20 Jan 2020
Amanda Jones
Marketing Manager

Red and white fleet vessel


In March 2016, Red and White Fleet hired Dan Johnson to be their new Director of Engineering. A San Francisco-based tour company known for their premiere cruises, Red and White Fleet needed someone to put together a formal engineering program to manage their fleet. Even with just four vessels, the company was finding that managing and maintaining assets and records was becoming hugely inefficient, especially with an increased scrutiny on audits. Coming from a 34-year career in the Coast Guard, which used its own robust in-house system, Dan knew what features he wanted when he started looking for a solution.

After testing 11 different systems, he narrowed his search down to just three. When asked how he made his final decision of Helm CONNECT, Dan said “When I called for a demo, Helm was the one who picked up the phone, and has always picked up the phone since. They proved they had more dependable customer service and that was key in my decision.”

Although he had his hesitations about choosing a new system at the time, Dan is now confident he made the right choice, as he has continued to be impressed with the service. He told us, “One thing I know is that Helm listens. I work back and forth with my Account Manager and his team all the time and tell them things I would like to see changed or things that would be nice to have. When they push updates, I’ve seen changes to things that we talked about. It brings you in and makes you part of the team. That’s one of the nicest things.”


Since using Helm CONNECT, Red and White Fleet has realized significant cost savings from increased operational uptime. “When you have a formalized preventative maintenance management system, you tend not to waste as much money on maintenance because you’re doing it only when it needs to be done. Better maintenance through periodicity and repeatability makes for less unexpected or unplanned maintenance, so our boats operate with far less casualties.” Red and White Fleet has also noticed time savings in record keeping and task assignment. “You can just start clicking drop downs and assigning tasks rather than running around and chasing people down to get things done. You can just attach instructions to the task and ask people to follow them. It’s a lot easier that way.”

Red and White Fleet vessel in dry dockMore importantly however, having Helm CONNECT helped Red and White Fleet keep their boats in compliance. The company had always done traditional audits, having a team of three inspectors from the US Coast Guard (USCG) spend three to four hours on board each vessel completing annual inspections. However, using a digital system like Helm CONNECT instead of paper logs gave Red and White Fleet the option to join the Coast Guard’s Streamlined Inspection Program (SIP). The idea behind this program is to let companies complete their own internal self-inspections throughout the year to save time during their annual audit, which becomes a 30-minute spot check of records conducted by one Coast Guard member. Not only is this method less disruptive for the company being audited, but it also saves the Coast Guard time and money.

To enter the SIP, Red and White Fleet first had to build out all the checklists and reports used by the Coast Guard and put them into the Audits module of Helm CONNECT. Unsure of how to approach this project, Dan and Chris Summers, the Operations Manager at Red and White Fleet, contacted our Professional Services team. “We told them what we were trying to do and gave them an understanding of what we really wanted, and they built out a training curriculum which we loved,” said Dan. In September 2019, Dan and Chris flew to our Victoria office for a few days of face-to-face training, then returned home to San Francisco to apply what they learned and build out their forms. When asked about this process, Dan remarked, “Training allowed us to do more advanced things we didn’t think we would be able to do ourselves and allowed us to accomplish the project months earlier than anticipated.”


Since then, Red and White Fleet has passed their annual inspection through the SIP using Helm CONNECT and earned their COIs for the year. “The Coast Guard has endorsed it, approved it, and they’re thrilled with it”, Dan said. Using Helm CONNECT for the SIP saved Red and White Fleet over 40 hours of pre-inspection prep per vessel annually, so they are working on rolling it out to the rest of their fleet to realize even more time savings.

Red and White Fleet’s success doesn’t end here though; they are well on their way to achieving their goal of being zero emissions by 2025. Their vessel Enhydra is the largest hybrid passenger vessel in service in the US, and it recently won WorkBoat’s 2018 Boat of the Year award. We look forward to helping them reach future successes and milestones.

To learn more about how Helm CONNECT can help with your audit needs, book a demo with us now!