In the superyacht world, technical support is a shore-based management service that covers a wide range of issues related to keeping a vessel and its systems running smoothly, and in line with standards and requirements of the many regulatory entities that govern its safe operation.
For an owner, his captain or his engineer, this branch of yacht management can be a godsend providing solutions to matters that have a direct bearing on whether a yacht is where it is supposed to be, when it is supposed to be there and whether it functions properly when the owner, guests, charterers or port state inspectors come on board.
Technical support at Wright Maritime Group includes regulatory compliance that comes from the IMO, flag and port states, says Wright Maritime founder and managing director, Captain AJ Anderson. Technical support includes the oversight and support of the operations of ships equipment that involves operating, maintaining, inspecting, testing and repairing all equipment and structures on board; sourcing equipment, spares and service contractor arrangements; and sourcing expert advice and emergency response.
[A tech support company] ensures that the yacht is operated in a safe and consistent manner by providing the support a crew needs and the oversight authorities and financial controllers require, says Anderson.
'The typical technical support person or team will comprise former yacht captains or engineers'
As with other areas of yacht management, there are individual specialists who focus on one element of the technical support structure or particular staff at larger firms that provide technical services to yachts. The typical technical support person or team will comprise former yacht captains or engineers, or others with yacht or ship-specific technical backgrounds.
The technical support operation typically will have a complete set of vessel plans and manuals in the office for quick reference or if the vessel has a problem at sea or in port, or has lost a needed document. They help captains prepare for safety audits, class surveys, flag inspections, yard work and refits. They are generally available to crew 24/7 at the other end of the phone or at the other end of the world.
David Reams, fleet manager for Camper & Nicholsons USA, relates a story about his office receiving a call from a young engineer on a yacht in the South Pacific who had a situation with leaking pipes and other mechanical issues prior to a charter. On 48 hours notice, Camper sent its technical superintendent to assess the situation and remedy the problems.
We will go and advise, or get in and get down and dirty, says Reams.
Many yacht technical support staff come from the operational side of the business, having served on yachts, generally as officers. Andersons company, which provides a broad range of management services to a fleet of yachts ranging from 35m to 140m, puts a premium not only on past yachting experience, but on current experience as well.
A number of our fleet operations managers are licence holders who we require to ship out between four and eight weeks a year as master, he says. This has a significant impact on our remaining current with the challenges of the crew and the expectations of an owner.
No matter how much experience we have, it is the recent experience that allows us to make the most positive contribution.
The typical technical support person or team will comprise former yacht captains or engineers