This article has been written for SuperYacht Times by Oceanco‘s Life Cycle Support team.
While many superyacht builders offer refit facilities to their own vessels, Oceanco has now unveiled its Life Cycle Support team that will offer refit operations for the entire global fleet. It is the aim of this new division to offer a full spectrum of support throughout the life of the vessels.
Oceanco’s calling card is its dynamic approach to delivering industry firsts, taking on unique new construction projects that others might deem too challenging or even impossible. When the opportunity arose in 2019 to acquire a 28-acre facility in Zwijndrecht, the company’s board saw a chance to not only consolidate its steel construction activity, but also to expand its capacity for maintenance, refit and lifetime extension work, providing a dedicated hall that is 132-metres long with a clearance of 38-metres.
Oceanco has dozens of yachts in its fleet, cruising around the world and in need of regular maintenance and upgrades. But beyond Oceanco’s own yachts there are thousands of operational yachts in the fleet that could benefit from the skills and knowledge pool at the company.
Location, Location, Location
Once Dutch-built luxury yachts are delivered to their owners, they usually head south to warmer climates, either in the Mediterranean or further afield in the Caribbean, Middle East, Indian Ocean or Asia. Shipyards that provide refit and maintenance support for luxury yachts have consequently tended to base themselves close to these cruising hotspots, with the greatest concentration being found in the Mediterranean. By being closer to where the yachts are cruising or based, the downtime for work to be carried out is reduced because the travel time is minimised. At least, that’s a common perception.
However, this would only be true if the work is done faster or equally as fast as it would be completed at the Northern European yards. Thanks in part to its experience with complex new build projects, Oceanco’s LCS team argues that its superior skill in project management ensures any work carried out will be completed on time, whereas the alternatives at these refit-specific facilities are known to often run late (and over budget).
The value of reassurance
Oceanco’s reputation is in no small part thanks to the Netherlands’ reputation for exceptional quality in yacht building. But labor rates in Northern Europe are higher than those of its Southern neighbours, so the perception is that heading north for refit work is more expensive. It does come at a premium but Oceanco argues that, aside from maintaining the ‘Oceanco-quality’ pedigree of the fleet’s yachts, its inclusive pricing package provides a lower-risk proposition to LCS clients compared to conventional refit charging systems, where costs can quickly mount up for unexpected ‘extras’.
Oceanco charges a full-service monthly facilities fee that includes a dedicated project manager and team, office space and parking, general cleaning services onboard, utility usage of the building, just to name a few.
For the work itself, Oceanco agrees to a fixed price in advance and additional works that are harder to pin down beforehand are charged in a transparent manner, outlining costs for time and materials with a predefined mark-up.
Smit comments that he sees a major benefit to hiring people from the commercial marine sector. The environment of new construction does not always set you up to meet the grueling pace of refit work, he adds: “We feel that perhaps only 30 percent of those people from new-builds will be suited to refit because the speed and need for flexibility is so much greater. On a new-build, you may have a horizon of five years but in a refit it could be five days. Not everyone can handle that pace and stress so although we do share some resources with Oceanco’s new construction side of the business, the project management mindset is totally different.”
Oceanco Refit Manager Frank van Loo agrees: “For a new-build, you follow a relatively simple cycle of planning, analysing and executing, whereas a refit is full of surprises, no matter how much you plan ahead. Emergent works pop up or the client might change their mind on something, so our project managers need to be well rounded with excellent troubleshooting capabilities to make quick decisions and weigh up a challenging situation at a moment’s notice.”
It takes a village
Yacht builders work with a vast pool of subcontractors to create their floating icons and The Netherlands has one of the largest domestic networks of yachting trades in the world.
The shortened timeline of LCS projects dictates that there will be many kinds of work being carried out simultaneously, with some new works emerging only once the yacht has arrived at the yard and the team has been able to ‘get under the hood’. So by having the full spectrum of subcontractors available on the doorstep, there is a significant advantage to being located where the specialists are based.
“For refits, you rely on longstanding relationships with all kinds of subcontractors; we need to be able to call them at a moment’s notice and keep those relationships in shape,” adds van Loo. “For us, the added value in refits is that we have an even stronger trust and relationship with our Co-makers, and we know they provide the best service. Especially when we are working on a yacht from our own fleet, we know they were probably involved in the new build project, which brings a huge benefit of prior knowledge to LCS that other companies do not have”.
A sustainable (r)evolution
Sustainability has become an important part of the conversation for any new superyacht projects; but the environmental credentials of operational superyachts need not be frozen in time at the point they were originally built. There are a large number of upgrades and evolutions that LCS can make which allow these vessels to reduce their impact on the environment. And the benefits are not just to the conscience.
“Oceanco is working hard to pave the road to Zero. Our aim is to install at least one or two sustainable upgrades on any of our major LCS projects,” says Smit. “For the yachts in our own fleet from the ‘7 series’, which have a relatively standard platform even though each of the yachts is unique, we have developed a number of sustainability upgrade packages that are plug-and-play. These include a new sewage treatment system, a battery pack and alternative power systems, including hydrogen fuel cells.
Looking beyond the build
When you add all the benefits together, the case for ongoing support of yachts throughout their lifetime from a pedigree builder like Oceanco is a logical one. And not just for the vessels in their own fleet. It will no doubt be a matter of time before the moniker of ‘yacht builder’ evolves into a whole new concept for companies like Oceanco that have the foresight to provide support for the yacht’s entire lifetime, not just their creation.