‘The word yacht management is completely misunderstood’

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Chris Andreason, Edmiston; Marianne Danissen, Camper & Nichsolson; Franc Jansen, JMS Yachting discuss yacht management.

Marianne Danissen, Camper & Nicholsons lands her point at Superyacht Investor London.

The world of yacht management needs an overhaul to better educate owners and ensure the experience matches their dreams, according to a panel of industry veterans speaking at Superyacht Investor London.

Rethinking the word management and increasing collaboration between teams was the message, starting with clarifying the services on offer.

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“We sometimes overwhelm the owners with too much information, most of them do not know what yacht management is,” said Marianne Danissen, group head of yacht management at Camper & Nicholsons.

“The word ‘management’ is completely misused. When you say yacht management, it is so many diverse services that you do for an owner and it needs to be clearly explained to them.”

Ryan Green, head of yacht management, Burgess said new owners are often “spooked” by the overload of information thrown at them.

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Silent killer

Chris Andreason, yacht management director, Edmiston said there are differing levels of understanding among owners, from those who are heavily into the detail to those who “couldn’t care” less and “just want to go cruising”.

“It is our job to ensure that the vessels operate at the same high levels of safety and compliance across the board, regardless of whether the owner is hugely involved or not,” said Andreason. “That is the service we should give.”

AJ Blackmon, CEO, Ikonic Yachts said yacht management is like the “silent killer of experience” because it can go unnoticed until something goes wrong, at which point relationships can be tarnished and owners can walk away.

READ: ‘Only buy a yacht if you can afford to give it away’ – Edmiston

For Danissen, there are three core functions a yacht management company should perform, citing accurate and transparent accounting, compliance, including technical and safety, and crew as “must haves”.  She will tailor her service to a client’s needs but says owners often “expect everything” or do not appreciate the range of functions and expertise they are buying for the same price as another crew member.

“The service we offer is far superior to the price people pay,” she said. “I think that is valid for every management company out there.”

Sell the dream

Danissen suggested many owners would point to a “dissociation of information” between lawyers, management companies, brokers, charter teams and the captain, with differing versions of the vision. The biggest difference is brokers who sell a dream and yacht management who sell reality. Telling the truth is “essential” to retaining clients through their yachting journey, she says.

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“I can’t compress figures,” she said. “I can’t compress how much the boat is going to cost or how much the crew is going to cost. But then somebody else has misinformed him from the beginning because, of course, when you sell the dream, you make the deal.”

Green added: “Transactions are fragile at the best of times so ensuring that support is there and pulling in the same direction is priceless.”

Preserving the investment

However, yacht management in general is often far down the owner’s list of priorities, according to Franc Jansen, owner JMS Yachting.

“If we walk around the Monaco Yacht Show, not one owner says let’s find a good management company,” he said.
Andreason described that as “misguided thinking” on the part of owners. “To preserve the investment, they ought to be looking at who’s going to work with their crew to manage the vessel for the future,” he said. “I believe that we should be taking a more active part in preserving that investment for the future.”

READ: Confessions of a broker: ‘I thought I’d been absolutely brilliant’ 

The key to fulfilling the owner’s dream lies in having the right crew onboard but it must be a “collaboration” with the shoreside team, with both the captain and yacht manager “playing to each other’s strengths,” says Green.

He added that the major currency on a yacht is time and said that every request to “do a little bit extra” takes away from the ability to deliver the required level of service.

Danissen agreed that the “synergy” between crew and shore is “totally essential” to enhance the owner’s enjoyment, otherwise it is a “recipe for disaster”.

Resent

But Andreason suggested micro-managing crew from the shore will cause them to “kick back”.

“If you’re going to have a captain operate a vessel safely, with the restrictions on anchorages, the increased administration, taxes and everything else they’re meant to do, and provide a good service to the beneficial owner or the charterer that’s on board, they need support,” he said.

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However, an element of management is still necessary, says Jansen, whose company operates independently to the brokerage houses.

“We are paid by the owner and so we are also checking up on the crew and unfortunately that is necessary, not only on accounts but also on safety, on maintenance,” he said.

“There are certain targets that the crew need to hit and that means that there is a certain amount of interference from the management company because we come on board and we audit and we check and we inspect.” He said the older generations of captains “resent” the interference, but the younger captains tend to be more “on board”.

Problems halved

Attracting new talent into the industry is a challenge voiced by all the panellists, but adaptability in yacht management is equally key to deal with technology, shifting risk and regulations, including KYC, geopolitical and environmental.

“The crucial part is having the depth of bench in your yacht management team to implement that,” said Green.

READ: Feeling the fear, doing it anyway – Ikonic’s rise

He also called on the industry to work together to mitigate issues across businesses.

“Something that I’ve always found quite challenging is the lack of collaboration between management companies,” he said. “I appreciate there are a lot of competitive elements to it, but problems shared are problems halved effectively.”

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