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Getting the Most Out of Yard Periods

Yard periods can mean different things for different departments on board. Some crew members look forward to possible downtime while others, typically engineers, are preparing for a revolving door of contractors to complete tasks within a limited time frame. In all cases, a yard period is an opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Most yachts will work off the idea that they have one planned yard period per year. This gives heads of department a chance to plan ahead and compile a list of projects to be completed during that time. A yard period is a particularly busy time for an engineer and it can easily turn into a frantic situation with contractors working on top of each other, impacting their ability to complete their respective tasks. A combination of advance planning and research will result in a smoother and more productive experience for all involved.

In the months and weeks leading into a yard period, a chief engineer will be pulling together quotes based on an agreed worklist to be completed. This is an ideal time to start thinking about the work involved from a contractor’s point of view and how that will impact other departments and their ability to complete tasks on their own worklists. A few key pieces of information are essential at his stage:

  • What access is required? Will they need to turn a guest or crew area upside down to access working areas?

  • Is there a need for lifting equipment to be setup in hallways, stairs or through the main saloon?

  • Is there a lead time on parts needed? If so, how long?

  • What is the expected timeline for completion?

When you have an ambitious worklist or timelines are tight, there are a few things that crew can do to ensure a contractor’s time on board is well spent to complete the project as quickly as possible: 

  • Set up protective coverings on all spaces - this will save time and possibly additional costs passed on by contractors.

  • Ensure a clear work area with as few obstacles as possible - make main thoroughfares free of clutter and easily accessible.

  • Have a good understanding of the spares you have that may be required to complete the project - let the contractor know what spares you have on board in case of an emergency.

  • Avoid arranging multiple contractors to work in the same area.

  • Work towards a theoretical deadline that is some time before the actual deadline. Mentally managing contractors and your own workload towards a completion date three to four days before the actual deadline gives you a few days up your sleeve if needed.

Seah Hub Yard Periods 1200x630

Taking a leaf out of the book of most big organisations, holding weekly meetings or debriefs with the captain or other HOD’s will create greater transparency and shape the expectations of those on board. Letting other HOD’s know when a project is expected to be completed, or explaining the movements of a contractor will enable them to organise their own departments more effectively.

Beyond the organisational aspects of managing a yard period, engineers can involve contractors to advance their own understandings of the systems on board. Contractors are typically experts in their particular domain, so take the opportunity to learn from them to improve your own troubleshooting capabilities.

As the completion of a yard period rolls around, it’s a time of relief and excitement about returning to the perks of travel and bouncing from one marina or anchorage to another. A great piece of advice I received from an old captain when leaving a shipyard was to leave the shipyard the way you want it to be when you come back. What he meant was, leave your dry dock or slip as you found it. Keep them clean and free from any hazards that could cause issues for crew who may be navigating the shipyard late at night.

It should be no surprise that relationships are key to the success of any yard period, and building good working relationships with yard managers, contractors and suppliers can be the difference between getting through that worklist or leaving with items still on it.

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