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A place for a pre-paint survey

Alex Fassbender, senior technical consultant at Optimar, discusses the finer points of preparation…

The refit survey is an often discussed but less often implemented practice. Maximising the use of a yacht's time, and the efficient application of budget was one of the key topics discussed at YARE and The Superyacht Captains Forum 2021. The ability to catalogue in detail the scope of the worklist, and efficiently quote for and then manage time is paramount. The cost and downtime, potentially midseason, make the refit survey prohibitive for some yachts and their schedules, but the practice is gaining in popularity, and it certainly has its champions. 

One area that it can be invaluable is before a re-paint. Experienced engineers can coordinate much of a refit from the perspective of the technical spaces and engine rooms.  However, having the deck team run around taking photos of all of the paint issues, warranty or otherwise, and trying to recall exactly which locker the paint blister that they swear they can remember seeing, actually is, is inefficient at best. In an ongoing series of articles on the subject, SuperychtNews speaks with Alex Fassbender, senior technical consultant at Optimar.  

“I've got a very practical approach,” Starts Fassbender. “Looking at paintwork and looking at projects that come in refit, because I've got an applicator background, I tend to look at things from an application perspective. I've got an enormous amount of respect for the guys that do the work of refit, the guys that start at the bottom and do the hard yards. The guys whose hands and fingers end up bleeding at the end of the day from longboarding.”

To sandblast or not to sandblast? 

“I understand how hard the work is. And I believe that's the approach that I've adopted with meeting all of our new clients when getting involved with their project. We like to spend a considerable amount of time and focus on the client expectation.” The client expectation is not always as clear cut, even in their minds, as the original scope of work may suggest. The devil is in the detail, and that is often where the costs can spiral.  “Clients always reiterate to me that they don't want extras, but they are a reality. And with careful structuring, planning, and due diligence in the survey process, you can preempt an enormous amount and reduce the  variation from quotations.”

Time onboard is a luxury, not least for surveyors, and is not always possible to fit in. However, as Fassbender recalls from a recent refit survey conducted on a 42m sailing yacht in Seychelles, it can be highly beneficial. “With enough time onboard you can sit around in many different positions, and imagine that you are a guest on board. Where would I be? Where would I grab a coffee in the morning? I think often these areas are only touched upon by the surveyors. These are the areas that are very important, the small details. You may choose to apply your fairing budget to a specific area, and not a technical space, for example.”

Technical space left with sections unsprayed and tools left behind from a new build.

Having worked on a range of yachts with a wide range of paint colours and types, the way paint behaves and looks changes minute by minute throughout the day, and also depending on the area of operations. A perfect finish can get undermined by a perfect sunset reflecting a certain way. These are things that crew and owners may notice but do not necessarily get accurately translated to the yard. “The advantage of being able to spend more time on the boat is that with more light, and more range of light, you can see more of these issues. There is an enormous amount of value in collecting this nuanced data that we've then been able to put into the report, which then provides options to the client. In theory, you can spec a boat from far away, It's super simple, but it’s hard to appreciate the details that may affect the quotation.”

“I believe that sometimes the approach from within the industry is a bit crazy. I have seen paint refused for ridiculous reasons when it absolutely should not have been, and conversely, I've seen paint accepted when the reverse is true,”  recalls Fassbender. A clear example of the latter can be seen below (from an unnamed shipyard) 

Curtains down? 

An often miss communicated sticking point in the preparation for a refit are things like the passerelles and their associated cavities. These are all the critical elements that provide a quotable platform. A well-drilled and experienced crew can keep on top of the work list, but especially with paint, there are hundreds of micro issues that may get lost after a couple of rounds of crew changes. Having a report, and in the case of a typical project for Fassbender- 750/1000 images, can negate some of this knowledge loss.

The major shipyards are highly experienced and very busy. This business model may not lend itself to a huge level of flexibility, which is where the preparation of a refit survey comes into its own.  "They all know what they're doing really well (The shipyards),” continues Fassbender, “and they will carry out the contractual obligation. That's what they're required to do, and if it's not part of the contractual obligation because you haven't asked for it, frankly it's a bit unreasonable to expect that they'll carry out the work. This is the grey area of refit, and where is see the job of a paint inspector. It is to be able to understand those grey areas and to highlight them to the client and before they get released and it becomes a variation from the quotation.”

Few industries have faced so much scrutiny and environmental regulatory pressure quite like coatings, and this has led to some substantial changes to the production processes. Understanding this pressure and the potential it has to subtly affect the coatings performance and associated expectations, even on the timescale between re-paints, is vital. Further to this, Fassbender concludes that the need for expert consultation is as high now in the sector as it has ever been. “The raw materials are not always an easy supply and the costs at the moment are going through the roof in every sector. The paints are changing on a regular basis. And it's hard work to stay on top of it or to play catch up. It's our job to stay ahead of it and be informed." 

 

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What are some of the most common issues that are missed in the lead up to a paint job?

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