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Industry Insight

Meet the Team: James Ludden

In the third instalment of our Meet the Team series, Ocean Independence speak to Yacht Manager James Ludden.

In the third instalment of our Meet the Team series, Ocean Independence speak to Yacht Manager James Ludden. With 15 years of experience in the superyacht industry, James joined the Ocean Independence Management team in 2020.

When did you first fall in love with yachting/what is your history with yachting?
My passion for yachting started through sailing trips around the Solent and flotilla holidays in the Ionian islands. I believed my interest in yachting to be just as a hobby or an escape from the office, but I was introduced to a Captain who had come ashore and was able to regale me with tales of the yachting industry. A month later I had resigned from my finance job in London and was in Antibes looking for my first position as crew. The original plan was just for one season, however I never went back!

How did you get into the industry and what inspired you to become a yacht manager?
After more than 10 years at sea I was looking to start life ashore. I was approached by an Owner’s Representative to provide yacht management for a previous Client and develop the service to the fleet. It felt a natural fit, using my onboard experience to ensure the Owner’s asset was best represented and to assist the Captain and crew in areas where they felt support had sometimes been lacking. 

What is your favourite part of your job and what aspects of your work challenge you the most?
Being the person that solves the problems. Owners and captains look to you for guidance in all areas of operations and ownership, and having the answers is a great buzz. Also, I get immense satisfaction from the completion a of busy winter refit or maintenance programme and the first guest trip of the season.  The biggest challenges are mechanical failures that can strike at any moment. Knowing who to call when things go wrong and keep the boat operational with minimal fuss and disruption for the guests is crucial.


What is your favourite yacht? 
Every year I am reminded of the quality of the industry we work with, from the launches of the mega yachts at the yards in Northern Europe through to MALTESE FALCON under sail in the Gulf of St Tropez. From my own time at sea, I enjoyed yachts that took me further off the beaten track –  the coast of South America, the Galapagos and the Pacific. So I always have a penchant for the explorer yachts, and currently I would say that M/Y LEGEND would be my favourite yacht. It is a great example of a refit project that has brought luxury to a work horse capable of cruising the Mediterranean, Arctic or Antarctic.   

What trends do you currently see emerging in yacht management? How do you see the yachting industry evolving post-pandemic? 
The last year has seen incredible progress in digital technologies and digitalising core business processes. With restrictions imposed, we have honed digital services to enable shoreside support and an increasingly clear view of the immediate environment onboard which has lead to increased transparency and opportunities to gain operational efficiencies. I believe the industry will step out of the shadows of the pandemic with a new freedom – we have been given an opportunity to evaluate and modify how we operate and a unique chance to re-write the rule book. 

What are common misconceptions about your job/the yachting industry? 
Everyone believes that it is your maritime experience that makes you a good manager. Of course this is an integral part of understanding how and where a manager can be of assistance, but you will also be the contact for tax advisors, lawyers, corporate service providers, underwriters, surveyors and contractors. Yacht management is a complete package requiring the highest levels of client satisfaction and providing accurate information to support the best decisions for the operations of the yacht.  

How do you see green/eco concerns fitting into the industry? 
How do you think this mentality will affect yachting in general and more specifically yacht management? All parties are looking to make yachting more sustainable, from the materials used in construction to the desire for less fossil fuel intensive propulsion and plastic consumption onboard. We now have proven technology in action, a yacht of over 100m can now cross the Atlantic without using any fossil fuels. These successes have broken down the barriers and managers now look to include revolutionary technologies to incorporate environmentally friendly options in refit and new build construction. 

What, in your opinion, are the three most important things to include when building/refitting a yacht? 
The most important items for me heading into any new build or refit period will always be the project management, the scope of the work and the contract. With those in order, we can look at the “must- haves” on board, for which I would always try to include a beach club, private Owner’s office and spa facilities which creates maximum enjoyment for the guests.   

What would be your top tips for someone looking to break into the industry as a yacht manager? 
Firstly, keep your book of contacts up to date, always know who to call when you need to. Ensure that you have a full understanding of the fiscal requirements of yacht ownership and operational expenditure. Make sure that you can demonstrate this knowledge to the Owner’s officer through clear and concise communication. Expect the unexpected, every day will have a different challenge, and it is all about how you react.

Can you tell us something about yourself that others may be surprised to know about you? 
In a life before yachting, I was a professional rugby coach in Chile.


Learn more about Ocean Independence's yacht management services here.

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