A longtime member of the South Florida superyacht community, Rybovich has several things going for it. It has the largest transient dock in the region, capable of accommodating yachts to 300 feet. Better yet, there’s high-speed fueling in each of those slips. But perhaps above all, Rybovich is known for its service and refit center. The 40,000-square-foot facility in Palm Beach includes everything from carpentry, mechanical, and electrical shops to wet slips for yachts to 295 feet (90 meters) and hard space for yachts to 180 feet (55 meters).
While plenty of companies are in the service business, Rybovich realizes that “service” means more than just fixing dinged props. From weekly happy hours for visiting crew to amenities that put other service and refit centers to shame, Rybovich has raised the bar. That’s why for this Megayacht News Leadership Series, we spoke with Rybovich’s vice president, George Whitehouse. Here, he explains what inspired the extra efforts and how Rybovich is targeting the crews and owners of super-size superyachts.
Q: Rybovich’s facilities have changed a lot over the past several years, with the construction of new buildings and the expansion of marina space. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I’d like to know why Rybovich added the gym and other amenities, rather than “just” concentrate on the marina and perhaps add some office space for crew. After all, plenty of boatyards follow that route. Why be different?
A: Rybovich believes that captains, crew, subcontractors, and vendors to the marine industry are professionals and should be treated by shipyards in that manner. Only by treating these critical elements of the marine industry as professionals can we expect them to act professionally toward our yacht owners. Rybovich solicited industry feedback in identifying the appropriate amenities for our facilities. The existing gym is being expanded and will have continually updated state-of-the-art equipment and shower facilities. The new private restaurant will seat approximately 100 patrons and will serve healthy and reasonably priced food to our customers, employees, subcontractors and vendors.
Q: Rybovich is among only a handful of yards in ICOMIA’s Superyacht Refit Group. What does inclusion mean to Rybovich?
A: Rybovich is proud to be a founding member of the ICOMIA Refit Group. Along with shipyards like MB92, Rybovich believes that industry associations afford the best opportunity to exchange ideas and share best practices in our common pursuit of continuous improvement.
Q: Rybovich has teamed with companies like Triple S Consultancy, which teaches bartending and other courses to crew at your facility. What inspired the partnership, and are others planned?
A: We felt that it was valuable to keep participating crew near their vessels and avoid the hassles of arranging transportation. As a result, we designated a space for vendors like Triple S to conduct classes and make presentations right on site. For the future, we welcome partnerships that foster the professional advancement of captains and crew.
Q: Do you often get requests from captains and crew to add classes or amenities? If so, what are some of the most popular requests?
A: Yes, we are always soliciting customer feedback and accommodating the requests when possible. This year’s decision to add an on-site restaurant, expanded gym facilities, showers, and dedicated transportation to downtown West Palm Beach were all the result of customer requests.
Q: You recently hired Peter Bergsma of Yacht CSI to run your coatings division. Part of the reason is to bring more megayacht paint jobs stateside. Why do think that U.S. facilities get less of these jobs than overseas ones?
A: U.S. facilities have not targeted the international superyacht paint market in the past. This was most likely due to the scarcity of hauling capacity in excess of 660 tons. Lately, Rybovich has had great success refinishing superyachts in the water, and we believe that a much larger market will open up once the planned 2,500-ton-capacity lift is operational at our Riviera Beach facility. Peter Bergsma joined the Rybovich team in order to apply his extraordinary and unique talent and experience toward maximizing the once-in-a-lifetime stateside opportunity.
Q: The new facility planned for Riviera Beach is also intended to bring more business stateside, especially related to large megayachts. How is the permit process going? If everything is approved, how many yachts would the facility be able to handle, and to what LOA?
A: Thanks to our current facility, we have extensive experience with the permitting process and believe that we have a very strong and compelling application. Our hope is to complete the permit process in less than a year, with significant landside improvements commencing prior to that. The facility will utilize a ship-lift system and accommodate as many as nine vessels. The maximum length will be 100 meters (328 feet).