What the Yachting Industry can learn from Commercial Shipping

Interview with Captain Matthias Bosse

Only a few professionals can claim an in-depth knowledge in both the yachting industry and commercial shipping. One of them is undoubtedly Captain Matthias Bosse.

20 years of experience in commercial shipping, ranging from expedition cruise ships to heavy lift ships, and 18 years in the yachting industry have made him a profound authority. Having developed his own projects he’s discovered significant differences between the two segments that can help yacht owners to cut costs.

Matthias Bosse

In your opinion, what can the yachting industry learn from commercial shipping?

Probably the importance of efficiency. While costs never really seemed to be of any importance in the yachting industry, they were always of utmost importance in the commercial shipping industry.

Are you saying that yacht owners – often economic leaders of successful and well controlled worldwide companies – do not take the same measures for running their private yachts as for their business? How come?

That for me is one of the most interesting mysteries within the yachting industry. For some owners it may be the factor “emotions” and once there are emotions involved you don’t need reasons. Or it is the “must-have-factor”. Knowing that a yacht is being used on average not more than 3-4 weeks in a year clearly indicates that there must be reasons to own a yacht that are beyond rationalism. Consequently costs are probably not always relevant.

Many elements – for instance fuel efficiency, controlling elements or maintenance friendliness to name a few – are practically unknown within the yachting industry while they are standard practice within the commercial shipping industry.

Many people don’t understand the difference in building costs: Why can highly functional ships in the commercial sector be delivered for a fraction of the cost of a newly built yacht. Is that only due to different materials?

It is about different materials, about the finish, but it is of course also about the fact that often costs are not necessarily driven by shipyards but by all those surrounding and representing the client. And the clients themselves drive them, for instance when not having installed proper controlling instruments, by relying on unprofessional build teams, lacking experience and expertise or not having a precise plan.

Big yachts are like companies, they produce costs. But unlike commercial shipping they are often not run professionally, there is a lack of efficient cost controlling.

What other kind of controlling elements exist in commercial shipping that the private yachting industry doesn’t know?

One element is remote monitoring – real-time collection and transmission of data such as speed, consumption, engine data, alarms, vibrations, etc., all forming the basis of condition based maintenance resulting is less downtime and reduced maintenance costs. This is practically unknown within the yachting industry while it is common practice in other industries. Of course this controlling, in my view, can be taken too far as seen in parts of the cruise industry, but the benefits cannot be denied.

Commercial grade equipment is often considered as cheap, less attractive. How would you suggest to solve that conflict on a private yacht that is supposed to display a high level of luxury?

My philosophy is best described by saying “commercial where possible and yacht where necessary”. This means nothing else but installing commercially proven equipment allowing the crew to carry out maintenance works and repairs themselves rather than just being able to call external service engineers. Such a philosophy would not compromise the level of luxury at all.

There is one yacht leading the way one more time: “Lady Moura”. When she was developed 30 years ago at the shipyard of “Blohm + Voss” there was no such thing as mega yacht building. There was no equipment available that was developed for yachts of that magnitude. What was available, however, was commercially proven equipment. As a result “Lady Moura” – still an icon in its class - may today be operated for half the budget of any other yacht her size, if not less.

Let us talk about safety on board. What is the difference? Do owners of private yachts spend more money for safety on board than companies running commercial ships?

Clearly no. While in the commercial shipping industry safety is prime, safety is an issue hardly ever mentioned when it comes to yachts. Not necessarily because shipping companies love to invest in safety but because they are forced to by numerous organisations and authorities. What else could explain the difference? Well, probably it is the fact that owners usually are not on board when their yachts are on longer sea passages but prefer coastal cruising in fair weather only. Or because they don’t feel like thinking about risks when they want to enjoy their yachts. Or shipyards and designers don’t want to create any negative emotions when proposing designs and projects.

Photo: “Lady Moura” ©Malte Klauck with thanks to Hugo Dircks