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MaxTech Coatings Consultancy on The Art of Painting

By Rose-Hannah Lishman

Offering unrivalled advice in the most niche of subject areas, John McCormack is the Managing Director of industry-renowned MaxTech Coatings Consultancy Ltd. With almost four decades experience in the field, we spoke with the man leading some of the world’s largest superyacht painting projects; from 30m catamaran, Quintessential to the 85m Lurssen, Valerie; to learn more about this intriguing art form.

Providing a bespoke coatings consultancy service to yacht owners from the planning and preparation stage through to the warranty period, MaxTech is a vital cog in achieving a superb aesthetic finish for any vessel. It is a service that saves cost for the owner, keeps the schedule on track and that can even reduce the schedule and save time. Nevertheless, yacht painting is a process that many of us know little about.

John starts by outlining the colossal amount of work involved in the coating process; “For a large yacht like Valerie, the outside scaffolding and tenting can take up to 3 weeks depending on weather, but the actual painting of even just a hull can take around 3 months. Firstly the topside has to be rubbed down and cleaned off; they have to put up tents inside the outside tent to split the job into zones, they have to set up extraction, heating, make any repairs and then prime the whole thing. It takes a long time to get to the place where you can begin the actual painting.”

For a relatively small sector, there are a huge number of pressures which make John's job ever-more pivotal to the yacht build and maintenance process. He divulges, “The pressure is always on the painters; if an engineer drops a screw during the build, it’s a mistake that can be easily rectified by picking it up, but if a tiny mistake is made by a painter, it could mean they have to repaint the whole area, or worst case the whole boat [...] you can spend weeks and weeks preparing and painting and then you can sneeze, cough, trip or sweat…” This reality provides just a small insight into the diligence and precision expected from all those involved in the process.

But, indeed it's MaxTech that helps the process run as smoothly as possible. John explains, “I sit down with the owner’s representative and look at all the quotes from the different painting contractors. The quotes can vary by two to three-hundred thousand pounds for the same job, but I can see quickly if they’re not quoting for the same things! It is essential to make sure the scope of works quoted for are the same before a proper comparison can be made and a decision reached, so it is a crucial part of my job to guide the client through this process.”

Having been involved with in excess of 500 coating projects during the course of his career, ranging from vessels 5m to 141m in length, John is well known for his technical knowledge and attention to detail; but how is this yachting sector in particular keeping up with industry-wide trends; particularly when it comes to being eco-friendly?

“Coating products are changing all the time because legislation is driving them to avoid certain solvents and chemicals,” John explains, “At the moment, the yachting industry is unable to use water-based products to be more eco-friendly as they just aren’t strong enough to withstand harsh environmental conditions, but when the chemicals are eventually developed and the legislation pushes things that way; the industry will definitely have to move in that direction, as the automotive industry already has.”

So most paint products seem to be catching up slowly and surely, but what about underwater coatings? “Anti-fouling is doing a great job at moving away from poisons," John continues, "There are now lots of products that use silicones, so instead of killing barnacles and other organisms that grow on the bottom of a yacht, they simply can’t stick to the surface!”

We furthered our conversation, where John elaborated on the current 'trends' which, believe it or not, there are plenty, even in the painting sector alone. “There are more and more metallics coming in," he begins, "and further steps are also being taken towards pearlescents. But you can’t repair a small area... with these paints you have to pretty much paint the whole thing! That’s why they're more expensive; an owner’s expectation has to understand that any damage will incur a bigger cost.”

It was also interesting to learn about the problems associated with choosing a colour other than the traditional whites... John explains, “If an owner wants a dark coloured hull, they need to understand the issues; it gets very hot, the air conditioning needs to work harder, the boat takes in a lot more heat which affects the structure and fairing compound....”

Leaving us with just a few truths of the trade, John McCormack has highlighted the importance of his consultancy services; a key part of producing a superyacht quality finish.

"“The pressure is always on the painters; if a mechanic drops a screw during the build, it’s a mistake that can be easily rectified by picking it up, but if a tiny mistake is made by a painter, it could mean they have to repaint the whole boat [...] you can spend weeks and weeks painting and then you can sneeze, cough, trip or sweat…”"

John McCormack, Managing Director, MaxTech Consultancy

"“The pressure is always on the painters; if a mechanic drops a screw during the build, it’s a mistake that can be easily rectified by picking it up, but if a tiny mistake is made by a painter, it could mean they have to repaint the whole boat [...] you can spend weeks and weeks painting and then you can sneeze, cough, trip or sweat…”"

John McCormack, Managing Director, MaxTech Consultancy
By Rose-Hannah Lishman