In the world of yachting, there are plenty of glamour jobs. For example, the job “yacht captain” springs to mind. Crisp uniform, good view, command of a few million dollars’ worth of vessel – nice work if you can get it.
Of course, in Fort Lauderdale and around the yachting world, there’s another category of job – those who make life easier for the glamour guys. Who simplify life for the yacht captain who has to take care of every little thing in a short Fort Lauderdale stop. Who help the yacht owner when he wants necessities to come to him, rather than the other way around.
That’s where Peterson Fuel Delivery comes in. The company that – no prizes for guessing this – delivers fuel to yachts, this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. A few things have changed in that time.
“We originally had one push barge with hydraulic spud poles at the inception in 1997,” general manager Brad Cunningham says. “But that has evolved to the three more maneuverable, self-propelled custom vessels that we use today.”
In two decades, the company has built up a loyal following of customers. Part of the appeal, of course, is the straightforward convenience of the gas station coming to your yacht rather than your yacht going to the gas station. But other traits are also needed. Safety is key - when you’re pushing large amounts of flammable fuel up the Intracoastal or the New River, you need to be able to show that you know what you’re doing. With that comes professionalism and customer service. Captains and owners don’t have to use a fuel-delivery service; they need to feel like they’re getting added value.
“Our unique mooring system of our vessels allow us to spud down a couple feet away from our customers, never even touching the fenders, to fuel them,” Cunningham says. “This allows for great face-to-face communication, not across great distances, which is common when fueling by truck or marina. This greatly increases safety and prevents any issue.
“This system also allows us to be right next to the vessel's fueling station so that we are not dragging a fuel hose all over their pristine, multimillion-dollar yacht. The crew that has to wash it loves this feature.”
And as with so much in the yachting industry, it’s about the relationships you build.
“Most of our clientele is from word of mouth from satisfied customers recommending us to their friends because of the experience they have had with us. It is a large industry but everyone seems to know everyone. We relate because we all share the love of the water.”
Of course, in an industry such as yachting, seeing the same boats over and over again is no guarantee you’ll see the same people. Cunningham and his team keep prepared by keeping files.
“The turnover rate in the yachting industry is high and ever increasing as crew look for their perfect situation and owner,” he says. "We manage this issue by keeping detailed notes for the fueling procedures for each specific vessel as well as general ones for each brand. Even if we see new crew every time we fuel a vessel, we can assist effectively and safely, making the process simple.”
In the future, the company might want to expand beyond the Fort Lauderdale-Miami market. Like others in the industry, Cunningham sounds optimistic about growth and where the industry’s going, both locally and further afield. With that growth comes more jobs for young people who love the water and are willing to learn. When it comes to breaking into the industry, Cunningham’s wisdom is straightforward.
“The advice I give to the younger generation is ‘Get on a boat,’” he says. “Listen to the oldest captain when he tells you the easiest and best way to do something. He knows.”