Insight: When is a refit not a refit?

Written by Paul Cook

As someone who has been involved with the yacht’s life cycle from many different perspectives, I have always struggled with the fact that everyone seems to use the generic term ‘refit’ for every maintenance period. There are many reasons why a yacht requires planned or unplanned, routine or emergency upkeep and repairs to be carried out and I believe that we should be smarter in the way we categorise these important periods.  Superyacht Eclipse in HamburgPhoto: Jan ContskeWhy? I hear you ask. Well, by using the categories I will suggest below this would allow better pre-planning for everyone involved in supporting the yacht – captain, engineers, crew, owners, management companies, yards and supporting businesses. Knowing what forthcoming maintenance period is planned will allow stakeholders and those holding the purse strings to have a better idea of what type of works and budgets will be proposed.

My suggestion is to split it into different periods depending on the type of planned or reactive maintenance, repairs or upkeep, capability or refurbishment updates, amendments and alterations being carried out. You need to consider whether it is being undertaken by just the yacht’s crew or contractors and specialists, in a shipyard or alongside a marina. You also need to ask, is this period tied in with statutory surveys, requiring a lift-out or dry-dock or just a routine servicing and fettling?  Whilst I don’t consider this here, the amount of money (as a percentage of the build cost or current value) being invested could also be a factor.Avanti in West Palm BeachPhoto: Merijn de Waard / SuperYacht Times

A generic superyacht refit can be divided into four key maintenance or upkeep periods:

1. Crew maintenance period (CMP) - normally carried out in a marina or non-shipyard and consisting of pre-planned routine preventative maintenance and upkeep which is carried out predominantly by the yacht’s staff. This is a maintenance period that restores the yacht’s systems and material state to a baseline level – inspecting, servicing, lubricating, adjusting, replacing parts, routine maintenance and deep cleaning.

2. Supported maintenance period (SMP) - This is a pre-planned maintenance and upkeep period carried out in a marina or shipyard. This does not include a dry-docking or lift out but is work consisting of routine general repairs and maintenance, capability and refurbishment updates, amendments and alterations by ship’s staff with technical assistance and sub-contractors.  The work being carried out is not as extensive as a complete refit and a typical winter/between seasons downtime period will be a mixture of CMP and SMP periods.

Craftmanship at West Istanbul MarinaPhoto: West Istanbul Marina3. Docking and essential defects (DED) - a routine class survey requirement for the yacht to be out of the water in a shipyard for a full checkup (5-year intervals) or for specific engineering defects outside of the normal planned maintenance periods. This is a time when both preventative and reactive maintenance issues are addressed.

4. Major maintenance period (MMP). This is what I call a refit and is a complex major overhaul and modernisation, conversion or complete rebuild period taking place in a shipyard with the assistance of a yacht’s staff and contractors over many months.  This can include changes to the hull, machinery, equipment and fittings, interiors and so on. This is a time of major investment.  Starburst III yacht in IstanbulPhoto: Bilgin YachtsThese are just my thoughts and build on routines commonly used in the military and merchant navies. I am also aware that many yachts already follow planned maintenance schedules but this is an idea to standardise the actual alongside upkeep periods.  

Surely this is something that the yachting industry should discuss and formalise, as it requires the input and buy-in from industry experts and key companies/organisations/associations to support this initiative. Is it not time we started following the aviation and car industries by logging standardised maintenance cycles of yachts recorded in a passport that can be handed over from crew to crew and owner to owner?

Paul Cook is Managing Director of International Superyacht Management Limited, a superyacht and marine business advice bureau.

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