What is a yacht owner’s representative?
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 23/06/2017
When enlisted for any superyacht project, a yacht owner’s representative (OR) will protect the client’s interests during the construction of this multi-million investment. He or she will liaise with and work alongside the client’s project manager and other teams to keep lines of communication open throughout the yacht’s build or refit project.
Essentially, the owner’s representative is there to monitor rather than manage the project, with there often being three key areas of responsibility:
- Project coordination, liaising between vested parties: First and foremost, the owner’s representative will coordinate all project information moving between the owner and his/her designer, consultants, shipyard and subcontractors. It is his or her job to ensure clear communication and complete understanding with all parties, and make sure there is satisfactory follow up.
- Design and planning, ensuring smooth operation of the yacht and its systems: Often a past or present captain or an experienced yachtsman, the yacht owner’s rep will also often have a role in keeping track of the yacht’s design details, system planning and equipment to ensure its smooth operation at sea.
- Overcoming regulatory barriers to design and function: Finally, the OR will often be charged with facilitating the realisation of the owner’s dream when faced with regulatory barriers and design difficulties. He or she must therefore look ahead and present planned solutions to any impending obstacles, liaising with regulatory bodies, designers and shipyards to find a workaround.
What's the difference between an owner’s representative and a project manager?
For those on the outside, the duties of the owner’s representative and client project manager can often get confused, which isn’t always so surprising, as the differences largely depend on who you ask.
In many cases, the project manager actively manages the project through the design, build and launch phases, working alongside the designers, shipyard and engineers to represent the owner’s interests, while the owner’s representative works as a separate liaison to ensure clear communication and timely decisions for all build activities.
In some cases, the yacht’s long-time captain is employed to be the owner’s representative, but, however capable, there is the risk that this will involve spreading him or her too thinly, especially if there is another boat already in operation.
Furthermore there is the risk that this relationship may break down, leaving the owner without professional support during a stressful time. Without proper OR experience, there is also the danger that areas of law and regulation may be overlooked. It’s therefore worth having an OR, even if only to support the captain in this role.
Do I need to employ a yacht owner’s representative?
When a UHNWI (ultra high net worth individual) invests in a superyacht, most do not have the time or expertise to manage the project properly, as discussed above.
Whether a 100m+ new build motor yacht, or the refit and repair of a 24m sailing yacht, there is a lot of vital planning and on-going management required for a smooth project run and successful outcome.
The most critical and time-consuming phase of any superyacht project is prior to a single piece of material being touched. The owner therefore typically works with a trusted captain or adviser to hire their project team members as early as possible (including an owner’s representative), ideally during the build specification stage prior to contracts being signed. Any changes to the specification after the contract is signed can be costly in time and budget, so it’s important to involve as many experts as possible.
The benefits of hiring a yacht owner’s representative
A lack of experience within the yachting industry for some owners can be problematic, especially when trying to find the expertise needed to create their dream vessel. Whether it’s a full custom or semi-custom yacht, the owner's team should reach out to contractors who compliment the overall vision. An owner’s representative can assist with selecting interior/exterior design firms, contractors, and ensure there is the right balance within the team between experience and innovation.
In addition to the selection of the right team, the owner’s representative will be knowledgeable with new materials introduced to the marketplace, current technologies, and experience with past superyachts, which will ultimately benefit the client.
- Quality, unbiased recommendations
- A clear communicator with a cool head
- A consistent on-site presence and support
- A forward-thinking approach with viable solutions
- Peace of mind, and time to enjoy the build process
Common misconceptions of the superyacht owner’s representative
The yacht owner’s representative is an unnecessary cost
Even though there will be a cost to hiring the owner’s representative, having them join the team early in the project should reduce overall costs due to efficient communication and coordination. This ensures construction moves along at a good pace.
The owner’s representative creates a communication barrier
Part of the owner’s representative’s role is to assist all of the hired contractors, by making decisions with and on behalf of the owner. With the absence of an owner’s representative, many parties may lose money if an owner does not respond to inquiries promptly, or briefs go awry.