At the recent Global Superyacht Forum the spectre of MLC reared its head again. A number of working groups acknowledged the challenges facing the industry in implementing and adapting to MLC, having been slow to address its potential impact during the drafting and ratification process.

Indeed, one individual from the insurance fraternity said he had addressed colleagues at the same forum seven years ago, only to be told that it would be unlikely to affect superyachts.

With this continued pertinence in mind, spoke exclusively with Peter Gibbs. Gibbs is a director of Pensum, a firm that registers companies, ships, yachts and aircraft in various jurisdictions and consults both to governments and the private sector. Here, Gibbs offers his thoughts.

‘Maritime administrators have a duty to provide value by upholding the rights and interests of their owners within the regulatory framework. For example, conventions provide for the rights of ships in foreign ports. Administrations not only need to protect those rights but also to understand the reasonable needs of their owners and ensure that convention language is appropriate to those needs.

‘MLC is an example where the rights and interests of yacht owners were not considered. Rather than invoke provisions that were not written for and could not be applied to yachts, it would have been very easy to exclude yachts, along with dhows and fishing vessels, at least until language that properly considered yachts was drafted. Had this been done, administrations would now be involved in developing that language. 

‘So here we are today, confronted by a failing that the popular mind says we shall just have to live with - so get used to it. But should we? Such an approach would be to miss an opportunity because, although the current status is indeed done and dusted, it is not a fait accompli. There are provisions to amend MLC, so the real question today is, ‘What are the five or six administrations that regulate the vast majority of commercial yachts doing about [convening], together with the private sector, so as to draft amending language that would result in the same outcome, had yachts been initially excluded from MLC?’ In short, how do we restitute the status quo to where it should have been? 

‘In my mind, there should probably be a small consultative committee chaired by someone who is independent from any maritime administration but is well equipped to negotiate with government bodies. This will require someone with experience in maritime administration, including technical issues, a clear understanding of the regulation of yachts in a historic perspective and a clear understanding of the in-depth needs of owners, including protective arrangements. This should help ensure that we end up with a balanced outcome that delivers value both to owners and to the industry as a whole.’

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