Ship building has its own individual problems, of which salt water corrosion (electrolysis) is but one of them. Philippe Guenat, Managing Director of PMG Shipyard pointed out that when you are on land and there is a plumbing problem you just pick up the phone. When you are on a yacht 3,000 miles from shore who can you ring? To get over potential problems like that, it is necessary to employ good design, use first class equipment and accessories, and ensure good build quality.
Philippe Guenat is of the conviction that building a yacht is comparable to building an aircraft, and states very strongly, “There is no room for errors; things cannot break or leak.” One thing you must always be aware of, in European seas you can find shelter and qualified workers every 25 nautical miles, so in case of emergencies there is always help nearby. But here in the Gulf of Thailand, once you leave the marina in Pattaya and if for any reason you need maintenance the nearest port to get professional repairs done or even buy a part is in Singapore, 900 nautical miles (1600 km) from here. Therefore ‘things’ cannot go wrong.
Philippe said, “PMG Shipyard was established in 2004 (as Bakri Cono) and since day one, we spared no effort to obtain our yacht building license from the Thai government under the auspicious of the Board of Investment (BOI). This allows us to use our special tax-exempt privileges to import the best quality in technology and materials for the production of our yachts.
“We started with only 20 employees and by 2013 we were employing 35 highly skilled shipbuilders. Before then the company concentrated on the local Thai market. That same year we decided to turn to the international market and increased the production from only 1 boat per year to orders for 2 or even 3 boats per year.
“In early 2017 PMG Shipyard started to get orders for bigger and more sophisticated yachts, so we had to grow with the demand. And thus, our shipyard grew into a full-fledged ship manufacturing facility. I am proud to say that today Bakri Cono’s production capability has increased to 8 yachts per year varying in size from 41 to 105-feet.”
PMG Shipyard has jealously protected its work force, which has quadrupled over the past 10 years, now has a professional team of nearly 100 craftsmen and women who work meticulously to create their masterpieces. Philippe proudly says, “Most of them are graduates of the world-famous Thai Marine Vocational School and to my knowledge, Thailand is the only country in the world that has a proper and dedicated Marine School providing professional courses in ship-building.”
The students are seconded to PMG Shipyard by the schools to gain work experience with a top shipyard. On the job training and learning are provided by PMG Shipyard’s very own professional instructors. To assist the students, PMG Shipyard even provides billeting and transport for the apprentices. Students are recognized by the color of their shirt, which is different to the regular outfits worn by staff who act as teachers and mentors throughout their apprenticeship.
Besides its core business of building boats, PMG Shipyard is dedicated in the transmission of its know-how. Expertise in the business can only be acquired through being in constant contact with specialists in the field and total immersion in a fully equipped environment exclusively focused on its activity. The transmission of knowledge will effectively take place whilst in the heart of the action and in the greatest of respect for the profession.
PMG Shipyard Boat Building Academy (PMGSBBA) provides every determining factor to offer serious training, warranting excellence in the profession. Upon successful completion of the course, it is possible to continue working at the shipyard or at any of its associated partners.
Under the supervision of the shipyard director with the assistance of the heads of the various departments within the company, the students have the opportunity to practice on the on-going realizations in the shipyard. To complete this course based on European teaching methods, they also undergo some theory classes in between the practical courses.
In 2011 PMG Shipyard invested time and finances to adopt the state-of-the-art technologies and know-how to enhance their shipbuilding operations. “We were way ahead of our times,” Philippe said. “I have always had a passion and love of solar energy, so in 2012 PMG Shipyard built the first 8 kw/h solar assisted yacht in the world, the Heliotrope 65. In 2013 we upgraded our electronic system from the traditional breaker system to the more advanced computerized CZone digital switching technology similar to the technology used in building modern aircraft.”
Ship building has been a human endeavor for over 4,000 years, but it is only recently that new technology has been applied to build quality. One of these is vacuum extraction of the ‘sandwich’ of laminated layers, pulling the resins through the laminations resulting in a thinner panel, but stronger and greater longevity. Unfortunately, this hands-on approach does also result in more expensive items, but it is a ‘must’ where quality, weight and strength are concerned. An additional plus for this type of construction is that there is no fiberglass dust strewn all over everything in the shipyard, small particles being vacuumed up during the extraction process. Vacuum Infusion reduces fumes and dust produced by regular methods to less than 20% of those discharged into the air by traditional methods.
PMG Shipyard acquired this technology and thus in 2013 became one of the very few shipbuilders in the world to have successfully introduced and utilized the ‘Total vacuum infusion technology’ and have completely stopped using plywood and other types of Balsa wood which is still too often used by some of the large European mass boats builders.
