In 2018 we embarked on the task to change Shenandoah from a private vessel to a commercial charter boat. The first thing we needed to do was a feasibility study with the MCA and a naval architect to work out if there were any show stoppers that would make the conversion unrealistic or financially unfeasible. Fortunately, this did not take too long. It was clear that we could not put the vessel into class because of a lack of structural fire protection but the MCA could issue Shenandoah with a commercial registration with restrictions. These restrictions would mean that we would only be able to operate up to 60 nautical miles from a safe haven and up to winds true or forecast Beaufort 6, which is 27 knots. This was a viable solution as most charterer don’t want to go offshore and generally in my experience if the wind is greater than 27 knots you start to either make the guests feel uncomfortable or sick.
So, with the mandate set we arranged our shipyard haul out and the rigorous testing of the vessel to firstly check the condition of the entire yacht but more importantly to make sure that the vessel was up to the standard required by the MCA. These standards are detailed in LY3 which is the third version of the Large Yacht Code written by the MCA for yachts.
We hauled out in March 2018 and the process began. A full thickness measurement of the hull and structure was carried out including NDT (Non-destructive testing) on various parts of the ship including hull, shafts rudder and pipework. This took some two weeks and fortunately the hull was in excellent condition. The only issues we found we some of the distance pipes. These are the hull protrusions below the waterline. Obviously, very important so these we expertly repaired by Astilleros de Mallorca in good time and antifouling re-applied on the hull.
Another big job was attaining a Load Line Certificate including the installation of the draft marks. This involved going around the ships and measuring all the items relating to the load line called the conditions of assignment. It included; all hatches, doorways, openings, ventilators, pipes, scupper, inlets, discharges, portholes and freeing ports. Most of this was already in place but a few modifications had to be made mostly for the manual closing of above deck ventilation. Easy work for a skilled carpenter.
We also had to go through all the vessels safety equipment. Check its approvals and make sure that it was fit for purpose. This is called the record of equipment, which is part of the prerequisite to issue the LY3 certificate of compliance. The record of equipment includes; all the LSA (Life Saving Appliances) including the rescue boat, the FFE (Fire Fighting Equipment), the emergency controls, the navigation equipment and lighting and all the means to access the ship from the shore or boarding whilst at sea. On this matter we needed to upgrade our Liferafts which actually was quite convenient as the larger Liferafts used the same size canister as the ones we already had on board. We also had to install a double mast head light because the surveyor wanted a backup bulb in case one failed whilst we were underway. Understandably he did not want someone going aloft in the dark to change a bulb whilst the boat could be rolling at sea. The thing that saved us the most amount of time here was that we already had a mini-ISM (International Safety Management) in place which I had written when I joined the boat in 2012/2013. The other thing which helped a lot was that we had a PMS (Planned Maintenance System) in place with records of all the equipment service and maintenance.
Next, we had to make a stability information booklet with a naval architect. This is a large technical document detailing all the vessel characteristics relating to the vessels stability and what happens in the event of flooding etc. Mostly this had to be compiled by the architect but we had to help him with various things including an inclination test of the yacht. This involved moving weight from port to starboard to see how the vessel inclines. With this then complete it was submitted to the MCA for approval.
When all the documentation was in place and approved, we then needed to complete a final survey on board with the MCA surveyor. This involved sea trails and drills and discussions with the crew. We looked at all the crew certificates, equipment certificates, radio survey, the list goes on……
At the end of this by no means was the boat perfect but we had met the minimum standards and we were issued an LY3 certificate which allowed us to apply for a commercial registration certificate. From here we had a few deficiencies that we had to amend immediately before commencing charter operations and a few that we could revolve after the first charter season. This was all scheduled and completed as per the MCA requirement and from there we were off and running.