The year 2020 has fast-tracked the shift from local to remote work quicker than any of us had anticipated. Working on board yachts, we are accustomed to virtual communications and technology to bridge the gap between the vessel and shore-based parties but over the past 10 years the yachting industry has come a long way.
Technology has made it so easy for yachts to work with remote support. The most prominent shift has been from paper documents and local servers to cloud-based operations, allowing the efficient flow of information whether it be a guest request, a change in protocol or a safety update. It is an effective and centralised way to store and update information that shore-based parties such as management can also use to share documents and communicate as if they were right next to you.
Planned maintenance systems (PMS) have been an important development, not only for yacht management companies but also for yacht builders and insurance providers. It allows all these remote support agencies to assist the vessel with compliance documents or even warranty disputes.
Over the years a few noteworthy yacht management programs have surfaced; worth mentioning is the all-encompassing, Deep Blue Soft, which includes a comprehensive PMS system alongside a range of other modules. Designed for yachts from 25 -100+ meters, the maintenance module allows chief engineers to build a custom maintenance program for the yacht by areas/groups/systems/items. The maintenance program links to the electronic logbook available in Deep Blue, as well as the spare parts module where kits can be identified and assigned to individual tasks.
Another notable advancement is ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System), aka the paperless bridge. Around 15 years ago, officers would have to pour over their chart catalogue to determine which chart they would need, and every time there was a change to a chart they would have to order a new one and hope it arrived in time! The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), which is in charge of the upkeep of charts, now has a much easier and faster way to get up to date information to vessels. There are many obvious benefits to this system but it’s also important not to rely solely on such technology.
Social media is another significant development. Love it or hate it, it’s an important business tool in the yachting industry, not only for remote services but for crew and charter yachts too. Many yachts have created their own accounts to showcase the amenities and destinations on offer. Many yachties have also created their own accounts and are using their newfound personal brands to develop small businesses or to bring the yachting community together by providing support and information.
However, even with all these programs, apps and resources, no yacht can fully function alone; all vessels need external assistance in one form or another. Owners’ offices and management companies are probably the first thing that comes to mind, but these days the scope of remote support is vast. According to our recent survey, 80% of captains have used remote support, with the majority of their outsourcing going to accounts and payroll, followed by guest concierge, crew administration and medical support, all with very positive feedback.
Depending on your medical provider, some offer excellent remote support whereby you can call in a medical concern and trained medical professionals will advise over the phone, working with the medical equipment you have on board. This is a must if you are at sea and cannot get to a medical facility and it’s another layer of support for the ships medical officer.
A more recent addition to the market is Twenty-Forty Seven which provides remote ETO’s, a great option for smaller yachts which may lack the space for an ETO but still face technical issues that the engineers don’t always have time for.
Innovations in tech and communications also paved the way for Virtual Pursers. With growing demands from owners and guests and the amount of paperwork and administration placed on officers and HODs, the benefits of external assistance are clear. Supporting vessels of all sizes, part time, full time or for one-off projects, Virtual Pursers offers a flexible approach to assisting with accounts, general and crew administration, destination management, vessel logistics, and provisioning and procurement.
Of the captains surveyed, 80% said they would consider using remote assistance again. With reference to a shore-based purser, 40% said this would be in a full-time capacity while the other 40% expressed interest in project work or occasional use. It seems a gap in the market has been found and filled!
Of course, new technology also brings new challenges and new threats to cyber security. Companies like Pelion Consulting aim to reduce those risks by training the yacht’s crew to be more aware and ensuring proper cyber security measures are in place. We will be touching on security and the new IMO2021 legislation in December, so keep your eyes peeled!
Here’s what a few of our survey respondents had to say about the shift to paperless systems and remote support since they first joined the yachting industry:
“I would have to say the shift to digital and cloud-based works best for many aspects of our life. Especially with regards to PMS systems, paperless bridge, and cloud-based accounting/PO systems such as Voly.” – C.G., Captain , 90m
“Since joining the industry in 2011, I have seen a huge switch to how the interior relies on technology. I no longer use excel for inventories, instead we us an app which allows for everything to be inputted from an iPad and upon request, the owner has a login to review all the items on board. There is also a huge community that has grown through social media and through this, stewardesses are able to communicate with others in the industry, whether it’s sharing a job posting, finding recommended suppliers or sharing inspiration.” – Gemma Hulbert aka The Yacht Stew
“In the past 10 years I have seen the yachting industry moving towards everything being digital. Policies, procedures, work lists, HOWR are all being done via iPad displays and phone apps. I think this is a great way forward and I believe it has only improved methods of communication. Currently with our interior team we all use five main apps to communicate:
Whatsapp - for general day to day information sharing.
To do worklist - which is instantly updated by CS or a stewardess to indicate how they are progressing with the tasks that have been allocated.
Pinpoint - to log defects in the guest and crew interior, easily assigning to the person a defect is to be actioned by.
DS photo – to be able to take photographic inventories, set up manuals, defects, personal folders and share with the team.
HOWR – to be able to log your own hours of work and rest.
With everything moving towards online access, I hope to see the old school paper trail being reduced. I believe everything can now be done online.” – Lorren Barlow, Head of Interior on M/Y Nirvana.