Yacht Management: Large vs. Small Firms

2 March 2010 By Louisa Beckett

Which yacht management company a yacht owner selects is a hot-button issue for many superyacht captains – one made all the more difficult by the large variety of management firms available in the marketplace today.

“Management is a very difficult topic to discuss with captains,” says Capt. Steve Rodda of M/Y Blind Date. “I’ve had good and I’ve had bad.” He adds wryly, “I guess they can say the same thing about captains.”

One important consideration in going with a management company is its size. Vertical integration and consolidation in the superyacht industry in recent years has yielded a number of large, multidiscipline companies offering “one-stop-shopping” for everything from operational services and crew staffing, to ISM and ISPS compliance, to charter management, brokerage and new build consultation.

On the other end of the scale are smaller firms that focus on providing owners and captains of existing vessels with specialized shoreside support.

“The larger, full service companies will provide you with a wider scope of information and expertise,” says Alan Dale, Burgess Fleet Manager. Human resources, technical support, voyage routing, weather services and emergency response are all part of Burgess’ “platinum management service.”

Dale reports, “Once a captain starts working with us, they start to realize we take a huge workload off their shoulders.”

The larger companies have the manpower to provide the yacht with more comprehensive coverage, he says. “Whereas the smaller firms might have one person being a master of all trades…we have a team to fall back on.” He adds, “Nevertheless, We still focus on the personal relationship.”

The smaller yacht management companies, for their part, claim they are the ones offering yachts the most individualized, hands-on service.

“You get a more personalized service. You’re not dealing with a large team,” says Katherine Ellis, head of the Yachting & Aviation division for Equiom Yachtsmann, an independent Isle of Mann management firm. Equiom provides each yacht with a three-person management team in order to ensure same-day service. “We really pride ourselves on our quick response,” she says. “The relationship with the captain is paramount.”

While smaller management companies do not offer as large a portfolio of services as the big, multidiscipline houses, they drill down deep in particular areas, offering captains specialized support. Equiom is highly experienced in tax consultation, registration, administrative and fiduciary services such as licensing and certification. “Captains need to have confidence [that] we know what we are doing from the shoreline,” Ellis said.

“I don’t think large or small is the way you can draw the line exactly,” sums up Rupert Connor, president of Luxury Yacht Group. “My key message is that we don’t sell yacht management, we sell shore support services that will help the captain.” He emphasizes: “The only yacht manager is the captain.”

Capt. Rodda agrees. “We all work for the same boss; [that’s] one very important point. If the boss is happy with boat then everybody is happy…. Management is there to support the boat in any way that it can.”