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1 out of 2: Yacht Refit vs. Building a Yacht

Refitting an old yacht can be better than building a new one. Here are expert tips to make the process smoother.

We are currently witnessing the golden age of yachts. The demand for luxurious floating living has never been so high. However, waiting when building a yacht can take away the excitement from the overall experience and can be a long and tiresome process.

A Faster and Environmentally Friendly Alternative for Your Yacht Refit

The good news is that refitting and updating a pre-owned or classic yacht is a quicker process to get back on the water. This option not only helps preserve a part of nautical history but also appeals to those who prefer to reuse and refit to reduce their carbon footprint. It is a greener alternative to building a yacht from scratch.

Smooth Sailing is Not Always Guaranteed

Yacht refits are time-consuming and can have their challenges, even with rapid refits. Depending on what you want to achieve, it can take several weeks or months to complete. To help minimize the time needed, we’ve asked our in-house experts for their top tips based on their experience.

Have patience and realistic timelines because a successful high-end yacht refit cannot be rushed.

Refits usually take considerable time
Yacht refits typically require a significant amount of time.

First Things First

Every yacht refit project starts with a conversation between a potential client and a member of our sales team. We, as yacht refit connoisseurs, not only advise the owners on the available refit options for their yacht, but also help them in the search, feasibility study, project transport, and execution. Our CEO and founder, Xavier Mercado, is the most experienced member of our team, and we often ask him for his best advice for clients embarking on a classic yacht refit.

Be Prepared

Xavier shares that yacht sales have been strong, with 72 vessels seeing price increases in 2021, breaking historical records. This trend is expected to continue. However, many yacht fleets are ageing and require refit and repair to stay operational. As a result, there will likely be an increase in demand for these services in the coming years. Furthermore, new regulations in various countries will require more sustainable practices, such as the use of low-emission motors and eco-friendly materials, which will lead to significant changes in the yacht refit and repair industry. All in all, the industry is poised for growth in the near future.

Xavier suggests taking the advice of Annie Van de Wiele, a Belgian sailor and writer, who once said that the art of a sailor is to leave nothing to chance. This is the best advice for any yacht refit. Preparation and planning are as important as your budget and timelines, as they will have a direct impact on both. Start planning early, ideally two or three years in advance, especially if the yacht requires a particular service and is already scheduled to be out of action.

If you haven’t spent a significant amount of time sailing aboard a yacht, it’s best to sit down with your Captain first. Your full-time crew will know the yacht the best and will be able to identify what works and what causes problems. Create a list of tasks, then divide each one into a “must-do” or “wish-to-do” category. From these lists, determine what needs to be replaced and what can be repaired. This will ensure that all the essentials are covered, and you have maximized your budget and yard visit.

Crew input is vital as they have a working knowledge of the yacht and can quickly advise on the pros and cons of a layout.

The crew knows the yacht best and can identify what works and what doesn’t.

Choose your yacht shipyard wisely

It is important to choose the appropriate yacht shipyard for the task at hand. Although this may seem like a basic rule in refitting, every yacht refit project has unique requirements, which means the criteria for selecting the ideal yard also vary significantly. Pep, our Head of Operations, emphasizes this point, and we asked him for suggestions on how to choose the right yard for a specific project.

Break it down

A yacht refit, Pep explains, is an elaborate juggling act, an assortment of different tasks and jobs ranging in size, complexity and category. It will involve any combination of painting, carpentry, interior design, engineering, electrical systems and mechanics so you need to consider the entire project. Each job will require a specific set of skills and qualified professionals to complete it. In addition, the job or task may require yacht to be in or out of the water, it may be directly affected by the weather or it may affect access to other parts of the yacht, while it is being completed. 

All of this is obvious says Pep but as each of these juggling balls has the potential to bring your yacht refit to a halt and send your timelines and budget into a nosedive you need to ensure your choice of the shipyard has the skills and facilities to keep your project on course and perfectly timed to achieve your refit goals. 

Another useful tip for a successful refit is to engage an owner representative, as from Josep’s experience, having to resolve technical decisions with a person who may not be technically savvy can slow down the process, whereas decision-making with a technical delegate, who knows the sector, not only helps with time management but also ensures good decision-making at every step and their in-depth industry knowledge guarantees that the execution of the work is being carried out to fully agreed technical criteria.

