Avoid becoming like Ned Stark by losing your head before things even get going…
For the busiest crews currently hopping around the Med, it may seem like an eternity until the days get shorter, the nights draw in and you pull into the shipyard for your next refit period. But for many captains and engineers out there, now is the time to get your upcoming refit planning underway. Winter, as they say, is coming.
Of course, any seafarer worth his salt knows that it’s all about preparation to avoid unexpected hiccups come time for the haul-out or survey prep in the yard. But what else can you do to avoid becoming like Ned Stark and losing your head before things even get going?
Edge Yachts’ Founder and Director Anthony Sands shares some lessons he learned from the coalface as a captain and engineer.
1. PLAN & PREPARE
I know it seems obvious, but these days, vessels are always between one significant work and maintenance period and the next. Honestly, the definition of ‘refit’ is a bit foggy, in my view. When is something a refit and when is it standard maintenance? If you’re going to be laid up for a couple of months, attending to the paint and some technical matters that can’t be addressed while the yacht is in operation, is that a refit? Compare that to the conversion of a Norwegian supply vessel into expedition superyacht, which some would call a ‘refit’, and you see that the scope for usage of the term is huge. But the key to successfully executing either is to start with a very broad scope of work, and then tighten it up within the owner’s tolerance for cost and time.
Don’t get too caught up in the details early on or you might lose sight of the bigger picture. Following this, keep an honest and clear dialogue between key parties about prioritising work as it relates to safety, utility and aesthetics.
There should be only ONE master work list, period. Owner, management company, captain, project managers and heads of department MUST be on the same page. Literally. The scope of work for any project will proceed through dozens of revisions, from what was first considered necessary to what will actually be done and has funds approved, to those items which are discovered while undertaking the work. Make use of the dozens of document sharing tools to keep everyone abreast of the latest iteration of the work list to avoid confusion.
It bears mentioning that the items that do not make the cut for this refit period should not be discarded by the wayside forever. They should be put to one side and raised, post-refit, during a debrief meeting between the owner, captain and manager, to see if they make the next refit’s work list.
3. COMMUNICATE BUT DON’T OVER-COMMUNICATE
For God’s sake, never stop communicating! But also have the humility and understanding to know when you don’t really have anything of relevance to report. Keep things brief and prevent those involved from being inundated by inane and pointless updates. This is almost impossible to define because some owners are very hands-off, and others have a very deep, specific interest in certain aspects of their vessels.
I’ve had owners call me to tell me that their engineers or captains are driving them insane by pouring more minutiae into their inbox than they could possibly digest, while they (the owner) have an extremely busy normal workload on their plate. Then, on the other hand, we had a client who hired a captain while the yacht was in ‘refit’ some months before he hired us to handle the yacht’s fiduciary matters. The owner had heard from the captain just twice in that time and wasn’t sure when his yacht would be available. In both cases, the situation is far from optimal. Our solution is to make a significant effort getting to know your clients or owner and their key team members. This is the only way you will be able throttle the communications to an appropriate frequency and complexity.
4. MANAGE MONEY
Again, this seems obvious. But it is surprising how often we encounter unwelcome ‘surprises’ when any of the above three steps are not wholly or even partly followed. It ought to be fairly straightforward: Know what is planned and know what is approved. For each point on the work list, know what it was supposed to cost, know what it did cost, and know when and why cost improved or didn’t. Then move back to point 2…
5. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
If you are conducting your refit, conversion or new build with the above in mind, this should a no brainer. If you are implementing the above mantra you will be well prepared to call the boss and let him know his yacht is ready, the results are fantastic, and cost is substantially less then expected OR go in with your hat in hand when the unexpected occurs (or is discovered) and inform him that the work will cost more and take longer than expected. Both are possibilities, you can never be 100% certain when it comes to these sorts of projects, but if the above ideas are observed and implemented, the latter will occur with far less frequency and you will be in a much better position to deal with any arising problems.
Learn more about how Edge Yachts can help with your refit plans here.