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Focus on Refits - Potential Pitfalls to Avoid During a Refit

Oct 13th 09
By Louisa Beckett [Photo by Frank Trotman]

As the world’s financial woes continue, some owners who normally would be in the market for a new yacht are starting to see the wisdom of buying a brokerage vessel instead. Others are holding on to their old boats longer than usual before building or buying a new one.


Both of these trends can be summed up by the same word: REFIT.


But a poorly planned and executed refit can wind up costing the boss almost as money as he saved by not building a new boat in the first place. Since the captain often ends up in charge of the refit, how he or she handles the project often can make the difference between a smooth job or a costly, out-of-control one (See Refits Gone Rogue in the August 2009 issue of Dockwalk).


Here are six common mistakes captains make while managing a refit – and how to avoid them:


1. Not reading the boss’s mind. Refits go wrong when the owners, the captain and the shipyard aren’t on the same page when it comes to the ultimate goal and scope of the project. Are you simply updating the yacht’s soft goods and equipment, or are you “taking her back to bare metal” and transforming her into a whole different vessel.


Capt. Phil Parker, master of the 108-foot Delta Princess Gloria, took his yacht’s new owners on a cruise in the Pacific Northwest before bringing her back to Delta Marine for the award-winning refit that changed her into M/Y Stampede. By watching how the owners and their family used the yacht, he was able to help them articulate the changes they wanted the yard to make in advance of the project. But even if you don’t have the luxury of a “preview cruise,” experts agree that open communication between the captain and the boss is the key to a smooth refit.


2. Not checking the shipyard’s references. “Contact the most recent half-dozen customers,” Capt. Parker says. Call the last one on the list first, since it’s human nature to put the best reference first. He also recommends asking for references and work samples from all the vendors involved in the refit project.


3. Picking a shipyard on price alone. You get what you pay for, in Capt. Parker’s experience. “I like shipyards for their extremely high level of expertise, willingness to pioneer new ideas and technologies and daily unquenchable enthusiasm for creating the best possible yachts,” he says. That’s something you just don’t get at a cut-rate yard.


4. Keeping the bad news from the boss. “A lot of the time, it’s the captain not getting the information to the owner – [like] not wanting to break it to him that they need a new engine,” says Eli Dana, yard manager/dockmaster of Newport Shipyard in Newport, Rhode Island. That can lead to projects running longer and costing more than expected when the owner finally sees the whole picture.


5. Not planning early enough for the project. “The biggest thing is to have communication before a refit; to have the job planned out before coming in,” Dana says. In particular, he recommends ordering the necessary parts in advance in order to avoid late shipping charges and delays. Planning ahead also allows the yard to start the project when you arrive, without making you wait around.


6. Letting your ego get in the way. “Set aside your ‘Captain’ persona, as this usually includes a fair amount of autocratic behavior,” advises Capt. Parker. “If you convince the yard that you are an ‘expert’ on everything, you will only get as good as your ‘expertise’.” Instead, he says, “Arrive early, leave late…a cup of coffee with the shipyard director before work starts a couple of times a week, and a bit of a cleanup and set up after quitting time will help with the next day’s work and help keep the project on course….”


Related Topics:

Focus on Refits

   10 Ways to Keep the Crew Happy During a Refit

    Ins and Outs of Yard Contracts

    Focus on Refits - Captains’ Favorite Yards


Rating  Average 0 out of 5

  • Hi Thats my photo could you put photo by me please????
    thanks frank Trotman
    Posted by trotman 28/10/2009 16:06:22

  • Careful Ablonde, nothing wrong with monitoring overall workforce productivity but actually logging workers in and out, then using this record as a bargaining chip may well be a fools game. It is entirely possible that the fitter mounting your new ac unit only spent 20 minutes on the yacht this morning making a template, then 2 hours off the yacht in the metal shop fabricating its mounting.
    Another thing to realize is that at a world class shipyard the guys upstairs in the office will assign project no.2593 to an employee and from experience anticipate 1 hour for that worker to complete this task. If the task is finished in 45 minutes the workman may very well leave the yacht on your time, return to the werft and clean up his tool tray while waiting for his next assigned job. . You are billed one hour. Painters are notorious for seemingly erratic work hours simply because other workman are in the way, conditions are not correct or the chemical reaction of their paint system has not yet kicked off. Be wise with your hourly monitoring or you may antagonize the shipyard and ruin your working relationship with them. When criticizing or disciplining a shipyard its always best to do it , discreetly, with a good working relationship and overwhelming evidence of poor performance.
    Posted by junior_1 14/10/2009 17:23:02

  • Assign a crew person to log in (and out) every shipyard worker who is working on your yacht, each and every day, by name and project. IT will shock you how often the yard will bill you for more people (and for longer hours) than you had on your boat. Funny that there never seemed to be a discrepancy in the boats favor!
    Posted by ablonde 14/10/2009 15:44:08

  • Going to the yard without a plan is defiantly the first mistakes and the root cause for most yard periods is the deficient maintenance practice of the yacht and skill levels of technical crew.

    There needs to be a training module introduced to the engineering and deck syllabus that provide the necessary skills to manage onboard maintenance and project management.

    When preventive maintenance & breakdown maintenance routines executed correctly a proportional reduction of work is required during refit periods.

    Yachts with stable crew tend to have a solid understanding of their yachts needs and efficiently deal with yard periods, save the owner time, money and distress, whereas vessels with high crew turn over inconstantly manage maintenance and repairs and this contributes to and overrun budget during a refit.

    When will yacht owners realize crew retention strategies that achieve longevity save money, time and distress?
    Posted by Dean_1 14/10/2009 13:02:29

  • Also a good idea to ask previous refit captains how thorough the commissioning protocol of the shipyard was. To clarify the term , a shipyard keeps careful record of all work performed on the vessel for obvious production and billing reasons. When the project is completed and sea trials begin a senior quality control inspector will arrive with the commissioning protocol for your project and proceed to inspect and sign off, one by one, in great detail, all work performed by the yard. Everything from machinery temp, hydraulic pressures, vibration and noise, warranty cards, equipment manuals and wiring schematics, spare parts ordered received, all the way down to squeaky hinges and sloppy execution. Some yards are good at this, some are not. This if a very important process.
    Posted by junior_1 14/10/2009 12:07:33

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