As yachts become bigger it’s becoming harder for designers to minimise the role crew play; as such, designers are having to take into consideration the roles of crew as individuals on board as well as the roles of particular departments. SuperyachtDESIGN Week 2014 took advantage of the wealth of attending designers and, in a breakout session entitled 'The Cost of Crew in Design', put to the industry’s innovators the question of how they deal with crew when it comes to design.

Designers raise their hands to show frustration with crew-focused regulations

There was no hiding the fact that most designers present were frustrated with crew-focused regulations that, designers felt, limit innovation when it comes to single berths (an area of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) the panel of SYBAss’ Chris van Hooren, Feadship’s Tannoa Weeda and naval architect Greg Marshall agreed was key for designers). A number of designers were accused of being somewhat hypocritical, however, as van Hooren of SYBAss pointed out that during the infancy of the Large Yacht Code (LY3), he in fact contacted all designers he knew to ask them to get involved to ensure toes weren’t stepped on and design wouldn’t be limited as a result of regulations. Most, he said, never even got back to him, leading him to quite seriously declare: “If you want to throw your hands up in the future, make sure you’re involved in the beginning.”

The space dedicated to crew on board a superyacht was a subject designers were keen to pursue, with most in agreement that owners were beginning to get frustrated with the space they must legally dedicate to their crew on board, given that most crew have been perfectly happy with their floor space and cabin offerings – this is an issue for merchant vessels rather than superyachts – but it was in fact storage space that was the issue. At this point the MLC Substantial Equivalence was brought up – a set of equivalencies tackling the areas of the Convention clearly directed towards crew of the commercial and merchant industries rather than those in the superyacht arena – at which point most designers could not admit to having read the latest regulations in much detail. Those attending the session also questioned whether the industry should be stronger in its endorsement of shared cabins and crew couples – a way to keep sufficient numbers of crew without removing space from the owner.

"Designers need to start talking more to the crew; we need to start talking to the guys who are actually working on these boats."

However, once the regulations have been accepted and understood, there still comes the question of how to accurately address the crew as a designer. “We look and say, how do we minimise the number of crew?” explained Marshall, who believes cutting the costs of crew literally means cutting the number of crew and “reducing the number of crew it takes to maintain the luxury” – achievable if you know where to start. For Marshall, a superyacht’s laundry room provided the perfect example; somewhere often an afterthought for designers but, if you increase this space on board, most laundry can be washed at the same time, limiting the number of crew dedicated to laundry at any one time.

The session concluded on a very positive note for today’s crew, with an audience member acknowledging, “Designers need to start talking more to the crew; we need to start talking to the guys who are actually working on these boats,” with another adding, “The best place for innovation is the crew”. The event was a fantastic starting point for the acknowledgement of the need to improve – and in some cases even begin – a dialogue between designers and crew and it will be interesting to see, if these dialogues continue, how the landscape of design will change alongside the ease and enjoyment of crew working on board.