Maritime Labour Convention 2006: Yacht designers' responses

The impact of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) legislation on crew accommodation and future yacht design is discussed in the Maritime Labour Convention section.

Here we bring you some designers’ thoughts and views on how it will affect them.

Dear Editor,

Ref the MLC/ILO crew quarters requirements, I give you my thoughts on this subject:

The implementation of yet more rules and regulations is another crushing imposition on owners and should strongly be resisted by the industry generally. I have heard comments from two or three owners, the most recent at Monaco: ‘Owning a yacht used to be fun – now it’s one hassle after another, from custom inspections to additional manning rules and regulations etc, etc…’

These rules will possibly discourage some new owners from entering into new construction contracts at all. The design of a yacht is supposed to be primarily for the owner’s benefit and not to create a cruise ship for crew.

These rules may have the effect of not only prolonging the life of pre-owned yachts, which will not need to comply, but also increasing their value and so all the brokers will be happier than builders and designers. This is not an unusual situation anyway.

Yachting crews generally are young, are paid generous salaries, fed, clothed and housed, and are only really working as ‘seafarers’ when the owner is on board cruising or chartering – when typically they will also share in generous gratuities. At other times they are on standby with general maintenance of the yacht.

These rules make no mention of the word ‘yacht’ and are principally proposed to regulate and correct inadequacies in commercially owned shipping companies where there are probably many examples of vessels with cramped, Third World conditions on board.

  1. The yachting industry as a whole should strongly resist these unnecessary impositions. We should remind ourselves that it is the wealthy owners who create this unique and exclusive yachting industry. It is their choice to spend their wealth and leisure time on the oceans and we should all be wary that if things are made more complicated then it is probable that the number of potential owners will diminish.

Health and safety of life at sea are obviously the most important issues. What an owner wishes to do after that should be as de-restricted as possible and so should positively be encouraged to spend their wealth in as de-regulated a manner as possible. Building a new yacht is this century’s answer to creating a Versailles or Blenheim Palace and could be a dying industry if we are not careful.

Interestingly, the present British prime minister has only just recently recognised that the plethora of senseless rules and regulations imposed on the public need to be addressed to avoid the compensation culture which has developed as a result. The yachting industry similarly only needs rules that are proportionate and not bureaucratic.

  1. The study that you publish seems to me to have been approached from completely the wrong angle! Looking at the length of a yacht and then shrinking the owner’s areas to suit the ILO rules for crew accommodation is nonsense.

Surely it would have been more appropriate to have retained the owner’s accommodation and to have assessed whatever space/length needs to be added to meet the ILO rules!

What message does this give to owners? Whose interest has taken precedence in such an exercise? Certainly not the owner’s.

Nor does the study seem to be very accurate or appear to take into account the full implications of the ILO rules in which there are still several anomalies, particularly concerning bathroom/sleeping requirements. Separate male/female toilets; no toilet to be in a bathroom shared by two people; toilet must be separate and entered via a passageway from the bedroom, but can be shared by four seafarers’ sleeping spaces to allow them to accommodate a partner; no bunk berths outboard where there is a porthole, and so on. Does this mean that future yachts should be planned with separate male/female accommodation or with only single sex crew in mind? Fifteen-plus crew (yacht crew for a 60m) also require a hospital suite etc.

Would it not be a better solution for an organisation like SYBASS working with the MCA to have come up with a study proposing more appropriate standards for the yachting industry, rather than accepting the imposition of these totally inappropriate ILO requirements which are clearly aimed at commercial shipping owners. Is it too late?

Designers will have to be very much more aware if these rules are implemented. Imagine the case of a scheme being accepted by the owner and then rejected later for non-compliance, possibly resulting in a yacht having to be lengthened!

In some cases the builders have brought these new requirements on themselves. There are several large yachts operating now where crew accommodation is blatantly inadequate – two crew sharing a cabin which is only a bed length and in some cases less than a metre wide with very limited locker space, etc – there are many examples we can all think of.

Personally I don’t have too much concern in the planning of crew spaces, as I generally try to make these more than adequate and the most recent plans we have created will exceed the ILO space requirements.

The yacht media should be more pro-active in resisting these sort of industrial unionised labour-based impositions. The yachting industry creates millions of jobs directly and indirectly worldwide – like the tourist industry – and governments should be persuaded that these jobs all come from wealthy individuals who, as well as being taxed on it, should also be positively encouraged to spend their wealth. More rules/regulations are not the answer.

I could go on… I haven’t yet swotted up on new SOLAS regs but my initial reaction is that they may make designing a large yacht easier.

Donald Starkey
Donald Starkey Designs

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