A CAPTAIN'S INSIGHT INTO INNOVATION IN YACHT SECURITY
A case study shining a spotlight on a forward thinking collaborative captain to enhance safety on board a british built 50m luxury yacht.
VesselWatch Product software and two-way radios.
Written by Gemma Fottles
Captain Richard Pierce discusses why VesselWatch is one of the most essential pieces of safety kit on board his next 70m yacht project in Italy.
Met with industry-wide acclaim over the past five years since its launch, VesselWatch is one of the most innovative pieces of kit on board superyachts today. The multi-functional safety and communications system from renowned software and development company, Net-Logic Marine, was nominated for a prestigious DAME Award when it entered the industry - and it’s not hard to see why.
The unique system reduces the number of devices crew need to carry, while dramatically increasing the number and efficiency of features available to each crew member - all with more security than ever before. The Net-Logic Marine team is set on making completely safe and reliable radio communications at sea the norm, with unrivalled intelligent software expanding the capabilities of a two-way radio system.
But it’s easy to make things sound innovative on paper. Here we talk to Captain Richard Pierce, an experienced superyacht Captain and ex-Firefighter who has been working the VesselWatch software for the past 3 years. VesselWatch was installed during the course of the construction process on a complex, high speed, gas turbine 50-metre British-built superyacht he was involved with.
Captain Pierce tells OnboardOnline what makes VesselWatch a wise investment for superyacht captains and yacht owners, and why he is looking forward to enjoying a bigger package from Net-Logic Marine on his next vessel, a 70-metre motor yacht currently in build in Italy.
VesselWatch packages: Advanced Alarm Monitoring, Intelligent Asset Tracking; Optimised Guest Service.
OnboardOnline: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Richard Pierce: I’ve been in the industry since 2004, and before that, I spent six years as a Firefighter in the UK. I’ve always had a strong connection to the water, and when I left the Fire Service, I wanted to go into full-time sailing. At that time I didn't know the superyacht industry existed. I went to get some qualifications and learn to sail properly and I discovered that there was a whole industry that I could access. Not only could I go sailing every day but someone will pay me to do that!
Over the past 15 years, I feel very privileged to have worked on a huge range of boats, from Mangustas to Feadships to my last superyacht where I worked for nine years. With that project, as part of the build team, we completed a complicated and lengthy construction process which was a great challenge. Leaving the boat last year, I’m now working with a great private family with a boat in-build in Italy.
OnboardOnline: The 50m project you are speaking of was one of the longest superyacht builds ever. What were some of the main complications during your work in the last years of her build?
Richard Pierce: It was a complicated project, and we had a lot of false horizons if you like. Everything took a lot of effort to get things done right and one was radio communications. With a lot of high-speed rotating machinery, there was a lot of inference. At times it could be difficult for the bridge and the engineering teams to communicate with each other. We installed a distributed antenna system and digital radios which helped, but it still wasn’t great as there was still a significant delay. The Net-Logic Marine team came down and had a look at our set up. They installed their equipment, and we were really impressed.
OnboardOnline: What impressed you about VesselWatch once on board?
Richard Pierce: Digital communications have come such a long way in the past ten years, and the lack of delay and the improvement in clarity that comes with VesselWatch communications is excellent. The actual security of the communications on board is also much better. I like that the owner can go on his app on his tablet or phone and have more accessible, more efficient contact with the crew for better service and overall experience. It’s one of those things that when it’s right, you take it for granted, and when it’s not, it’s really frustrating.
OnboardOnline: What were some of your key considerations for and against installing VesselWatch?
Richard Pierce: I was recommended VesselWatch by a couple of people I know in the industry who highly regarded VesselWatch as a great piece of kit. I’m careful of what to suggest to an owner because if it doesn’t work, it comes back to me. I want to be cautious with my recommendations. We need people to look at the money they have spent and say, 'yes, what a great investment'.
With the Net-Logic Marine team, they did a great job during installation, and I could always get them on the phone for technical support if I needed it. That's why I’m going back to them again and fully intend to put the same system in this motor yacht project - but a bigger version. We’re looking at the full set up, including the tender and jet ski trackers. The team can customise each package to suit each vessel’s needs.
OnboardOnline: What features of VesselWatch are best for improving the guest’s experience and safety?
Richard Pierce: One of the best features is a panic button on the jet ski - you press a button, and it sends an alarm to the radio of every crew member. As much as you give guests all the safety training they need, there’s a chance someone will get carried away and manage to lose the chase boat that’s trying to keep up with them. With the power of these machines, it’s like giving someone who may not be that experienced at driving the keys to a Ferrari.
So the panic button is a great thing - all they have to do is press that big red button, and it sends coordinates to the mothership. It never got used in my years as captain, but it’s more peace of mind for guest and crew alike. As Captain, if someone is injured, I may be responsible. I want to do everything I can to make sure the vessel, the crew, the owners and the yacht are as safe as possible. Using tech in this way helps me to be able to say I did everything I could to keep that person safe.
"When the communications system on board is right, you take it for granted, and when it’s not, it’s really frustrating."
- Captain Richard Pierce.
OnboardOnline: How is safety improved in terms of the crew?
Richard Pierce: There are improved safety features for the crew. One of them is the lone-working system with the Motorola radios, where an engineer in the engine room working on his own can have a button to press every 15 minutes or so. If they don’t push that button, it raises the alarm to other crew members’ radio systems. Everyone is as safe and protected as they can be. A lot of the emergency services also use Motorola for their radios, and I felt safe using that as I used them in the Fire Service.
The setup Net-Logic Marine did was great, they gave us a certificate to say as much as well. By having a certificated system it is easy to show to any inspecting authority that you have carried out your due diligence by installing an approved system. It’s nice to know that no shore side authority is going to come and turn your radios off.
OnboardOnline: What are some of the biggest concerns from guests when staying on a superyacht?
Richard Pierce: Privacy is probably the biggest thing. With a lot of yachting guests, anonymity is their best friend. Our industry depends on the discretion and awareness of the crew to ensure this privacy to owners and guests is maintained. A lot of money is invested in achieving that fantastic experience each day, and to enable a lot of high-profile clients to truly get away from their day-to-day life, whether that is peaceful isolation or to experience the high life. It allows them to step away and catch their breath before they return to it all.
Ensuring privacy ensures peace of mind, and the VesselWatch encryption feature is perfect for that, especially when it relates to communications off the boat, between the tender and/or crew who are discussing guest plans and movements.
OnboardOnline: Why would you recommend VesselWatch to yacht owners and other superyacht captains?
Richard Pierce: We’re here to keep everyone safe. Superyachts can be dangerous places, magnificent, but at times dangerous. We all have to be responsible for ourselves and each other. Software like VessleWatch is a form of risk mitigation. Coming from a Fire Service background, I know that fire and safety are essential. Protection of life at sea - we do that right, then we do the seven-star service.
We do everything we possibly can to keep everything safe and legal… I worked hard to get my Masters ticket, and I won’t throw that away. Operating a safe and efficient boat is my goal.