Due to its success as a flag for commercial shipping, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has developed a thriving yacht registry. Today, the RMI flag is an increasingly popular choice for yacht owners. The RMI is now the world’s second largest registry in terms of deadweight tons, and has distilled this experience to developing an up-to-date and relevant Yacht Code (the “Code”). The Code sets the standards and substantial equivalencies for safety, security, pollution prevention, and seafarer accommodations appropriate to the size of the yacht.
The Code reflects a yachting industry that has changed over the past 20 years. At the time of this writing in March 2017, the RMI had 537 yachts in its registry, about 13% of the total number of ships in the RMI fleet.
Yachts have become larger, crew sizes have increased, and International Labour Organization (ILO) regulations, such as the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), now directly impact many yacht owners. This convention shook up the yachting industry when it came into force.
Port State Control (PSC) is the system of inspection by national officials to check a vessel’s condition and operation when it enters their jurisdiction. Safety, security, environmental protection, and seafarer welfare are the main areas of interest. Port States can require defects to be rectified and have the power to detain vessels, if necessary. For many yacht owners, this has necessitated rethinking the approach to the management of their vessels.
With yachts above 400 gross tons (GT) now more regularly inspected by PSC Officers than ever before, the role of International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates (IRI), which provide administrative and technical support to the RMI Maritime and Corporate Registries, is crucial.
Thanks to this support, no yacht under the flag has been detained to date. IRI’s yacht team works hard to communicate and interpret the latest regulatory developments, works with owners and managers to ensure that yachts are compliant, and liaises regularly with the various PSC authorities, including the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and United States (US) Coast Guard (USCG).
This support is delivered through a network of offices in Istanbul, Geneva, Ft. Lauderdale, as well as a local consultant in Monaco. The team is headed by Marc Verburg, Fleet Operations Manager, Yachts, in IRI’s Roosendaal, Netherlands office.
“The mentality of the yacht Master is very different to that of a cargo ship captain,” said Marc Verburg.
“Both need to comply with the rules, but a yacht and a cargo ship have very different functions. Running a cargo ship is about getting from A to B, while to a certain extent, a yacht Master is also running an entertainment business and trying to keep the owner happy.”
Marc Verburg himself is an ex-ship engineer who worked on cruise liners and also supervised newbuilds. He understands better than most the challenges of balancing the needs of customers, commercial partners, and regulatory authorities.
Working with yacht owners who may or may not be aware of the complexities of the international regulatory regime can be challenging for the professionals that they employ to run their yachts.
“One of the biggest difficulties is the work and rest hours. MLC, 2006 applies to certain commercial yachts and you cannot overstep this, but a practical approach is needed by the regulators,” concluded Marc Verburg.
The life-saving equipment aboard yachts is typically of the highest standard, other equipment is generally very well maintained, and structurally yachts are usually in good shape.
So what are the key areas for yacht owners to look out for? Below are three (3) easily rectifiable but potentially detainable deficiencies.
- Charts. Make sure that an up-to-date set of charts is available with all chart corrections. All too often, the yacht owner will arrive at short notice and expect the yacht to leave port, with or without the right charts.
- Fire Safety. The USCG in particular is focusing on fire safety aboard private yachts. Ensure that fire dampers are operational and that systems can be tested.
- Crew and Ship Documents. Make sure that these are fully accessible and up-to-date.
Click here for details of IRI’s yacht service.