- Operations - Trust, transparency and communication


Trust, transparency and communication

Daniel Küpfer, managing director of Ocean Management, discusses yacht management best practices…

As yachts increase in length and tonnage, so do the claims on their owners. Running a yacht is as complicated and involved as running a midsize company; from crew and HR to safety and maintenance, to flag and regulatory issues, ownership encompasses a complex labyrinth of obligations. Since everyday life brings enough of its own responsibilities, it is important that your yacht – an object of pleasure and escape – doesn’t become a chore.

Over the years, the ownership landscape has evolved considerably. Owners and captains face an ever-growing, ever-changing sea of rules, regulations and red tape. While yachts once sat firmly in the leisure sector and an owner could feasibly run their vessel comfortably with a competent captain and shoreside accountant, yachts today have shifted into what can only be described as an operational subset of the international shipping community.

Operating in such a complex regulatory environment means it’s fundamental to have efficient, shore-based support. That is where a yacht-management team comes in; understanding the intricacies and complexities that it takes to manage these superyachts, as well as the support and service that captains and crew require, means they can take care of everything from crewing to tax, VAT and compliance, allowing the captain to run the yacht without being overwhelmed by administration and the owner to simply enjoy the asset.

In my opinion, the ability to offer an exceptional, informed service ultimately comes down to the team you create. Ideally, a yacht manager has a commercial-shipping background with some experience as a captain, deck officer, chief engineer or naval architect. Understanding and keeping abreast of the regulatory environment and managing large yachts requires the knowledge, structured thinking and quality management that is learned from working in the commercial realm.

Ideally, a yacht manager has a commercial-shipping background with some experience as a captain, deck officer, chief engineer or naval architect.

But the superyacht sector is not the commercial sector. While many of the regulations may put the yachting world in the same box as commercial shipping, the truth is that superyachts are in a class of their own. Understanding this difference and this balance is key to taking care of all of the operational issues surrounding your yacht. As a result, yacht managers also have to have experience at sea on superyachts, ensuring they know firsthand how these vessels are run and the levels of service that are expected.

Trust, transparency and communication are key to the successful relationship between a yacht-management company and owners and captains. I strongly believe you have to assign a dedicated yacht manager to every yacht to make it possible to build a strong, personal partnership. Honest, regular meetings are conducted in person where possible and each manager is permanently available, acting as a point of reference for the owner and captain.

Owning a superyacht should be one of life’s greatest joys. These sophisticated leviathans offer ultimate levels of privacy, luxury and freedom; a personal retreat that can take you anywhere, with a crew that innately understands your every preference. But ownership can be fraught with frustrations. Finding and keeping that professional, intuitive crew, for example, can be tricky. A competent yacht-management company needs to be skilled at administering and managing yacht crew, as well as recruiting accomplished, qualified and capable captains and crew.

A competent yacht-management company needs to be skilled at administering and managing yacht crew, as well as recruiting accomplished, qualified and capable captains and crew.

A yacht manager will select, interview and background check all candidates before also taking care of employment details unique to this industry: employment agreements in line with international and Flag-state regulations, such as the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, travel and visa arrangements, crew training and support, performance-monitoring. Managers who have had experience as crew will understand the qualities they need and how to keep them motivated, meaning that the yachts they look after will experience minimal crew turnover, resulting in a more economical operation of their yachts, while also operating at an enhanced safety and service level.

But it isn’t just about crew: a professional yacht-management company can advise and take the lead on everything from corporate ownership to the benefits of registering your yacht under the ideal jurisdiction. Their relationship with you and your captain means they understand your specific requirements better than anyone and can offer tailor-made solutions for every situation. By partnering with a team on a full operational management package, you can be safe in the knowledge that your yacht will always be operated efficiently, safely and intelligently. Whether it is crewing, technical management and inspections, safety and security audits, cost control or payments and accounting, yacht managers have the expertise as well as a dedicated, specialist support team behind them. A 24/7 global emergency support promise means that when something does go wrong, your manager will be on hand immediately to help get it resolved as quickly as possible.

Working with a manager will undoubtedly make your life easier, save you precious time and it will help save you money. Maintaining and operating a yacht is a costly undertaking. By working closely with captains, yacht managers can not only help control expenses using a wide network of suppliers and service providers but also, by implementing a proactive and preventative maintenance programme, keep repair and maintenance costs to a minimum in the long run and ultimately secure resale value. Fleet transfer knowledge – in other words managing more than one yacht – helps to reduce costs before they even incur and become visible to the owner.

Serious management companies also have a decisive no-commission policy for services rendered to their clients under the management agreement, therefore clients will receive the entirety of every saving that the managers secure. Engaging a professional management company prevents owners from ‘reinventing the wheel’ when managing their yacht, therefore avoiding frustrations and allowing them to enjoy yachting at its best.

This guest column originally appeared in The Superyacht Annual Report: Wealth 2018. To subscribe, please click here.

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