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Getting Work Done in Fiji

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 21, 2009 01:56 PM

Published: 2009-10-21 13:56:14
Countries: Fiji

Baobab Marine are a contractor that carries out work on yachts that anchor at Vuda Point Marina. Noonsite had received both positive and negative reports from cruisers about this company, and excerpts from these are included below, followed by comment from Baobab.

Noonsite advises that when appointing any work to be carried out on your yacht, wherever in the world that may be, insist on a written quote beforehand so that both parties are aware of the costs. Ensure that additional work not on the quote is also written down and the cost agreed, hopefully to avoid a surprise when the final bill is received. Labour costs can be difficult to predict, however the company you are appointing to do the work should be able to give you an estimate beforehand, and a log should be kept of hours so you can count them up once the job is complete. If at any time the hours are greatly exceeding those predicted and costs are starting to get out of control, then a dialogue should be started with the company you have appointed.

Reports from Cruisers about Baobab Marine

Fiji, offering great cruising, offers few haul out facilities. Those having service are limited to Vuda and Denerau Marinas. A number of yachts have been over charged and mistreated by Baobab Industries there. Most pay up and move on. Four have complained to the Fiji Fair Trading Department of bad work and overcharging. Vuda Marina is a good haulout facility and some other contractors are available. I only wish to warn yachts against using Baobab.
Denny B Morgan
SY Jubilant

Before work began we requested an estimate from Mr. Smith who stated that due to the potential unknowns as work progressed he was unable to be specific. Whilst we did not have a written quotation Mr. Smith assured us that his company was highly professional, honest and reliable and his men were very proficient and of international standard in skills. He assured us that he would maintain a “cost watch” after I expressed my concern and that I could not allow an “open check book” scenario. Generally the complaints are: lack of skills of management and workers, abuse of materials use and pricing, lack of management supervision, lack of quality control, billing of work that was not done and a total disregard of customer service.

When complaints were made we were told to pay up or customs will be informed with the consequences. With Fiji, being politically volatile and cruiser un-friendly, we paid the extortionate bill without having the problems fixed. I felt that Baobab was doing more damage than good and it was a relief to have them off the boat.
Richard Turrell
s/v Dreamweaver III

We left France 17 years ago to sail around the world on our 33’ s/v Nosy Bé so we have dealt with many boatyards before. Arriving last year in Vuda Marina (Fiji) we thought we had found the right contractor with Baobab Marine, being very impressed with their wonderful workshop and warm welcoming. We needed a new 100-liter water tank built. We wanted it in Stainless Steel, but following Brian's advice, we accepted to have it made of fiberglass instead as it would be less expensive. It was very hard to get an estimate of the cost but we eventually got a dirty hand-written paper with a quote of 1,515 FJD. Even compared to expensive French prices, it is not cheap but we had no choice, we needed a new water tank. Brian assured us that with the special paint that would be applied on the inside, the water would not taste resin but will be perfectly drinkable. We believed him and after a few weeks, we got the water tank and paid for it in full. How disappointed were we to taste a strong resin taste. We followed Brian's recommendation to wash the tank several times but after 3 MONTHS of rinsing the tank daily we had come to the conclusion that the water was still undrinkable. We had several people taste the water, even people from Baobab Marine and all agreed with us. But Brian always refused to even taste the water himself and refused clearly to try to solve the problem or give us a refund.

Bruno and Catherine on s/v Nosy Bé

We cruise on a power-boat (Nordhaven) and had experienced some vibration for the last 1000 miles (to Fiji). Long story short, we had to change the flexible mounts, as well as the cutlass bearing. Baobab Marine not only did a superb job, the workers were on time, clean, friendly and most important they knew what they were doing. It is not so easy to lift a heavy engine. Baobab is the only place in Fiji that has the right equipment to do the job. Brian the owner, went out of his way to help, making sure the mounts would fit, not an easy job when you can't get the right ones. We were not overcharged, just the opposite. This job done in Australia, would have taken weeks and would have cost four times as much.
Heidi Hass
Yacht Kanaloa

For those folks who are considering having some boat work done I will give Baobab Marine at Fuda Pt. a high recommendation. Brian Smith, the owner, is a South African who runs a meticulous operation. His shop is a first class organization and his people are very good and have a great attitude. The price of the engine itself was way less than prices I was quoted from sources in New Zealand and the US. The total installation cost was also much less than in just about anywhere else the work could be done. And, as I said, I think the installation was as good a I might expect from KKMI near San Francisco or Windward Yacht Services in LA which I consider to be two very good yards. Bill Wickman
SY Airstream

Baobab Marine Responds

Mr Morgan was referred to us by another yacht that used our services 3 years ago and apparently recommended us (according to Mr Morgan himself). Unfortunately the word is out that they can illegally check out with customs in Lautoka without actually taking their yacht around to Lautoka Port. This is abused when people tend to do this in the afternoons, and come morning the vessel has left Vuda Marina without settling their bills to us. Mr Morgan checked out in the afternoon without taking his yacht to Lautoka. We have never had to resort to admiralty action before, however we had no option in this case as he was a flight risk. Mr Morgan never once set foot in our office like any normal customer to discuss his bill or the work carried out. He took his grievances to the marina which is a completely separate company.

We are aware of Dreamweaver's complaints. No matter how hard you try to please customers, no doubt there will always be one that is dissatisfied. And in our line of work, we certainly meet all sorts. We don't proclaim to be perfect but we certainly strive to meet high standards. As in the case of this particular customer, the bottom line is it appeared he wanted everything for nothing. It appears this is a personal attack on Brian because he had to pressure the Turrells who were avoiding settling payment.

In all fairness Bruno and Catherine should have had their tank tested by an independent analyst. Had they done so, we could have come to some agreement. In four years, we have worked on over a thousand yachts and more than 90% of them are very complimentary. We find it a pleasure to deal with people who are genuine, gracious and appreciative of the type of work we are capable of. We are always open to fair negotiation provided who we are dealing with have no underlying agendas. We understand some cruisers have very tight budgets (noticed more than ever this year), something we always keep in mind and yet we know for a fact we are still cheaper than most places. As for the personal attack on Brian, he runs a tight ship and if it wasn't for his knowledge, insight and experience we could not be of service to cruising yachties.

Comment received 1 October 2009
I would also recommend that cruisers seek recommendations from others as regards marine tradespeople. A less than perfect recommendation may not be a reason to avoid the tradesperson, but would provide useful information in dealing with them. For example, the need to follow up to ensure work gets done, timely.

Hope this helps,

Susanne
s/v Cheshire
Whangarei, NZ

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