A recent article in the Guardian sparked our interest here at Mega Yacht Solutions Ltd which was entitled somewhat long-windedly and perhaps inaccurately “Life and death on a superyacht: ‘If something goes wrong, they can just raise the anchor and leave’”
It is an interesting and well written piece intended to, on the one hand introduce the reader to the exciting and glamorous life of Superyachting while on the other suggesting or implicating that the industry is un-governed and callous, where life means nothing and the pursuit of excellence is the only goal.
While the pursuit of excellence is indeed foremost in the minds of everyone who works in the industry we here at MYS would strongly resist the implication that it is uncaringly sought at the cost of lives.
Accidents happen in every walk of life, this is a fact of human nature and no matter how hard we work to negate that we have to accept that it happens. Never-the-less, that is no excuse for shoddy safety management, indeed it is this very fact that drives us to strive for an ever-more safe working platform for our crews. It should be pointed out here, and it is noted that the Guardian Article never once mentioned, that all vessels over 500 gross registered tons that operate commercially are required by law to operate a Safety Management System aboard their vessels which is overseen by a shore side management company such as ours. This safety management system (SMS) is imposed rigorously requiring crews to continually regard their own, and their guests’ safety as paramount. There are regular checks in place to ensure that the SMS is being followed, there is monthly reporting to the management company which is monitored and retained for inspection by harbourside officials and Administrations. There is the requirement to record the crews working hours and hours of rest and an obligation to explain the reason for going over the prescribed working hours as laid down by law in the Maritime Labour Convention. There is requirement for crews to be extensively trained and re-trained in all of the on board activities that they may be required to do as well as all of the emergency scenarios. These emergency scenarios are drilled again on a monthly basis, scenarios such as Man Overboard, Fire and Abandon Ship. There is requirement also for the owners of the vessels to ensure that crews are covered by extensive insurance policies that pay out on loss of earnings due to accidents, days off work, hospital visits and of course in the event of death. All of this is monitored by the Shore Based Management Company in an effort to ensure that the crews and guests are looked after in the best possible way.
So what has gone wrong in the cases that are outlined in the Guardian Article? Well it is impossible to say for sure and we are not in a position to suggest improprieties as we are not privy to the relevant information however it should be noted that all of the above regulations are only in place for vessels over 500 GRT operating commercially, as mentioned before. And that is the crux of the matter, many vessels are able to operate outside of these regulations by not registering themselves as Commercial Vessels but rather as Private Vessels. Private vessels to all intents and purpose are able to operate pretty much as they please bowing only to a few of the International regulations such as MARPOL (pollution prevention legislation) and some SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) legislation, they are not required to operate a Safety Management System as described above and are not required to monitor and train for such a SMS. That is not to say that all Private Vessels are badly run, far from it, the vast majority of privately run vessels often opt to adopt a voluntarily run SMS utilising the services of a shore side management company, the majority of owners are only fully aware of the importance of ensuring an impeccable safety culture is nurtured aboard their vessels, after all, when the owners are on board do they not want to feel safe and sound? The oceans are an unforgiving environment and nobody wants to set to sea without the best trained crews about you to ensure your safety in the event of an emergency.
It is a sad fact of life however that some owners and operators are not so inspired by this safety ethic but rather governed by the financial parameters of running and operating a large and expensive Yacht. To these owners and operators there are loopholes within the legislation that can be exploited and nurtured to save on the wallet at the expense of safety. The industry is striving to close these loopholes with ever new legislation and we at MYS embrace and encourage this. While these loopholes exist however the onus on safety has to be always held with the individual, if you, as a crew member feel that you are being put in harms way by ineffective safety management there are ways to address that and ultimately, if you feel there is no answer then you need to get off that vessel and find a vessel that is run properly.
Mega Yacht Solutions Ltd operate their management systems to a very high standard, all of the personnel are ex crew, mostly Captains and we are only too aware of the need to ensure a safe working environment. MYS operates her Safety Management System under a document of compliance issued by Cayman Island Shipping Registry, a Red Ensign Group administration held in the highest esteem within the industry and we are monitored and audited annually by that administration.
Mega Yacht Solutions are constantly striving for excellence and are currently evolving a new Overall Management System bringing Safety, Security, Fiscal and Operational management together in one electronic workspace making the whole operation of a vessel that much safer and more efficient. If you would like any further information on our services please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org where you will be warmly greeted. Happy and Safe Sailing from all at Mega Yacht Solutions Ltd.
Capt. Ben Torrance DPA