Refit survey in practice
Xavier Ex of Exmar Yachting shares his thoughts on the need for the refit survey, after completing a project in Seychelles …
Forward planning and streamlining the overall refit process is a vital topic, and one discussed extensively at YARE and The Superyacht Captains Forum 2021. Efficient use of the yachts time and maximising the refit process is paramount, but the twin factors of time and cost seem to work against each other. Busy yachts cannot commit early, and equally busy yards may find the quotation process and eventual inaccuracies leave the owner with a bad taste in the mouth after the refit is complete.
The loss of data accrued by a vessel over its lifecycle is a major sticking point. Collecting and disseminating the data as needed, regardless of the crew changeovers, reflagging or ownership change. This was a key discussion point at the RINA breakaway session at The Superyacht Forum Live 2021 also. Discerning who actually owns this data, and in what way it can be used is an ongoing debate. Adding a refit survey is another dimension to the refit cycle, and it comes with its own considerations. SuperyachtNews speaks with Xavier Ex, BU Manager Yachting at EXMAR Yachting, about their approach.
Xavier Ex, BU Manager Yachting at EXMAR Yachting
Having a re-fit survey is an obvious benefit for forward planning and efficiency. Commercial ships count every minute they are in dry dock as profits lost and this approach is at odds with the frequently drawn out and 'let's pray for the best' attitude that undermines some superyacht refit projects. Professional yards have systems in place to make the most of the refit period, and it is in their best interest to maximise the number of projects they can fit into a busy winter, but can yachts and management do more to streamline the process?
“I met Rory Marshall (Superyacht Paint Consultant) at YARE in 2018, who then introduced me to Alex Fassbender from Optimar," Starts Ex. "There we discussed how it would be interesting to develop a more hands-on approach from the owners and managers to the re-fit and painting process.” Speaking specifically to the most recent project, the 42m sailing yacht Douce France, where the paint was the priority, Ex further elaborates the rationale behind completing the survey. “Most shipyards will say – hey we have our painters, (who are contractors usually) and by the time they are looking at the project, often the pricing has only been ballparked in advanced, and the extra cost start creeping in.”
42m Sailing Yacht Douce France
The Exmar Yachting representatives, along with Alex Fassbender and a representative from the NAUTECH shipyard flew out to meet the yacht in Seychelles to conduct a 3-day refit survey and pre-paint assessment. “From a management perspective, we are always encouraging crew to supply work lists well in advance. Of course, we understand that these are dynamic situations and the scope of work will evolve, but we try to look at the big picture and get the crew involved early. By then having consultants on board who can also communicate directly with the shipyard helps create the most accurate scope of works, and we will then have the detailed report on file. In this case, the report is 21 pages long.”
“The ideal situation is when you build and commission the vessel for a client, are the managers from day one and following up all maintenance, class and flag surveys, which makes it very easy – all of the data then lives in-house and on your PMS system. But it does not often happen like that, and the difficulty comes when there are gaps in the lifecycle.” When these gaps appear is when Ex believes pre-refit surveys are almost imperative to avoid spiralling costs and times constraints.
42m Sailing Yacht Douce France
One of the potential solutions is to integrate third-party software as a conduit between the different stakeholders. The dreaded excel spreadsheet elicits strong memories never-ending tabs easily misplaced decimal points. However, Ex still sees value in centralising and keeping it relatively traditional. “An excel spreadsheet is something universal, and it takes time to build properly. But having all the other contractors and supplies integrated creates an information hub. Shipyards will use their own software and will be unlikely to change because a vessel has something different. In order to avoid the different parties working off different systems, I don’t think having a 3rd party software in-between is the answer in the short to medium term.”
Fitting a refit survey into an already busy schedule is one barrier to entry, the other is cost and who’s the responsibility it is to cover. The hypothetical that the vessel will save €75,000 on a refit, verse the €15,000 that the survey will cost is an oversimplification. The reality is, as Ex explain, that in all likelihood the quote may actually match the estimation, the differentiation is that the scope is unlikely to grow, and the timeframe can be communicated with relative assuredness.
The cost, upfront is significant, as Ex explains: “We lost a complete week travelling to Seychelles. Three full days, two nights travelling there and back. We were gone from Monday morning to Friday evening. You do need to invest time and, of course, who's going to pay for that? That depends on your discussion and negotiation with the yard, the subcontractors, the surveyors and the owner.” To conclude, Ex stress that these costs are offset in the long run for their clients, and that as asset managers for the yachts they represent, refit surveys are the most efficient solution to effectively refitting a superyacht.
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