Refits are complicated so your choice of shipyard is a very important decision, advises Josep, Head of Operations.

Josep, Head of Operations at ptw Shipyard

What to Look for

For instance, here at ptw Shipyard, our facilities and services are fine-tuned to ensure a smooth yacht refit experience across the entire project. To begin with we can accommodate projects both in and out of the water.  Depending on the size of the yacht and the type of work to be carried out, we can assign the yacht to either a hardstanding section, a specific area for welding work, afloat in the marina, in a technical dock or a refit area. 

Altogether we have more than 15,000 sqm available which also houses a paint cabin, while our 3D scanners allow for fast and precise measurements to be taken and made to measure decks and fittings to be built and assembled on-site. All of these facilities allow us to welcome yachts of different length.  And, best of all, our entire team is in-house and offers expertise across the full spectrum of departments required for a complete yacht refit. The advantage our team has is that all our players are on-site at all times so there will be no delays due to commitments elsewhere.

Choosing a shipyard with in-house teams is always a wise decision.

As a final note, Pep says that the location of the shipyard should also be included in your decision especially if you are not resident in Europe and your yacht is under a non-European flag. As a registered TPA/Inward Processing facility, ptw Shipyard offers considerable VAT savings to yachts of this category so can be cost-effective even if you have to travel a distance to our facilities as we are conveniently located within easy commuting distance of both Barcelona International Airport and Reus, Tarragona’s regional airport.

The Right People Lead Efficiently

Next, we caught up with Abel, one of the in-house Project Managers or juggling masters as we call them. As a PM at the yard, he performs a vital role in yacht refits so we ask him for his top tip to ensure a successful project outcome. 

As you may know, begins Abel, my role involves many important tasks throughout the entire yacht refit project. I coordinate each and every task within the project, scheduling the work to ensure that every minute is maximized and therefore 100% cost-effective. In addition to this, I keep the owner representative thoroughly informed as well as maintain all the paperwork and costings.  My role is to take on all the stresses of the project so the client doesn’t have to worry.

I harmonize every task and every professional to ensure on-time, on-spec and budget delivery. To do my job most effectively I need fast and clear decision-making from the owner’s side so my best advice to them is to always put a trusted key decision-maker in direct contact with the project manager. Too many voices in the mix lead to delays and confused visions so pick someone who knows the yacht and whose judgment you trust, like your Captain or head of the yacht management company.

Abel also points out the high importance of good specifications as these give the option to make informed decisions during the work, avoiding delays or cost increases due to bad information. In his experience, having a clear and informed guideline helps achieve a successful yacht refit project outcome, resulting in better time and budget management – it is the best ally.

To be short, the in-house Project Manager’s role is to keep your yacht refit on time, on spec and on budget.

Abel, one of ptw’s in-house project manager

It’s Not Always “Out with the Old”

Finally, we met up with a few of the department heads as they were leaving a project meeting and asked what guidance they would give from their experience of yacht refits. Serhiy, Head of our Engineering department, told us that when it came to classic yacht refits his departments often required new equipment and parts to be installed due to the continual advancements in these areas. Therefore he would encourage advanced planning to allow for ordering and delivery. Replacing anything on board a yacht always takes more time so having it on-site and ready is best practice. 

 Serhiy advises advanced planning so parts can be ordered and on-site ready to be fitted.

Serhiy, Head of Engineering at ptw Shipyard

To avoid delays in waiting for a replacement, it is advisable to fix what can be fixed. Our company has the necessary skills and facilities to manufacture replacement parts for several components, which can save time and money. Rafa and Jason from our Carpentry and Interiors department agree with this approach. They suggest being flexible and open to suggestions from yard experts, as buying new can often be more expensive and time-consuming. With our in-house 3D scanners and CNC manufacturing capabilities, we can repair or update an existing element, giving it a new lease of life or appearance. Moreover, repairing or upholstering original and classical pieces is a more environmentally-friendly and carbon-effective decision than buying new ones.

Rafa, the Head of Carpentry & Interiors, and Jason, the Head of Carpentry Workshop, both possess extensive experience and knowledge and are always willing to provide advice and come up with creative solutions.

Rafa & Jason, Carpentry & Interiors
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