OPINION: ‘Captain, do something about the tide – now’


Shiny superyachts seldom fail to impress but their crew have a value beyond money.

Driven to distraction by the frustration of an adverse tide preventing the launching of a tender to reach shore; an irate superyacht owner ordered his captain: “Do something about the tide – now.” Fortunately, the captain managed to draw from his deepest wells of diplomacy to placate the irate owner.

This incident – related with gusto by a panellist at Superyacht Investor’s London 2020 conference – disguises an important truth about some of luxury yacht owners’ most valuable seaborne assets. While much attention is lavished on the latest superyacht designs and plush interiors, it’s sometimes easy to forget the men and women who crew these vessels.

Superyachts may be expensive, but the crew who operate the boat and serve its guests have a value beyond mere money. Not least because the captain and his crew are responsible for the safety of everybody onboard – regardless of their wealth.

Safety of everybody on board

The difficulties of recruiting and retaining skilled crew was a key theme of this year’s conference at The Landmark London. Owners, captains and yacht managers are finding it increasingly difficult to find high-calibre crew and to help them develop their short-term jobs into rewarding long-term careers aboard superyachts.

Crew management was not the only theme of this annual two-day conference, now in its fifth year. Opportunities aplenty were on view: selling more yachts to more people – particularly in Asia and China; developing luxury travel to remote destinations, including Antarctica, Eritrea and the Pacific; and the growing market for toys to cruise both above and below the waves.

Along with the opportunities came icebergs – some just off the bow and some looming on the horizon. Cybercrime is becoming an increasing threat together with the rising costs of superyacht berths – particularly for the biggest boats at the most popular locations.

Attract enough finance

Growing environmental criticism also concerned the conference’s 200-plus delegates. While green yacht designs and undertaking humanitarian or scientific missions were mitigating the risks; a more co-ordinated response is needed. Some of the biggest and newest yacht projects must now incorporate environmental sustainability into order to attract enough finance, one Mediterranean yacht broker told me during the conference.

So, while our superyacht captain – in the distinguished company of 12th century King Canute – was unable to turn the tide, there are growing signs a tide may be turning for the superyacht sector. Promoting the sector’s green credentials and social responsibility now may help it avoid powerful criticism in future.

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