French authorities have announced they are cracking down on reckless jetski and/or tender handling in the South of France – a popular superyacht destination and one that, as we approach the Cannes and Monaco boat shows, will continue to host a number of superyachts and their tenders and toys.

Captains are now liable for any breaches of the law regarding operations of tenders and toys, such as going over speed limits or general reckless behavior. This means that not only crew, but owners and guests also come under the captain’s responsibility. If any of the aforementioned parties break the rules, the yacht’s captain can be prosecuted and may receive a fine of up to 30,000 euros, a ban from French territories for at least a year and, perhaps most extreme, up to six months’ imprisonment.

While the onus, then, is quite clearly on the captain, how does this crackdown affect owners? And should owners take responsibility? “If it’s a private yacht and the owner is breaking the law, then yes,” answers Jack Robinson of Flare Technologies. Charter, he says, is another matter: “Charter is far more difficult as the owner could simply say that in absentia he employs the captain to make sure the law is not broken by charter guests.”

However, there are ways yachts can hope to avoid any problems in this area. “The yacht should offer on-the-spot training and explain the law; make sure drivers are aware of dangers to themselves and others such as anchor lines, ferry ports, reefs and so on,” explains Robinson. “In addition, they should stay outside the legal distance to areas where swimmers could be. Finally, don’t drink and drive. The reality is that someone paying 250,000 euros a week for a charter might not take well to be told no.”

"The captain needs to be empowered to be able to give the guests the message that they mustn’t break the law, and in order to do that he needs to have the endorsement of the owner’s backing."
- Alison Rentoul, The Crew Coach

Alison Rentoul, The Crew Coach, put a notice out to crew, and told The Superyacht Owner: “When you’re talking about the behavior of the crew, that’s absolutely the captain’s responsibility and I don’t think the owner should need to be worried about that. Then when it comes to the behavior of the owner and his or her guests, that sort of is the owner’s responsibility in some respects, because the captain needs to be empowered to be able to give the guests the message that they mustn’t break the law, and in order to do that he needs to have the endorsement of the owner’s backing. Especially on a charter boat, because then there isn’t the owner involved, so the captain has to be empowered to be able to say to the guests, ‘These are the laws around here’.”

The regulations haven’t changed, but the severity of the penalties for breaking the regulations have, and it has been made very clear that it is down to the superyacht’s captain to ensure rules aren’t broken. However, it wouldn’t do owners any harm to take note of the regulations, bearing in mind they have been set out to protect the safety of all.

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