Optimising superyacht management structures
What is the ideal model for the optimal flow of communication between the key parties managing a superyacht?
From captains to managers, owners’ representatives to family offices, the number of key people involved in the operational decisions of a superyacht can be many. The more people involved, however, the harder it is to manage operations and can be over complicated if the key parties are not working together in an efficient way. With every management structure, therefore, it is important to create an optimal flow of communication. Typically, this communication should start with the captain.
“I find that communication between the main parties involved in the running of a superyacht business continues to evolve,” explains Captain John Fleckenstein of 63m M/Y Apogee. “Currently, I support a triangle method, whereby the owning company is at the top and the captain and management company are in the two other corners. The information typically moves best from captain to management, and then onwards to the owning company to make the final decision.”
“Communication between the main parties involved in the running of a superyacht business continues to evolve..."
Of course, superyacht management structures are not always that simple. Sometimes there might be another one or two more rungs to the ladder in the form of owners’ representatives or family offices. The 50m M/Y Mariu, for example, has many different key parties involved in the running of the yacht and, for Captain Maria Grazia Franco, the main complication can be that there are too many people involved for one individual vessel. “When it comes to standard maintenance, you can plan ahead for the time it takes to go through so many different channels,” she says. “However, when it comes to quick decision-making on a charter, the only option is to cut out some of the steps. It is possible to have more than one supporting party ashore, but it needs to be kept to a small pool, otherwise people can lose track of their roles, and that has an impact on timing and efficiency.”
Things can get even more complicated if one of these parties is unfamiliar with yachting. If this is the case, it is their responsibility to realise their limitations and trust that the captain or manager can fill in the gaps in their knowledge. For example, if an owner’s rep notices that the interior department is going over budget, they may benefit from speak to the manager and captain in order to fully understand that the boat is in the midst of a busy season, with back-to-back charters, and the crew are being forced to rely on expensive laundrette services with quick turnaround times in order to cope. Or, if there is high crew turnover on board, speaking to the manager or captain may reveal that the crew are tired and burnt out. In these examples, this may lead to a recommendation either to increase the budget set for such tasks or allow longer turnaround times between trips; to consider rotation for certain crewmembers or give the crew more holiday.
“It can be really difficult for a captain when the people making the decisions think they know the industry when they don’t..."
Trusting those in the know is also something that Captain Grazia Franco insists upon. “While having more people involved can mean more support, when it comes to speedy decision-making it should only be one person ashore and the captain or chief engineer involved in making the final call,” she adds. “It can be really difficult for a captain when the people making the decisions think they know the industry when they don’t. You can be dealing with a family office that is looking after all sorts of investments for the owner, but if they don’t know about the maritime industry then they are unlikely to understand the day-to-day needs of a superyacht. It is important for the person making the decisions, whether it be the manager, owner’s representative or family office, to trust that the captain has the boat’s and the owner’s best interests at heart.”
By listening to and respecting feedback from those involved in the day-to-day operations, those in charge of the asset can make informed decisions based on the facts. A high level of communication and trust between all parties will go a long way to ensuring that a yacht is being run and managed the way the owner wants it.
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