Repainting a superyacht is the single most expensive maintenance task that needs to be carried out on a regular basis. The average cost of a repaint naturally varies depending on the size of the boat but can regularly run into many millions of pounds. The larger the yacht, the harder it is to get the flawless finish that owners expect. Mistakes are costly.

A Russian tycoon is in the process of suing a paint manufacturer in the US courts following what he perceives to be a botched paint job. While redecorating his £24 million estate in Ascot would in itself be an expensive process, his complaint relates to the painting of his £200 million, 391-foot superyacht. As a point of interest, the yacht features walls made from sting-ray hide, 3 pools and accommodation for up to 37 staff. Annual running costs are in the region of £12 million.

After making an initial complaint about the quality of the finish, the paint company agreed to completely redo the works at their own expense. However, the finished product was not as reflective as the owner had expected and appeared to have a cloudy appearance. There were also apparently areas where different coats had separated, causing lines and sags.

The owner’s claim includes £15 million to cover the costs of repainting the yacht and £2.5 million a month to cover the costs of hiring another boat while his own is being repainted. The total claim is for approximately £64 million, excluding legal fees. The claim serves to highlight the massive costs and difficulties involved in repainting modern super yachts to the exacting standards of some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.

Superyachts need to be repainted every 4–6 years in the Mediterranean or Caribbean and around every 8 years in Northern Europe. Weathering begins to clearly show after around 2 years and loss of gloss at 3 years. As far as the choice of coating is concerned, trends and technology are ever changing. However, each trend needs to be catered for by developing a product that not only works but adheres to strict environmental regulations. For example, vinyl wraps are commonly being applied to super yachts as an alternative coating with the advantages being reduced cost and a shorter application period which are attractive to owners seeking to maximise charter income. Vinyl wraps are also readily changed, low maintenance and can apparently last up to 8 years.

Assessing whether a paint job is up to scratch is, of course, extremely subjective. With this in mind, ICOMIA (the International Council of Marine Industry Associations) developed guidelines called Technical Guideline on Minimum Acceptable Finish and Appearance for Super Yacht Gloss Coatings in order assist surveyors tasked with precisely this job. The ICOMIA guidelines are referred to in survey reports, and paint finishes are assessed in accordance with the accepted technical criteria.Such criteria require specialist electronic equipment for measurement, but they broadly relate to the extent of any surface imperfections and the reflectiveness of the gloss finish.

Interior decorators will tell you that most of the work involved in any paint job is the preparation. The same is true with yachts. The reasons behind a poor paint job are usually down to inadequate preparation, time pressures and not fully understanding the technical requirements of the coating product being applied.

Once the job has been finished, owners need to ensure that crew members know how to properly clean the paintwork and are aware of the type of chemical cleaners that should be avoided.

Disputes often arise between yacht owners and insurers where only a small part of the hull has been damaged. In these instances, where it is not possible to match the repaired part of the hull with the rest of the boat, insurers are reluctant to fund a repaint of the entire hull. This scenario is often factored into the terms and conditions of yacht insurance policies with the proviso that the insurer will not be responsible for any diminution in value of the yacht as a result of patch painting.

The success or failure of the Russian tycoon’s claim against the paint manufacturer will require a detailed examination of the same sort of criteria we commonly see in marine survey reports relating to paint issues. It is not, however, clear whether he is only suing the manufacturer or the contractor who carried out the work or both parties. We shall keep an eye on developments and update you in a future issue.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.