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Charter yacht safety codes

Main requirements of safety codes

The Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2), developed by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to replace the former Code of Practice for the Safety of Large Commercial Sailing and Motor Vessels (LY1) published in 1997, is undoubtedly the most popular of these codes. It was the first to be developed and serves as a technical reference for the whole yachting industry. This code is applied by the Red Ensign Group Flags (UK, Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Bermuda, Gibraltar, BVI, etc.).

Some definitions used in the LY2 Code include the following:

‘New vessel’ means a yacht whose keel was laid (or, for composite vessels, the construction lay-up was started) on or after 16 December 1998.

‘Short Range Yacht’ means an existing vessel under 500GT or a new vessel under 300GT that is restricted to operating in forecast or actual wind of up to Beaufort Force 4, and within 60 nautical miles of a safe haven.

‘Safe haven’ means a harbour or shelter of any kind which affords entry, subject to prudence in the weather conditions prevailing, and protection from the force of the weather.

The LY2 Code is based on the International Standard Conventions (SOLAS, MARPOL, Load Line, etc.) which are adapted/tailored, by means of equivalent regulations, to the yachting industry.

Some examples of the main technical features of the code include:

Hull and machinery

Requirements for the construction and strength of the yacht are delegated to the rules of the recognised class societies.

The structural drawings and scantlings are approved, and a class surveyor inspects the new build certifying that hull and superstructures are built in compliance with the approved plans.

For machinery and electrical aspects, the code mainly defers to the class rules, which have more stringent requirements if the vessel has a gross tonnage of more than 500GT.

Water-tightness and stability

All yachts must comply with intact stability requirements. Furthermore, damaged stability criteria should be met for all yachts, except Short Range Yachts.

This means that watertight bulkheads are arranged to guarantee that any minor damage to the ship’s hull resulting in the free flooding of any one compartment will not cause the loss of the vessel. This is why vessels are subdivided into watertight compartments bounded by divisions, without any openings except for approved watertight doors.

Weather-tight and freeboard

Owners and designers are often concerned by unaesthetic solutions like the height of external doors, coamings, the fitting of deadlights on port lights, restrictions in the size of windows, height of bulwarks and gangways.

These safety features are necessary to prevent water entering the yacht through accidental damage or simply due to green water. In addition, attention is paid to the safe operation of personnel on the exposed decks. In particular:

A freeboard is assigned in compliance with the Load Line Convention, and properly marked at each side of the hull with a permanent disk of contrasting colour (the so-called Plimsoll Eye). This corresponds to the deepest loading condition of the vessel and is directly connected to hull strength, intact and damage stability requirements.

Coaming height, construction and securing standards of weathertight external doors, hatchways, ventilators and air-pipes are a major concern in order to prevent water ingress into spaces below the weather deck. The stringency of the requirement will depend on the location aboard the vessel, maximum permitted navigation, and operational limitation. For instance, an access located in the forecastle deck is more dangerous than one in the wheelhouse deck; an access leading directly to the engine room is more critical than others. This is why, for example, the height of the coaming of an external door in the forward quarter length of a vessel is at least 60cm, while the same door is permitted to have only a 30cm coaming if the vessel is operated as a Short Range Yacht.

Bulwarks and/or guardrails on all accessible decks should be at least 1m high for the protection of crew and passengers.

Portlights fitted in the hull below the freeboard deck level shall have their lower edge at least 50cm or 2.5 per cent of the breadth of the vessel, whichever is the greater, above the all-seasons load line assigned to the vessel. In addition they shall be of the non-opening type, fitted with a deadlight capable of making the opening watertight in case of glazing breakage and never installed in machinery spaces.

The code prescribes that glazing materials, glazing thickness and fixing of windows are in accordance with recognised international standards. Some reduction in the thickness of the glazing can be granted to Short Range Yachts or to windows fitted with storm shutters, but in general windows shall not be installed below the freeboard deck level unless special considerations have been made with regard to the location, thickness of glazing, supporting structures and availability of strong protective covers. For vessels other than Short Range Yachts, storm shutters are required for all windows at the front and sides of the first tier and front windows of the second tier of superstructures, or weathertight deckhouses above the freeboard deck. If the glass thickness is 30 per cent more than the minimum required by international standards then storm shutters may be replaced by suitable blanking plates capable of sealing the window opening in case the glass fails.

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