The importance of expertise in yacht building

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The task of building a brand new yacht from scratch can be a daunting prospect, that’s why it it’s important to seek out expert help from the beginning, from those who know the industry inside out. West Nautical Managing Director Geoff Moore shares his insights as a professional with over 15 years of experience in the yacht building industry. 

What kind of yachts did you build and where?

I have been involved in many yachts from being an officer onboard operating them, to large refits and new build projects when working ashore. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked onboard 4 Lurssen yachts, including the 115m PELORUS and 138m RISING SUN,  so I feel a strong connection to these superbly built German yachts!

I’ve also worked with other German yards, as part of the project management team for the 2012 built 74m PLAN B at HDW Kiel yard, which was a great experience and beautiful yacht.

In Holland, I have been involved in a lot of builds and refits of yachts from 28m to 82m, with Oceanco ALFA NERO being the highlight, she’s such an iconic yacht that’s known throughout the world.

In Italy, I’ve worked with Benetti and San Lorenzo. Their products have really improved over the last decade and they produce excellent yachts with great aftersales support.

For refits, I have done many in Europe, mainly in Italy, France and Spain but also in the UK, Turkey and in Florida where there are some very good technical yachting facilities.

Yacht construction

At what stage of the yacht construction is it reasonable to involve a professional?

The earlier the better! At West Nautical, our client managers work alongside myself and our technical team to ensure that the client is best served, and not just sold to!

It is essential that we are involved to manage the clients expectations and ensure that the yacht’s design is able to bring the clients ideas to life, not just on paper – so this should happen before the building contract has been signed, because after this, anything that you want to change will incur a cost from the shipyard.

How does the yacht construction expert differ from the client representative whose role can belong to the family office, for example?

The main difference is a wide and varied experience. When you have a onboard operational background, mixed with a long time working ashore with owners and yards, this experience cannot be replicated at university or read in a book.

I have been at sea, sailed the world and managed clients expectation of what they want to see and do onboard using their yacht, this is ultimately what they want, to enjoy their boats, and it is a privileged position to have worked so many owners and guests over the years. This is a completely different take to yachting to the members of a family office or legal firm, who only know yachting from the side of the finances and complications that arise during ownership.

Construction workers spraying yacht

What are the role, responsibilities and duties of a yacht expert during construction?

The main responsibility and duty is that of communication and quality control. There are many people and companies working on a new building project, and the experts role is to act as the owners representative at all times, to ensure that the owners desired design is completed to the best standard at all times.

There is a huge amount of co-ordination needed to ensure that the suppliers are on time so that there are no delays caused by individual suppliers, which would cause knock-on delays to other parts of the build.

The owners team then need to ensure that the relevant owners’ decisions are made in good time also. Small decisions like what crockery, cutlery and glassware they want for the yacht has a larger impact on the interior outfitting of the yacht, as every plate and glass will have securing’s made for them to be exactly the right fit to ensure that nothing is damaged for when the yacht is in bad weather. So if the owners delay their decisions on what to buy, there is a knock-on effect of a delay, and there are hundreds of these such decisions!

Vabosa table outside

Where is a yacht expert based, at the shipyard? If not, how often do they visit the shipyard?

A large build will involce a team of experts. There is often a Project Site Manager, who will be in the shipyard and on site every day, and they will work hand in hand with the owners crew. There will be a Senior Project Manager who is on site a few times a month, and is there for all shipyard meetings and stage progress reports, as well as key points of the build such as the top coat painting etc. They will then move to be on site permanently towards the latter stages of the project when all the acceptance tests are being completed.

Who leads all communications with the shipyard?

Various shipyards and owners teams complete this differently. However, it is our style to share information with all key players, regularly and in full transparency so that there is never any information lost or missing.

Our project managers take the lead with this, but because all colleagues are involved, they are able to read the communications and act on their own relevant tasks without needing to be instructed, meaning that work flows quicker and smoother.

Business meeting

What are some examples of the expensive mistakes which may have been prevented at the construction stage and their costs? How to improve?

There are many examples of this, usually when an experienced project team are brought in too late. We have had yachts where owners half way through the build have added another jacuzzi or small pool onboard, but then not until months later when we arrive has the question of the yacht’s ability to make and store enough water to fill the pools been raised, and so this is a huge error when the machinery is all in place and the yacht doesn’t have the water capacity to actually fill the pools..!

This was fixed by moving some equipment around in the engine room, and getting a second water maker installed, so that there was double the capacity to make water even though the storage tanks had to remain the same capacity, but it became a manageable situation for the crew.

Interesting stories from your practice?

Some of the best stories are those of a simple owners request that has a huge knock on effect to the planning and building of a project. One key example was a customer who wanted to have a dining table for 14 people on his 75+ meter yacht, and not the 12 that he could sleep onboard. He really wanted to ensure he could comfortably sit 14 guests for silver service lunches and dinners aboard his yacht.

The client’s designer thought this a simple question of having a larger table with room for 2 extra seats, but then our project team raised many other questions. Was the galley able to cook and serve 14 guests together for top level service? Were the pantries capable to do this also, as 2 entire extra meals does not sound a lot for a villa or hotel kitchen, but yacht galleys and the service pantries are not large areas and space is very limited.

We were able to redesign the galley layout to enlarge the work surface, as well as in the main deck pantry, where we removed the food lift gaining an extra 1.5m of worktop to place the plates and an additional  professional dishwasher under the bench allowing for 60 second steam washes to that the crockery can be re-used during the different service courses if needed.

Yacht dining table

We installed a small CCTV camera above the dining table with a live link to the galley and pantry, so that the chefs and stewardesses could see the progress of the meals, so that they can prepare the next course to be timed perfectly ready for service so that the guests were not waiting, which was very important for the customer, and that the sommelier was able to enter the room as soon as wine glasses were getting too low, without needing to stand in the room and intrude on the guests privacy.

Also, the galley equipment was not necessarily the best in the generic shipyard specification, and so we involved a top chef in a revised specification and we were able to improve the base equipment substantially, so that the chef would have the cooking capacity with additional oven, hobs and fryers to be able to make the required level of quality food at the same time.

The result was a vastly improved dining room, pantry and galley, that meant our collective efforts made it significantly easier for the crew to deliver the 5 star service the owner wanted onboard.

Demanding expectations – how to find a compromise with a shipyard?

Nothing is too demanding, but some requests can require difficult solutions! You need an open mind, great people with solid yachting and industrial experience, and a positive and professional attitude, that is what West Nautical can offer you.

Get in touch today to find out how West Nautical can help with your next yacht building project.