On Course: Refits offer chance to expand skills

Jan 7, 2018 by Clive McCartney

On Course: by Clive McCartney

A quick check of Marine Traffic along the south fork of the New River shows that there are over 50 yachts in the various refit yards along that corridor in South Florida, not to mention those that have turned their AIS off or are under the sheds. There are 30 or more at the yards on Taylor Lane, and more in Miami and Palm Beach.

There can be little doubt as to the economic impact of all this activity, but what work are they getting done, who is doing the work, and perhaps more importantly, who is planning the work and ensuring that it is being done correctly and efficiently?  

There is little or no training content in the captain or engineer’s professional qualification that refers to refit planning or management. There are many successful refits completed in South Florida every year, and probably just as many that may be said to have been less successful. The question can be asked: “What is a successful yacht refit?”  Unfortunately, that question cannot be answered simply.  Finishing on time and on budget seems to be a good target, although it doesn’t address the quality of the work or the success of the design in meeting the requirements of the owners.

Here are a few other elements for consideration:

Specification writing

A good quality specification, including standards to be achieved in the final delivery, will not only save time and money, but will also make for more accurate quotes and better budgets. Specification for the next refit should start at the end of the last one.

What type of yard

Do you know which yard you’re going to, or is there to be a bid process? Some of the yards may consider themselves “full service,” whereby they staff all the trades necessary to complete all the work; other yards may have more of the “subcontractor” style. The time needed for bidding the work may well change depending on the answer to this question.

Refit contract

The standard yard contract for your chosen yard will have been written by the yard’s attorney to provide the yard the maximum amount of protection. Ensure that sufficient time is allowed in the planning schedule for the owner’s team to review the contract and negotiate if necessary. And don’t forget the subcontractor paperwork either.

Insurance

Remember to inform the yacht’s insurer about the refit. Many insurance policies include wording that could invalidate the insurance altogether if the insurer is not informed, or if the yard’s contract includes certain wording.

Communication

Make a communication plan. Inform the yard who in the yacht’s team is permitted to request changes or additional work, and decide how often and what scope of reporting will be sent to the owner. If the yard is planning a shutdown of services (water/electricity/sewage) on the yacht, ensure that the timing is communicated to the crew and any subcontractors.

Refit preparation

Aside from the specification and contract review, what is needed to prepare the yacht and crew for the refit, such as purchase of protection materials and other consumables, arrangement of shore transport and accommodation.

Flag & Class survey

In both the specification writing and communication plan above, ensure that proper consideration is given to plan approval and survey by Flag & Class.  Find out who your surveyors will be and communicate with them regularly, even if there is nothing for them to inspect.

Safety first

Prior to arrival at the yard and throughout the refit, in partnership with the yard staff themselves, ensure that proper attention is given to safety planning. Risk assessments for repair work, proper PPE, and planning of hot work should all form part of this safety review.

Financial planning

Make sure you understand the payment terms in the refit contract, and that you allow sufficient time for review of invoices and forecasting the funding needs to meet the payment schedule. Nothing is more likely to sour a shipyard relationship than a late payer.

Conflict management

Even with the finest plans, conflict is likely to arise. Give some thought ahead of time to how conflict will be handled. Seek advice early and often when it does arise.

While we can’t necessarily define what is a “successful” refit, it is likely that we all would recognize one when we see it. Take time to get to know the captains and crew on the good refits and ask active questions about which elements of planning makes them successful.

And remember that a refit is an excellent time for captains and crew to extend their skills, whether that is in the management of the refit itself or the time allowed for shore training while in the refit. Doing so will help to keep your career on course.

Clive McCartney is vice president of maritime operations and business development at Bluewater Management & Crew Training USA in Fort Lauderdale. Comments are welcome below.

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