem, an issue is bound to arise and all the effort spent thinking through the project in advance can help you keep on course.
What defines a refit? It is many things to many people, but to clarify here, we will talk about any period you plan to have your vessel in a shipyard at the disposal of contractors to perform work. It can be as minor as interior decorating all the way to major metal fabrication.
Ideally, when entering a yard period you will have planned for each project, identified who will do the work, have a price for such work and have a firm completion date.
Glen Allen, Derecktor Shipyards
We all know unexpected issues come up during the course of a project, but overall you should have at least an idea of what you might discover. In this case, it is very important to assure everyone involved is aware of changes to the scope of work and there is time to complete it. This helps everyone from the owner on down to the tradespeople who spend hours performing the smallest of projects.
Keeping the yard informed is critically important. For example, if you need more time on the hard or dockside, the yard needs to know and adjust its schedule accordingly and offer potential solutions.
Having managed three new builds and countless refits, I have always found it interesting when owners or their representatives ask what the crew will be doing “while the boat is in the yard and the crew has nothing to do.”
The crew are a key factor in identifying anything done on board and their intimate knowledge of how the vessel operates is extremely valuable when contractors need to diagnose an issue.
The captain, engineer and chief stewardess all need to stay on top of their respective areas to ensure everything goes well. Daily meetings with department heads are necessary to ensure all work is well-coordinated and without conflict.
Dealings with the yard project manager should be left to as few people on the client-side as possible. The captain should handle this, unless it is more productive to get other department heads involved. The engineer will need to communicate directly with certain vendors to exchange information and instructions.
It is important to make clear to the yard who has the authority to change or add to the scope of work. In most cases, this will be the captain. In some cases, the captain might have to consult with a management company or the owner directly.
One tool I have found to be valuable is what I refer to as a “Yard Control Sheet.” This living document divides the scope of work into categories and should be updated daily, allowing everyone involved to track overall progress.
My sheet would have a category for long term projects such as five-year refit items, high priority items to be completed as soon as possible, annual maintenance, etc. Each vessel will have different criteria for how things are handled on the list, but the point is to have the master list available to everyone - including the owner - for preplanning. Staying on top of this will keep surprises to a minimum.
Having a detailed approach by the captain and crew can end as a rewarding experience with work completed on time, on budget. It has been a rare occasion when I have left a yard and not been happy with the results. I have witnessed many different major issues between yards and vessels due to poor communication, not understanding expectations and lack of planning.
The shipyard is there to help and if you want to be satisfied with the results – always remember the yard depends on its reputation to make money.
All too often I hear “the yard doesn’t care, they just want your money.” Having been on both sides I can tell you this is rarely accurate. If you are pleased with the work performed, you will more than likely have a happy owner and have built a great relationship with the yard.
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