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Sam’s Approach to Project Management Steers Shipyard Success at Rivergate

With an extensive background in the superyacht industry, Sam Tonkin’s career has taken him from his home country in the United Kingdom to across the world, before finally settling here in Australia where he oversees refits projects at Rivergate.

Rivergate spoke to Sam to learn a little more about his varied experience in the superyacht and refit industry, his day-to-day responsibilities, and his passion for customer satisfaction.

From superyachts to project management: Sam’s story

Unlike most marine professionals, Sam Tonkin’s passion for boating did not start from a young age.

At age 19, Sam discovered the superyacht industry through friends of friends who had secured work on vessels abroad.

After learning about the perks and lifestyle on offer, Sam was sold.

“I sold my car, moved to France, got the tickets I needed and picked up plumbing jobs until I got my first gig,” Sam said.

“I met a captain, got along with him and he was the one to give me that first job. I stayed on that boat for about three and a half years.”

Sam worked on board superyachts for around six years, working his way up from being a deckhand to a bosun and eventually, relief first officer, before leaving the yachting world behind.

Moving back to the United Kingdom, Sam studied boatbuilding for a year before securing work at the Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth. He used this time wisely to build up his skills, going from joiner work before progressing through the ranks and becoming the Head of Exterior – Joinery. In this role, Sam oversaw everything from cap rail installations to decks being laid and ultimately, it provided him with the foundations to transition into project management.

“It really has helped coming from a trade background,” Sam said. “You can anticipate how long things potentially are going to take and if there is potential for issues arising, you know what to look out for. I’ve been on the job, I’ve been on the tools, so now stepping into a project management role, I’m trying to help out the guys on the tools with my knowledge and my expertise.”

Expanding horizons: An overseas relocation unveils new opportunities

Sam and his family relocated to Australia in early 2023 and soon after, he secured his project manager title at Rivergate. Although there are similarities to his previous experience in shipyards overseas, Sam said that the standards of craftsmanship at Rivergate are exceptional.

“At the end of the end of the day, you’ve got to make sure that the customer is getting what they wanted and making sure that they’re getting good value for money,” he said.

While it’s early days for his time at Rivergate, the variety of projects on offer is keeping him engaged. Whether it’s overseeing a 75-metre Feadship or working on a commercial vessel, every day presents new challenges and learning in the shipyard.

“Whilst working here at Rivergate, I’m just trying to expand my knowledge of all boats,” Sam added. “My background is in superyachts, so I know Superyachts well, but now that I’m working with sailboats and commercial vessels, it’s interesting to be able to expand my knowledge on everything.”

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