Yacht manager may seem like a mysterious and exclusive job title that only a rare few get to claim as their own. After all, yachts are typically the preserve of the wealthy, and conjure up images of glamorous individuals reclining on sundecks or Champagne enjoyed in a Jacuzzi.
However, organising everything from the health and safety to the all-important budget onboard on a superyacht is a demanding career that requires a certain type of go-getting personality. However, for those that are passionate about the yachting world and always ready to rise to the next challenge, yacht management is a truly unique career where the possibilities are endless.
Here, we interview the private yacht management team (Céline Effray, Yacht Manager, Marco Borrini, Safety & Compliance Manager, and Leonardo Davigo, Technical Superintendent) from the Monaco department of global yacht brokerage YACHTZOO, to understand what a yacht manager does on a day-to-day basis and learn why their job is so essential.
Can you talk us through a typical day in your team?
Leonardo: As the Technical Superintendent, I take care of all technical issues on the yachts in YACHTZOO’s fleet. My typical day first involves staying in close contact with either the yacht owner, the owner’s representative or the captain to check if there is anything needing special attention that is not part of the yacht’s typical technical operations – basically to see if there is anything urgent and unexpected going on that day.
The second part of my role is managing relations with the technical authorities and classification societies in the yachting industry. Each yacht has to stay in compliance with the various regulations set out by these authorities, and so I spend a large part of my day ensuring that this is the case and maintaining a good relationship with those bodies.
My job can also include providing technical support during the yacht sale and purchasing processes, as well as in the actual construction of the yacht.
Marco: As Safety & Compliance Manager, I manage the compliance of the vessel alongside Leonardo. I also spend a large part of my time in conversation with the captain or owner’s representative, making sure that they are happy and everything is running smoothly.
Here at YACHTZOO I cover the role of DPA (Deputy Person Ashore), making me responsible for advising each yacht on how to comply with international rules and regulations, and for their safety. I’m also YACHTZOO’s CSO (Company Security Officer) so I manage the overall security of the vessel in terms of antipiracy and antiterrorism.
Celine: As Yacht Manager, my main role is to undertake all of the accounting for each of our clients’ yachts, which entails working to a close budget that has been established in accordance with the captain and takes into consideration the owner’s demands and cruising itinerary. In case of any unforeseen purchases/repairs/works that need to be done, I will ensure that these extra costs are approved. I produce monthly financial statements detailing all actual expenses and quarterly reports of actual expenses against the approved budget, and make funding requests based on the budget.
Another key part of my day is handling crew administration. Whenever a new crew member joins the vessel I check that they have the necessary qualifications for their position, as well as the valid certificates. I also administer each crew member’s pay, follow the holiday schedule, and draft crew termination agreements in the instance that someone has resigned or been fired. Dealing with the Underwriter, I have to make sure the yacht and crew are correctly insured and insurance is paid, and follow any medical claims.
I also deliver our yacht management presentation to potential clients and draft up management contracts as needed.
Private yacht management also includes dealing with the bank and suppliers (who could be anything from shipyards to florists) and paying all the invoices. Generally, I also take care of any daily administrative tasks that come up. I’m in constant communication with the captain or the Owning Company (owner or owner’s rep) to deal with their requirements.
What are your favourite parts of working in yacht management? What are the most challenging elements?
Leonardo: My favourite part is having the opportunity to help people with their technological requirements, wherever it is needed but especially during the yacht build process. The most difficult thing is definitely to keep everyone on the same page – for example, the captain, the yacht owner and the authorities. Trying to coordinate people who may be scattered across different time zones and have very different ideas on things is no easy task!
Celine: I agree – my most challenging task is to please captains, crews, owners and suppliers all at the same time, especially when they are all pulling in different directions. My favourite part is that my role stays interesting – I’m passionate and even though technically my role is very repetitive as I do the same tasks every month, it still feels like it varies so much from day to day.
There are some months where everything just runs smoothly and others where everything that could go wrong does and lots of time is taken to resolve issues. For example, having to chase for funds, drafting crew contracts or termination agreements at the last minute, correcting a captain’s mistake on his accounts or making a presentation to the client. But at least it’s never boring!
Marco: I have worked with boats all my life, having spent the last 17 years in vessel management and making the move from cruise ships to private yacht management in 2018. The job is challenging and sometimes it’s a struggle, but I really love it. Sometimes I don’t get much sleep or even get a chance to eat – we really are that busy looking after our vessels – and you need a lot of diplomacy to everyone in line, but with a little experience you learn how to navigate it. It’s very rewarding.
How did you each get into yacht management as a career?
Marco: I’ve been working at sea for 20 years, starting out on merchant vessels and passenger ships. As a deck officer, I gained a good understanding of the industry that eventually led me into vessel management, moving from commercial and cruise vessels to yachts.
Celine: I worked on cruise liners and yachts for over eight years before moving ashore to secure a role in a yacht management company. My time spent at sea gave me the opportunity to easily understand the unique demands of an owner and the crew, and I also had a background in accounting, which is essential for this role. I joined YACHTZOO in 2013 and set up the Monaco private yacht management department from scratch.
Leonardo: After studying at university, I started out working as an external technical consultant for yachts in Italy. However, I was determined to get an internal technical adviser role, so four years ago I moved to Monaco – one of the main hotspots in the world for yacht management – and secured a job, later moving on to YACHTZOO. I have worked as a technical adviser for 10 years and I joined YACHTZOO in 2019.
What kind of personality and skills do you need to work in a yacht management team?
Leonardo: I think you need two main aspects: first of all the will to work every day and to always be available – even at the weekends. Secondly, you need to be calm and not lose your patience, as there is always a lot to deal with.
Celine: Leonardo is correct – you need to be able to work under stress as it comes from different directions. You need to be versatile and be a relational person. It is also very important to be able to work in a team – communication is fundamental within yacht management services.
Marco: Good communication is needed in all aspects of the job – internally and with our clients and suppliers. In this line of work an emergency might arise at any moment, and so you must be ready to react. This might limit your personal and social life, but you have to be prepared for that.
Any advice for people looking to get into yacht management?
Leonardo: If you have a great passion for water and the yachting world then you might love yacht management, as that drives you. If you don’t have this passion, it will always be very hard.
Marco: I agree – you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love the industry.
Celine: This is not a simple 9 to 5 job. You have to be always by your phone, ready to resolve any issues by yesterday as people can be extremely demanding. But for the right person, it is a career that will always challenge you and keep you on your toes.