30 March 2021

How can we help clients get the most from their next refit project?


The Project Management Institute defines a project as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. It is also unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.” 

 A project’s uniqueness makes it very difficult to define what constitutes the perfect project. Maybe this is an ideal too far. However, by exerting the least amount of stress upon the three biggest influencers on the success of a project – time, scope and budget, we can give ourselves the best chance for perfection to occur. 

In this article, our experienced Project Management team break down what they believe are some of the key success factors that can contribute to a successful refit project period for clients. 

Mutually define the best approach to satisfy owner needs and expectations within the project parameters.

Satisfying the owner’s needs sounds obvious but, as with most things, is not as straightforward as may first appear. In order to give the best chance for success, the yard should do a proper assessment of owner expectations and manage these given the particular parameters of the projectThis is where the elements of time, scope and budget are critical, as each of these are interlinked, play a role in the development of the refit period, and ultimately affect the level of satisfaction of the owner.  


Have a well-defined scope of work.

Refit is refit, we will always be facing unexpected works; because of new issues that appear during the season, new owner requirements, system problems, mechanical failures. In any case, there is a lot to be planned in advance such as programmed maintenance, statutory (and periodic) requirements, paint life cycle, etc. These quite often define the Project Critical path. Therefore, it allows us, well in advance of the refit period, to clarify a wish list for the main objectives of the upcoming yard stay that may include ordering specs and drawings, placing orders and arranging customs if necessary. By having all the yacht schematics, drawings and job-specific paperwork readily available from the yacht’s side, and by maintaining an open channel of communication with the shipyard to open preparations or make amends, any bottlenecking of the project workflow is mitigated.  


Consider the “Iceberg effect” when planning.

Consider that every Pre-Project is like an iceberg, with the owner’s desires and requests just the tip. What we cannot always appreciate but should be understood however, is everything involved below the Surface requiring considerable study. Preparing an accurate budget requires proper assessment of these hidden but required works.  

Take, for example, the installation of a new Ballast Water Treatment System. As part of new IMO regulations, all yachts over 400 gross tonnage using a sea water ballast system must install a treatment system before their next survey. When planning a refit period with an item such as this on the worklist where everything is customised, this translates into time – to measure, to design, to carry out feasibility studies, to plan construction and engineering (approx. 12-15 weeks lead time on a new treatment system), to consider every detail required to prepare the most accurate and comprehensive quotation package for the client. Only after this process can the prices be produced, the negotiation begins, and arrangements be made with manufacturers and suppliers. 


Read and sign the contract in advance.

Give enough time to clarify exactly what the offer is, what is included and excluded, the financial planning of the project and subcontractor payment terms, so that all parties can be on the same page prior to signing.  

By having the confirmation of the project critical path defined at an early stage, this perfect world scenario of signing the contract between 2 and 3 months in advance of the yard period is feasible. This allows the shipyard time to plan and optimise resources ready for arrival, and be of considerable advantage to the client as well as the shipyard. 


Prioritise what is important when choosing a shipyard.

A refit project can be stressful. Therefore, choosing an established and trusted shipyard with the facilities, professional capabilities and established partnerships with main industry suppliers can help make a client’s life easier and limit exposure to risk. Be it a solid financial footing to support the project, proven experience with a specific or highly technical work, client confidentiality, customs and tax management expertise, or environmental and sustainability responsibility, each client has their own requirements that will help them feel at ease and this should be considered in the selection process.  

Remember that while price is always an important consideration, it should not be the deciding factor. The cheapest option initially may in fact result in a costlier project for a host of reasons including a limited quotation period and lack of detail, as well as resource issues during the yard stay. 


Expert project management can make the difference.

While it is important to have the scope of work defined as much as possible at the very outset, it must be kept in mind that changes occur, and this is where the expertise of a project manager comes to the fore.

Not only are they providing live monitoring of planning and execution of the work, with open communication channels between all parties, they have the experience and knowhow to adapt to potential adjustments and/or integrate additional work seamlessly into what can be a demanding schedule.


Ensure that crew are happy, and talent retained.

The success of a project relies upon the ability of those involved to provide their best. For this to occur, it is essential that crew are looked after, and talent is retained. Therefore, choosing the ideal location to carry out the refit is as important as the customer care being provided when there. A crew that is well looked-after, comfortable and happy is a key success factor in a refit project period.

The responsibility for a successful project lies with all parties.

The project must be considered as a team effort, with responsibility being shared between the shipyard and the client to provide the ideal conditions for success. The flow of information is fundamental. On the client’s side, details regarding owner’s contractors expected to be involved must be integrated into project planning. Also, crew changes/rotations frequently occur during a refit period so the handing over of information must be given attention and who holds responsibility for sign offs on certain works be communicated.


Communication and trust are vital.

All parties must be able to communicate openly, with regular contact such as scheduled meetings and access to up-to-the-minute project detail on demand. A willingness to be transparent and flexible are essential assets when trying to achieve a common goal – and always in the best interest of the project.

Friction and confrontation should always be kept to a minimum so going to a known shipyard or working with trusted personnel can be a key element. Managing a project where there is distrust, or a lack of transparency is not likely to result in success.


Finish the project in the right way (despite the rush).

While we may all be itching to be out onto the water again, the project should be finished in the same way it started, with care and attention. It is important to carry out sea trials with technicians involved in the installation, commission everything installed and coordinate any potential post-project items alongside an After Sales team.

While we understand that every refit project is different and requires a bespoke approach as well as the ability to react in an agile manner, we hope that taking some of these points into account can contribute to an even better refit experience.

For more information or to discuss your next refit period needs, do not hesitate to get in contact with our commercial team.


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Txema Rubio

Commercial Director