“We’re going to reinvigorate Sarnia.” says Hans Bouman, head of the new yacht management division at Sarnia Yachts. Strong words from one of Sarnia’s newest recruits but his promise is already coming true as the company emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger than it entered.
While it’s only halfway through the year, 2021 has already been a pivotal and exciting time in the company’s history. Sarnia Yachts has long dominated the yacht ownership space but, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the company has expanded its offer with a new business model and new divisions, including yacht management.
An experienced captain with years of experience in marine, technical and compliance management at several leading yachting companies, Bouman sees the introduction of yacht management as a natural evolution for Sarnia Yachts which has long been the go-to fiduciary business for owners, family offices and brokers across the UK and Europe.
“Through dealing with strictly commercial yachts who were using third-party yacht managers, it became apparent that Sarnia Yachts would often have less frequent contact with beneficial owners or the people around the beneficial owner.” he explains. “As yacht management is an activity that requires a lot of day-to-day contact with owners and captains, we realised that we could create long-lasting, more mutually beneficial relationships by offering these services ourselves.”
The new division is one of Sarnia’s three core pillars comprising Ownership, Management and Crew, offering the modern-day yacht owner a seamless and flexible experience with a spectrum of services available as a full suite or as individual elements.
“We offer technical management which encompasses everything to do with the operational management of the day-to-day running of the yacht. We ensure that the yacht remains compliant with all applicable rules and regulations and that all operations are undertaken safely, but we’re also here to assist with anything the yacht needs, right down to fuelling. You name it, we do it.”
Central to the division’s operations are financial services. Sarnia employs an experienced finance team who provide full financial management for owners, directors and auditors, including reporting, budgeting, bookkeeping and everything in between. Other services include flag registration and management, the fiscal arrangements of chartering, compliance management, vessel administration, operational and technical support, inventory control, maintenance planning, crew management and insurance.
Clients can choose any of these elements and blend them with Sarnia’s other services in a way that best suits their needs. “We provide a completely bespoke service. If the client wants yacht management only, that's what we provide. If they want the full package, that's what we provide. Any combination of services is possible.” Bouman says.
Furthermore, Sarnia is different because it isn’t engaged in any commercial activities which allows the team to focus purely on the job at hand. According to Bouman this is a unique proposition: “If you look at most of the larger brokerage and yacht management houses, their activity is mostly centered around the idea of brokerage. Their main activity is yacht sales and purchases as that’s where they make most of their money.“ he explains. Management services are important to them, but they are bolt-on services. We’re unique in that we’re closely related to the ownership structure rather than a commission-type structure.”
A major benefit of bringing yacht management under Sarnia Yachts’ umbrella is greater efficiency, Bouman explains. The removal of third parties results in a more streamlined service for owners and directors, particularly when it comes to financial services and the production of reports, which are often duplicated when an external company is involved.
“Quite often in those situations, you'll find the owner scratching his head asking why they’re paying a yacht management company to do financial management, for them to report to their ownership team which then does another set of reports on the same thing,” he says. “Both reports need to be done because the companies’ systems don't talk to each other, so by bringing it all together and using one recording and reporting system, it only needs to be done once.”
Sarnia’s approach also improves communication across all departments of the business. “If a captain says to me, as a yacht manager, ‘this is what's going on’, I can simply turn to my colleague next door who looks after the ownership structure for the yacht and immediately update them.”
Insurance is another key service within the division. Sarnia has been providing insurance solutions to owners, operators and crew for the last 50 years but under the stewardship of Louise Billington it has been elevated along with the rest of the business. A key difference here is that unlike many competitors, the insurance team at Sarnia doesn’t take commission when sourcing suitable options so the client can rest assured that they’re getting the best possible solution tailored to their yacht.
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The past 12 months have been particularly interesting for the insurance team which has had to navigate the uncertainties of Brexit as well as the pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve, and with different rules and regulations for each country a yacht enters, Billington’s team is committed to keeping its clients updated and staying on the ball with any changes that could affect them or their assets.
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But Sarnia has not focused solely on its clients during the pandemic. The team has gone to lengths to ensure that employees are happy and safe throughout months of uncertainty, including contractors such as crew. “A lot of time has been spent making sure that the captains and crew were doing OK because it's been difficult for them,” Bouman says. “Being cooped up closely together on a yacht is not always easy at the best of times, and when you're made to stay on board and not allowed to go ashore, it gets harder.”
“Making sure that the crew is alright also ensures that the owner is looked after because the minute things change and the owner wants to go on board at short notice, they rely on the crew to make that happen,” he adds.
This humanistic approach is one of the reasons that Sarnia has been a trusted name in the industry for so long and, with eyes on the next five decades, this ethos will continue. “We're very much aware that we need to keep up with the times,” Bouman says, “whether that’s understanding the way clients think or utilising technology to make things more efficient or more cost effective. We’re thinking about all these things and striking up alliances with people who will provide useful partnerships.”
Honing decades of in-house expertise across offices in Guernsey, Portsmouth and Malta, Sarnia Yachts has undergone momentous change in the past couple of years and, as the adage goes, with great change comes great opportunity. “There's a real buzz around the whole place,” says Bouman. “Even though we're all spread out at the moment and working from home, there’s a very positive energy running through the company. It’s good to be a part of it.”