Top tips for getting the most from a refit project

3 September 2021

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, perfection is given the best chance to occur.

Time and time again, the team at MB92 optimise each project’s time, scope and budget and as told by the firm’s Project Management team, here are some of the key success factors that can contribute to a successful refit project period for clients.

Have a well-defined scope of work

In the world of refit, there will always be unexpected works, whether it be because of new issues that appear during the season, new owner requirements, system problems or mechanical failures. However, a lot can be planned for in advance such as programmed maintenance, statutory (and periodic) requirements and paint life cycle. These elements usually define the "Project Critical" path and if scoped out in advance, allows a yard to clarify a wish list for the main objectives of the upcoming yard stay as well as achieve administrative tasks such as ordering specs and drawings, placing orders and arranging customs if necessary. By having all this readily available, the yard can avoid any bottlenecking of the project workflow.

The iceberg effect

Consider that every pre-project planning period is like an iceberg, with the owner’s desires and requests just the tip. What a yard cannot always appreciate but should be understood, however, is everything involved below the tip requires studying for an accurate assessment of these hidden but required works.

For example, the installation of a new Ballast Water Treatment System as part of new IMO regulations requires customisation and time to measure, design, carry out feasibility studies, plan construction and engineering (approx. 12-15 weeks lead time on a new treatment system) and prepare the most accurate and comprehensive quotation package possible. Only after this process can the prices be produced and the negotiations and arrangements be made with manufacturers and suppliers.

Read and sign the contract in advance

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

Then, the confirmation of the "Project Critical" path can be defined at an early stage and the perfect scenario of being able to sign the contract 2-3 months in advance of the yard period is feasible. 

Prioritise what is important when choosing a shipyard

A refit project can be stressful, but choosing an established and trusted shipyard with the facilities, professional capabilities and 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.

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.

Project management can make the difference

While it is important to have the scope of work defined as much as possible, changes will 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, but they should also have the experience and know-how to adapt to potential adjustments and/or integrate additional work seamlessly into what can be a demanding schedule.

Ensure that crew are happy

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.

All parties are responsible

The project must be considered as a team effort, with the project’s success being a joint responsibility shared between the shipyard and the client. The flow of information is fundamental. On the client’s side, details regarding the 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.