“Unfortunately I think that one of the main problems is that there are so many crewmembers in the industry now that have come with other travelling experience,” explains the captain of a 60m-plus motoryacht. “Either they have been backpacking or have worked their way around South America or Asia, or wherever it is, so sometimes they think that they are invincible and often they find out very quickly that they are not.”
While some superyacht destinations have more serious reputations for crime than others, this captain is careful to point out that crew should have their wits about them wherever they are. “Anywhere you go, even in Antibes, you can walk down the wrong streets there and people can get into trouble pretty quickly,” he adds. “I think it’s more that people need to be aware of their surroundings and unfortunately a lot of these incidents happen when crew are finishing a busy trip with an owner or a charter and they go out for a few drinks to celebrate. They go out and they are a little bit worse for wear coming back and that tends to be where the problems arise. So I think alcohol is another big part of it and also just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
But without having to change social habits too much, Ed Hill, managing director of Intrepid Risk Management advises that there are certain safety precautions that crew can take to reduce any risk. “When going ashore, inform the on board security watch of your intended destination and leave a contact telephone number,” he says. "Observe a mentality of safety in numbers and don’t venture out in groups of less than four. Only take sufficient personal valuables for what is needed, stay in areas that are well populated and don’t stray off the beaten track. Extra vigilance should be exercised during the hours of darkness.”
"Sometimes they think that they are invincible and often they find out very quickly that they are not.”
"Fortunately we don’t go to anywhere that is particularly dodgy, or we do our best to avoid it,” explains the captain, but adds that even in seemingly harmless places, incidents can arise. “Even if we are in areas such as Naples, historically there is always a crewmember getting ripped off on the dock. It is typically people coming up to the back of the boat with fantastic cameras or iPods or iPads, and a crewmember thinks that it’s fantastic and they can get it for half the price. The crewmember goes back into the boat, into the cabin to get some cash and gives it to the guy who gives him the box, which appears to contain the item that has just been purchased. But the guy has switched the item, jumps on his scooter and the crewmember is left with 400 euros worth of rocks. That has been happening since I first went there in 1992.
“If we are going somewhere particularly dodgy, I have a sit down with all the crew beforehand,” adds the captain. “This then goes in writing on the crew noticeboard advising crew to always come back in twos or threes, to not take cameras out, to try not to stand out and to mingle in and be aware of their surroundings. If it looks dodgy then it probably is - it is always best to err on the safe side of caution.”
“Perhaps it is the look of serene paradise that gives people a slightly false sense of security,” concludes Carl Fereday, operations manager at Veritas International. “But by using common sense and intuition the same as you would when not on a paradise island, you should still be able to avoid what remains, for now, only a minor problem in most tourist destinations.”