Technology equips superyacht for business, pleasure

Superyacht customers are increasingly demanding their vessels be equipped for work as well as pleasure.

Tiara, a recently-launched 54m superyacht in New Zealand commissioned by an American client, for example, is equipped for on-board email using local wireless infrastructure when near shore and via satellite when on the open sea.

Lee Sigley, project co-ordinator for the construction of Tiara, explained to a New Zealand Computer Society event last week the role technology and good project management methodology played in enabling the yacht to be launched in March, a month ahead of schedule.

Boat construction company Alloy has built yachts for owners “who have companies that are at the leading edge of technology”, and Sigley says demand for on-board connectivity is greater than ever.

“Communications is the big thing at the moment. Owners want to be able to run their businesses from the boat and stay in touch.”

Internet speeds of around 256kbit/s are possible on the ocean but web browsing is discouraged while at sea. Email is filtered by an on-shore server before going via satellite. Big attachments are screened out, as they are expensive to download from satellites.

A wireless LAN was added after the launch. “It was outside the scope of the contract.”

The contract’s requirements changed during construction and Sigley says smooth change management was one of the keys to the success of the project.

“There were 550 changes to the original contract, millions of dollars’ worth, thousands of hours’ worth.”

Alloy used Primavera project management software to plan the project and Sigley emphasises that when building, “we make sure we are managing the construction of the boat, not the project — we don’t want to get bogged down in paperwork”.

The previous building project acts as a template for the next one, he says and Alloy doesn’t use an ERP system as such.

“There’s no programme tracking all the items [used in construction]. It comes back to fortnightly project management meetings.”

Alloy has about 250 staff and a full order book, with two more superyachts scheduled to be launched this year.

While the Tiara is equipped for on-board business, with email capability and its own PBX, it’s also equipped for pleasure, with an on-board entertainment system that includes a 43in flat screen TV for the owner and smaller ones for the up to 12 guests that can be accommodated. DVDs, MP3 files and local satellite TV are on offer.

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