One year later in 2014 PMG Shipyard was recognized as the first and only shipyard in South East Asia to use 100% vacuum infusion technology in the manufacturing of their boats and yachts for which they received the Boats & Yachts Thailand Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Marine Industry and Boat Safety.
The following year, PMG Shipyard was awarded the ‘Maritime Company of the Year 2015 (Asia)’ at the MIS.M Maritime International Showcase Malaysia.
“We have continuously developed and improved our technology to be the most advanced in ship building,” Philippe said. “For example, we enhanced the performance of the generators which supply electrical power in the boats by increasing the output from 12 volts to 24 volts. This ensures that that power consumption is lower and there are lesser incidents of loss of power.
“In addition, reducing the manual control of power and using computerized power management also creates a balance of power consumption by regulating the right amount of power for the right purpose and needs.
“Our innovative design for the hulls and propellers has proven that fuel consumption is reduced by over 20% in comparison to the regular, yet often outdated boat building techniques.
“Whenever possible we install solar panels on the roof of the yachts which makes the vessel energy independent. Normal generators burn an average of 10 liters of gasoline per hour or around 240 liters per day to create electricity. Not to mention emitting bad smell, smoke and pollution. Solar energy is efficient, clean and environmentally friendly, making it unnecessary to burn any fuel to run your engines when anchored near the shore of a dream island or moored at blissful remote marinas.
“The technology we use at PMG Shipyard is eco-friendly. It took 3 years of tests and the most stringent inspections by the authorities before we received our full-fledged yacht building license from the Thai government. We can proudly claim that we are the only yacht builder in Thailand officially recognized as such.”
Philippe continued, “Yacht builders exist as a result of human experience and passion and creativity. Did you know that in western countries, nearly 62% of the cost of the vessel comprises of the salaries and related of shipyard employees? But it is fortunate that in Thailand the skilled boat builders’ salaries is only a fraction of those in developed and industrialized nations. And this allows us to spend the right amount of time on the finishing details and quality control.”
The build quality of the PMG Shipyard yachts is certified by close examination by international certifying organizations including the European CE, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Lloyd’s Register Certification, Bureau Veritas of France and DNV GL of Germany. Even though local yachts are not required to meet international standards, PMG Shipyard applies the same standards to all yachts built in its shipyard in Rayong, Thailand, and every yacht must pass a stringent quality inspection by a highly qualified team of independent inspectors before it is released to a new owner.
“PMG Shipyard encourages individuality,” Philippe said, “where bespoke design features are ordered to make the new yacht a personal item, and not a mass-produced boat. One example of this was where a client ordered a gold colored yacht, so we set about to produce this unique color by mixing gold dust in yellow paint to create the right tone as desired. One can only hope that the barnacles appreciate just what they are stuck to!
“Our clientele is from all over the world who seek customized yachts designed and built to their specifications. Our international team of designers and technicians are Swiss, French, South African, German, Italian, American and South American nationals. This combination makes us a truly international yacht building company.
“We build mono-hulls and catamarans. In practice the catamaran has 40% more space than a monohull and they have been proven to be safer because of their ‘two legs’ compared to one in the water. The catamarans can also sail closer to the beach because their shallow draft allows you to explore areas and even sail right up to your dream beach which many monohulls cannot do. Because of that advantage, they are easier for quick underwater maintenance. Another plus is that most catamarans can be dried out at low tide on a flat area of sand or solid ground, resting comfortably on her stubby small keels.”
In the grounds of PMG Shipyard, there is a special, almost Olympic size, swimming pool, not for the staff on hot days, but each new boat is given on-site flotation tests, making it possible for a “dry run” for engines, electronic equipment and navigation items. Rather than towing the boats out to sea, all the seaworthy testing can be carried out on site.
During this time, PMG Shipyard also received the Asian Maritime Award for Company of the Year and two of their vessels were nominated for awards by Royal Institution of Naval Architects UK (RINA)
To add another feather in their cap, in 2015 PMG Shipyard acquired 20,000 sqms of beachfront property adjacent to their shipyard, which makes them the largest privately-owned shipyard not only in Thailand, but in all of South East Asia.
Philippe Guenat has been a patron of the arts for many years, with sculptures and paintings hanging in the office spaces; however, nothing really beats PMG Shipyard’s three cows grazing in the front garden area. These were creations made in Switzerland that Philippe imported to Thailand. An expensive procedure. “I don’t think I’d do it again,” said Philippe, while standing proudly with his saintly painted cows.
PMG Shipyard is now well known throughout the maritime industry in the world as well as Thailand. With the growth of the business in 14 years, it is now firmly on track to continue the upward trend. Rayong should be honored to have an internationally recognized business such as PMG Shipyard in its province.
Contact details: PMG Shipyard, 5/7 Moo 4 Suchada Beach Road, Tambon Nuen Pra, Amphur Muang Rayong, 21150 Thailand.