BY Stuart Heaver on 30 Jun 2022

Hong Kong-based Marine Service Asia has launched a revolutionary new app that simplifies yacht maintenance and helps ensure trouble-free cruising

With the exception of a major maritime emergency like a fire on board or a collision, it must be every yacht owner’s biggest anxiety: an enjoyable cruise to a distant beauty spot with family and friends, or clients, suddenly jeopardised by an unexpected technical failure or mechanical breakdown.

No owner or captain wants to confront what may be a complex engineering issue in the middle of a relaxing social event or family day out.

Marine Service Asia (MSA) is a Hong Kong company with a team of international and local experts who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in maritime engineering and support. Their experts ensure that owners can enjoy being on the water while they take care of the tricky technical stuff. And the company that helps clients maintain, service and repair their marine vessel now presents a cutting-edge, user-friendly addition to bring peace of mind.

“We offer different tiers of technical management programmes starting with the basic level covering the essential boat systems,” says Matthew Keay, MSA’s general manager.

Regular yacht maintenance and repairs are essential for a boat’s long-term operation

After relocating to Hong Kong from New Zealand seven years ago, Keay worked as an engineering manager specialising in marine and electrical systems before joining MSA. He has worked with many major yachting brands and builders and has been involved in just about every aspect of yacht engineering, from the design and build process of new vessels to the maintenance and upgrade of luxury boats.

Keay and his team have just launched a new app called Wingman, which allows an owner or captain to automatically undertake system checks and report faults. All the technical data is transmitted in real-time to the MSA back office, where it is carefully monitored by the technical support team.

“The new generation of yacht owners often thinks they have bought a Tesla and just want to press the key and go – boats are a bit different, but this at least automates the process and simplifies it

“It occurred to us that there were lots of onboard technical issues that could be picked up by owners before they developed into big problems, and we could streamline the whole maintenance and service issue for owners and professional yacht captains,” explains Keay.

Regular yacht maintenance and repairs are essential for a boat’s long-term operation, but with so many components ranging from hydraulics and generators to navigation systems and propulsion systems, it can be a complex and time-consuming task. It’s easy to overlook, but neglecting essential checks and maintenance can have some unpleasant consequences on the water.

The Wingman app helps owners undertake system checks and report faults automatically

Technical manager Hugh Roberts recalls responding to a client who had reported problems while cruising on his motor yacht with family in Deepwater Bay, off the southern shores of Hong Kong Island. The technical team diagnosed a problem with the blackwater pump, so two service engineers were dispatched by powerboat to render assistance.

“The client was really impressed and grateful we had replaced the pump and sorted everything out within two hours from reporting the fault,” says Roberts.

Roberts trained as a chief petty officer artificer in the British Royal Navy for nine years, serving in the nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard before starting a second career as an engineer officer on superyachts. He says he was attracted to the working routine of 10 weeks on, 10 weeks off, and the interesting locations proved more attractive than a three-month submarine patrol mainly spent submerged underwater.

It was Roberts who designed the new Wingman app. “It has taken us three to four months to develop Wingman, and it has been tested out at sea with several of our clients,” he says. The app is run on a dedicated tablet fitted with a 4G SIM card. On start-up, it takes the user to a customised list of pre-sail checks designed by the experts for that particular vessel.

“The client was really impressed and grateful we had replaced the pump and sorted everything out within two hours

“There might be up to 60 pre-sail checks on a large superyacht, but most yachts are limited to about 30 basic checks,” says Roberts. A typical pre-sail check might be checking oil levels or as simple as opening sea cocks to allow cooling water to enter the engines to avoid overheating. The owners’ own checks, such as switching on air-conditioning, can be added as required.

Each check is recorded and is automatically time-stamped and geo-referenced before being transmitted back to the MSA team. Roberts explains that experienced service engineers can monitor results, spot small analogies before they turn into more significant problems and detect if a maintenance visit is necessary.

“If generator oil levels are dropping quickly, the back-room team can diagnose the issue and organise a maintenance visit,” Keay cites as an example.

Marine Service Asia’s general manager Matthew Keay and technical manager Hugh Roberts lead a team meeting

The system allows photos to be taken and included in the checks protocol. The Wingman system offers reassurance for the owner and captain that they are doing appropriate checks and that all results are being monitored by experts. It can also be helpful for the absent owner. “This can offer big peace of mind for an absent owner – knowing that the crew is completing a comprehensive pre-sail check procedure and that this is all being overseen by the service back-office team at MSA,” says Keay.

The Wingman system helps liaisons between captain and crew, the back-office engineering support team and the owner. It provides vital evidence in the event of a warranty issue or insurance claim because the owners can demonstrate a complete check and maintenance history validated by a third party.

“The new generation of yacht owner often thinks they have bought a Tesla and just want to press the key and go – boats are a bit different, but this at least automates the process and simplifies things,” says Keay.

The Wingman app will be embedded in the company’s multi-tiered yacht service programmes and allow clients to report a fault and attach photos as required. “We can then make contact to rectify the problem without a stream of phone calls and emails,” says Keay. “Of course, in an emergency, they can still call us directly.”

Routine yacht maintenance, checking and upgrading may not be the most glamorous aspects of yacht ownership, but they are essential to extend the vessel’s lifetime, avoid expensive faults and preserve its value. Investing in high-quality yacht service support and a system like Wingman can help an owner preserve their yacht’s value and minimise any extra costs incurred when niggles appear.

Perhaps, more importantly, the new Wingman app will remove the nagging anxiety about that unfortunate technical problem occurring – particularly at the worst possible time.


Find out more about Wingman and Marine Service Asia at