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The need for a project manager during new builds and refits

Whether to include a project manager on your team for a build is not the question. It is an imperative. Even the most experienced owners, building at the most reputable yards, surround themselves with experts to ensure the project is completed on time, on budget, and meets all of the specifications of the contract.

Building or refitting a yacht is no small undertaking. The process can last years and can very quickly turn into a nightmare that wreaks havoc on your time, your wallet and your sanity. Yet, many first-time yacht owners enter the process with relatively few experts surrounding them or, worse, are led by unqualified, inexperienced advice. Unfortunately, these owners are generally the first to put their boat on the market and head for the hills, leaving their dreams of sailing off into the sunset on the shore.

‘If you were to build a house, you would hire a general contractor,’ says Danielle J. Butler, a shareholder and maritime lawyer with Fowler White Burnett. ‘When you try to act as the general contractor yourself, the next thing you know you’re off schedule, off budget, or both.’

Unlike a house, where you can usually pop over to check on the progress, your yacht project is likely to be hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, further complicating the process. Most yards will appoint their own project manager to a build or refit, but it is still recommended that the client appoint a client project manager (CPM) who acts solely on their behalf.

‘An experienced CPM can identify in advance any issues that might complicate a project and guide their client in the best possible way to avoid difficulties,’ says Mario Pedol of Nauta Yachts, a design and brokerage house that also works in project management. In today’s tenuous economic times, and when working with a less-established yard, for example, this is especially important.

Michael Koppstein, of custom builder Royal Huisman agrees: ‘Our clients are generally too busy to allocate time to the project between meetings. The CPMs are the client’s eyes on the ground. Whilst we can build without a CPM, we prefer one to be appointed. They generally have a wealth of experience and, as accessible and empowered decision makers, they are invaluable to maintaining production schedules.’

Even production builders who operate with aerospace industry precision encourage the use of CPMs. ‘We see [client] project managers come in on our 50m (164ft) builds,’ says Phil Purcell, vice president of Westport Yachts. ‘Most are also captains. [Being production builders,] we don’t change what we do, but [with the 50m series] there is more involvement required of the owner. In our case, a CPM keeps the owner on track and has been very beneficial; it helps the process remain efficient.’

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