- Operations - Digitising yacht operations: loading in progress

By Gemma Harris

Digitising yacht operations: loading in progress

From securing a berth to booking guest activities, are there factors slowing the rate of digital disruption when it comes to operations?

You can now swipe to get X, scroll to find Y and click a few buttons to send Z, so in our hyper-connected world where technology is rapidly advancing, why do certain aspects of the yachting industry remain stagnant in terms of development?

The industry has come on in technological leaps and bounds within navigation and design, so why within operations is it still using archaic and cumbersome processes? Back-and-forth communication is still in place to confirm things that every other industry seems to have now mastered with the click of a button. While digital solutions indeed show promise in optimising processes, some industry-specific elements are holding up further progress. 

Logistics is one of these sticking points. The industry has its own playbook for doing things, lacking a standardised blueprint. When it comes to booking a berth, the nature of the industry is holding up some technological development. While marina booking apps are full steam ahead in the recreational boating world, where users can book slips at the touch of a button, when it comes to superyachts, functionality still lacks. 

Typically, a superyacht will need a last-minute booking for a berth, and at the moment the lack of real-time availability is slowing things down. Edouard Fiess, Co-Founder and CEO of Navily, explains, “Real-time booking and availability is about a decade away; it is a concept that is here already, but it will start with smaller boats before it reaches superyachts. Marinas must accept the idea that they can let them book without pre-calling. It will also require an overhaul in the tools that marinas use, so a longer technological adaptation period will be necessary.” This development is echoed by Niklas Baumgartner, CEO of Seasy, “Real-time availability is the thing that will really bring this market to the next level, and the demand for last-minute bookings will rise.”  

Aside from working to the eleventh hour, there  are also multiple stakeholders to confer with. “Superyachts are floating businesses; so many parties are involved in making decisions,” says Baumgartner. Fiess explains, “The issue is always the same in our industry – it is money. If you implement real-time booking without human interference, no one receives the cheque.” An unfair prerequisite of certain industry activities means that digitising will help to enhance transparency and perhaps receive pushback. These traditional processes are overdue a mindset shift to improve not only the ethics of our industry but also operational ease and convenience. 

Another consideration when digitising operations is that personal relationships are still valued. Acquera Pro recently launched its digital platform that integrates everything into one easy-to-use platform for crew, from filling out port-clearance forms online to receiving marina quotes and gaining access to guest activities. However, Chief Strategy Officer Advise Tositti explains, “It is still essential to maintain that relationship between the agent and the user. We are providing our digital tool as an additional benefit, and users get the best of both ... We still need to have staff on the ground in this industry.” 

Provisioning is another operational headache for crew. Many companies now have online ordering platforms. However, multiple communication tends to occur to ensure specific produce before an order can be finalised. A new app on the market, Paradise Foods, has launched, delivering to yachts across the French Caribbean. “Our app works a bit like Amazon Fresh: we deliver same day within a few hours of placing the order, and if a product isn't in our catalogue, we can usually bring it within a day,” says co-Founder of Paradise Foods Zoe Adamovicz. “Our first season was a great success, so it's logical for us to expand to the entire Caribbean and other destinations.”

On board there is already a myriad of apps being used to help the crew manage the yacht better, such as the various software solutions in general management, inventory and accounting, but there still seems to be some way to go when it comes to integrating with shoreside services.  

The industry’s complexities with developing technology, intricate stakeholder dynamics and the importance of face-to-face transactions have combined into a landscape where fully digitisation still faces some resistance. While the industry recognises the potential of digital tools, more is needed to bridge the gap between tradition and innovation. Perhaps Acquera Pro and Paradise Foods are overcoming some of these hurdles already.  

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