While most of the industry will acknowledge that classification societies play a crucial role in safe superyacht construction and operation, the sector has historically come under criticism for onerous rules, a lack of consistency, poor communication and a lack of reactivity to innovation. In addition, a recent market perception report undertaken by The Superyacht Agency, which collated insight from a wide demographic of key industry stakeholders, highlighted a demand for class to be more proactive in helping clients meet rules and regulatory standards, rather than simply enforcing them.

In most new-build scenarios, it is very likely that the owner or captain will have the most influence over which classification society is chosen. However, it is the relationship between the classification society and shipyard or management company that really matters, as this will ultimately directly affect the overall success of a project. In order to establish how these relationships could be optimised, key stakeholders within the new build process were asked how classification societies might be able to improve their proposition.

A key theme that emerged from these discussions was that shipyards and management companies want, and expect, classification societies to add value to a project. “The surveyors are not spending enough time patrolling things in the yard,” explained one shipyard representative. “We are seeing the time spent doing this decreasing and we are afraid that class is moving in the ‘auditor’ direction. They are relying on shipyards to quality control standards, but this is worrying because we need them to police against any stupidities of the yard and owner’s teams.”

“It would be so much better if [class] would see themselves as partners or servicemen, but instead they are acting like policemen...”

Another common issue raised was that shipyards felt that the relationship between yard and class could work better if surveyors re-evaluated their role in projects. “It would be so much better if [class] would see themselves as partners or servicemen, but instead they are acting like policemen,” explained another stakeholder. Other stakeholders agreed, adding that being a partner means providing more support at the pre-contract stage and de-risking the technical aspects of the project. It was made very clear that shipyards want class to work with them to be part of the problem as well as the solution, helping to find individual solutions for individual cases and for surveyors to be mentors during projects.

As yachts become larger and on-board systems more sophisticated, the role of classification in ensuring that the vessels being built and safe and operational is ever more important. Seemingly, the market understands the important role that class plays and its value, but also has some concerns about the exact nature of the relationship between itself and class. Feedback is the first step towards acknowledging these issues, and minor adjustments could enable class to provide an optimal proposition to clients and the industry as its role continues to expand and diversify.

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