Yacht & Company Profiles
In Safe Hands
Managing a charter yacht is a full-time job best left to the professionals
May. 8, 2005 02:00 PM
A behind-the-scenes look at the services offered by a charter manager and how they can be worth their weight in gold.
Anyone who has ever owned a company will no doubt agree that a PA, an advertising agency and a marketing agency figure significantly in day-to-day operations. After all, every company needs to be managed, promoted and coordinated: staff need to be employed, meetings arranged, decisions made and profits accrued. It’s not so very different when you own a superyacht. You need to maximize its potential, market it to the right people in the right way, hire crew and ensure all its ‘business trips’ (i.e. charters) run like clockwork. The difference with a superyacht is that in order to achieve all these things you don’t need to hire a PR consultant, a marketing agency, an advertising agency, a human resources manager and a PA – find yourself a good charter manager and you’ll get the whole lot rolled into one.
The role of a charter manager is manifold and, as the owner of any successfully managed yacht will confirm, invaluable. Charter managers have expertise in every aspect of charter management and take a very personal approach to each yacht
on their books. It’s not unrealistic to say that they know each yacht inside out and are always in close contact with the owner, crew and captain – forging the all-important link between them. They also know the superyacht industry like the back of their hand – useful if your yacht runs into fuel problems somewhere off Tortola, or if your captain needs a guiding word on the latest amendments to the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) at the drop of a hat.
Having one point of contact for all things charter related saves time, confusion and money. A good charter manager will, however, have the additional support of a team of experts that he can draw on for dedicated legal, tax, financial and insurance advice, along with expertise on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Code of Practice (MCA), the International Safety Management Code (ISM) and the ISPS. Most superyachts are privately owned but due to escalating maintenance costs and the impracticality of using a large yacht solely for private use, most are chartered out to offset the running costs and maximise investment. Along with the hefty role of managing the yacht while it is actually chartering, there is also the issue of getting clients on board in the first place – a task that requires considerable marketing skills, industry knowledge, expertise and innovation. A good charter manager is, therefore, invaluable. But when you’re in the market to find one, what services should they offer to ensure your yacht remains a sound investment? CNI profiles the skills, services and support a good charter manager should provide.
Most owners typically spend between four to eight weeks of the year on board their own yacht. Some may not use their yacht at all and regard it solely as an investment, while others will only allow their yacht to be chartered for a limited period. Advising owners on peak seasons, popular charter grounds and up-and-coming hot spots is a vital part of the charter management process. Owners are always encouraged to make their yacht available during peak seasons and, where possible, the yacht is scheduled for maintenance in the off-season months. The difficulty with this is that an owner will naturally want to cruise on his own yacht during the best seasons, meaning the yacht is not available for commercial charter at these times. A shrewd charter manager will balance both interests. He will assure the owner and his family have a great holiday when and where they want (for example, during school holidays – a peak charter period) and ensure the yacht still optimizes its charter potential – perhaps by securing bookings for less popular cruising areas or off-season charters to generate additional revenue. In planning the yacht’s annual itinerary, the charter manager will not only schedule in all the charters but will also take account of berthing, maintenance and docking considerations.
Liaising with the owner, captain, support teams and industry contacts means a charter manager is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This level of support is particularly vital while guests are on board but it’s also necessary when liaising with retail brokers on both sides of the Atlantic. Charter managers should always have access to in-house expertise on legal advice, yacht management and crew placement, and with such a strong support network they can provide an all-round service for any problem that may arise, be it sourcing relief crew members and engine parts at 24 hours’ notice or processing legal documents and visa enquiries.