What to Consider in Planning and Managing Your Custom Yacht Refit

captains and owners need reliable engineering firm to help manage custom yacht refits
“The number of Superyacht refit projects has been steadily increasing over the last decade. Many of the prolific new builds of past decades have matured and are ready for major upgrades and requirements. All indications within the industry show that these projects will continue to increase, both at shipyards here in the U.S., and internationally. Industry estimates show that of the nearly 5,000 Superyachts active around the world 1,000 will be scheduling refits over the next several years.

The reasons for these projects are varied. Safety and Class compliance requirements are primary. Owners’ preferences and captains’ condition reports and recommendations are also significant drivers of refits.

Additionally, many owners are addressing issues that were deferred due to the recession. Some owners are now choosing refits over new construction, an approach which allows them to essentially build a new custom yacht, but with shorter timelines and with potentially smaller investments.”

—Nick Boksa, BOKSA MARINE DESIGN

A Typical Refit Scenario

Class compliance requirements, safety mandates or upgrades will periodically require shipyard maintenance. Cosmetic maintenance or upgrades or performance and range considerations will also require shipyard resources.

Additionally over time, both the owner and the captain will identify aspects of the yacht that they would like to change. The goal of the changes may be to make the yacht more enjoyable and more operationally efficient. They may decide that upgrades to electrical systems, galley appliances, guest accommodations, water toys or entertainment systems are desired.

These considerations may be discussed with an owner’s yacht management representative. A preliminary wish-list of desired changes may be drafted and prioritized as the first step in the refit project plan. At this stage, a naval architecture and marine engineering firm may be retained to address and quantify the changes.

Some shipyards may provide this service or make recommendations for outside vendors. Some owners or captains may directly seek out design and engineering firms before approaching the yard.

Planning Your Refit

yacht refit company floridaA successful refit project requires substantial amounts of planning, time, energy and resources. Regardless of the reason for the refit, experienced owners, along with their captains and their management firms, know the details of these projects are often complex.

Detailed planning, communications and management of expectations is critical to successful completion. Defining the scope of a refit requires significant time and coordination between the owner, captain, crew and other parties. Owners’ wishes are of course paramount, but captains’ and crews’ knowledge of a vessel’s needs cannot be overlooked.

Additionally, material scope of refit specifications, class compliance and stability requirements require qualified naval architecture and engineering resources. Management and communication between the owner’s representative and the shipyard chosen to execute the refit work can will be quite involved.

A captain’s relationship and rapport with his owner, his refit experience and specific knowledge of his vessel are important prerequisite qualifications frequently resulting in appointment as the owner’s representative.

Alternatively yacht management or engineering resources may be designated as owners’ representatives. Most importantly, the owner should be in total agreement with the refit plan before beginning.

Choosing the Right Shipyard is Critical for Satisfactory Results

Naturally, as refit projects around the world increase, there continues to be a related increase in the competition for quality shipyard time, vendor services and other resources. Refit experience, integrity, and reputation are critical factors to be considered in choosing the right shipyard. Initial build experience, previous refits of the vessel by a specific shipyard, and availability of original or as-built drawings are advantageous to ensuring adequate knowledge and understanding of the vessel’s history and refit scope.

Location of the shipyard relative to the vessel’s home port, owner’s principal residence, and captain’s housing and accommodations are important considerations impacting convenience and frequency of on-site visits. Amenities, condition and cleanliness of the shipyard are indicators of the quality of work to be expected. Owners do not want their prized yachts to be impacted by dirty or poorly maintained shipyard facilities.

Managing Your Refit Plan

best yacht refit engineers in floridaShipyard management and organizational structure should be clearly defined and documented to ensure effective communications between on-site departments and sub-contracted vendors. Owners’ representatives should have knowledge and input regarding selection of sub-contractors.

Accountability should be clearly defined and assigned to specific individuals with appropriate authority to decide and act within the scope of their responsibilities.

A clear and concise contract and plan document should be required to include scope, cost and sources of services to be provided along with reasonable time schedules for all activities, communications protocol, and out-of-scope work and change order procedures.

Final acceptance parameters and approvals should be documented as well. A project management system should be specified and mutually agreed upon to adequately manage activities and expectations.

What Are The Benefits of Working With a Naval Architect and Engineering Firm?

Naval architects and marine engineers can provide a better understanding of what will be involved in the project. Owners generally know what they desire but may not fully understand what may be involved in fulfilling their desires.

The engineers will ensure changes are safe, compliant and achievable. Engineers can translate those desires to time and cost.

They can identify optimum solutions and quantify costs to maximize time and cost benefits of alternative refit scenarios. The engineer can quantify the impact of changes on performance and operating costs as well as opine on impact of the changes to resale value. Requirements may be prioritized and segregated into phased plans over time to minimize down time and ensure maximum availability of the vessel for the owner’s use.

If desired engineers can act as owner’s representative to manage the refit project to provide quality control, timeliness and compliance to plan and cost estimates. Additionally engineers may be best qualified and able to assess unforeseen discoveries or events which may occur during execution of the plan, identify alternatives and control cost overruns due to scope creep.

What to Consider When Selecting a Naval Architect and Engineering Firm?

naval architect for custom yacht refitsSimilar to choosing the right shipyard, selection of the right naval architecture and engineering firm is critical to enable fulfillment of the expectations of the refit plan regarding quality, timeliness and cost.

The right firm will add professionalism, credibility and discipline to the process. Reputation of the firm and its principals are the most important attribute of the right choice. The firm should possess appropriate education credentials, certifications and licenses.

They should be members of appropriate industry associations and exhibit passion for their endeavors. They should exhibit an appreciation of the pride of ownership of a fine yacht and the joy of cruising and entertaining aboard.

Engineering staff should consist of individuals trained and experienced in various disciplines to ensure complete understanding of the entire scope of the refit. Experience in design, new build and refit of custom yachts is most important in understanding the desires and needs of the yacht owners and captains.

Experience in production boat design and production management is invaluable in determining the proper sequence, cost control and timing of a complex refit project. Commercial and military experience can additionally ensure safety, compliance and durability of the end result.

Communications and interpersonal relationship skills are essential in establishing and maintaining long term mutually beneficial relationships with owners, captains and shipyards. The ability to be an effective and objective messenger when negotiating solutions to unforeseen problems can avoid animosity when inevitable disputes arise.

Using naval architecture and engineering resources to draft a refit plan and RFP prior to selecting and engaging a shipyard will enable objective review of shipyard responses and likely result in reduced costs and improved timeline.

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About Boksa Marine Design

Boksa Marine Design is a naval architecture and marine engineering firm located near Tampa, Florida. We specialize in all aspects of custom yacht, production boat and commercial marine design solutions for owners, builders and operators worldwide.

For more information about vessel design and building solutions, please contact our office at +1 (813) 654-9800.