Bluewater, one of the superyacht industry’s best known companies within the crew sector, offering both training and recruitment services, has incorporated USA-based training school International Crew Training (ICT) and recruitment agency Crew Unlimited under the Bluewater umbrella.
The two Fort Lauderdale-based companies are keeping the same staff and facilities, but are operating under the Bluewater brand, making Bluewater the first company in the crew sector to offer well-established training and recruitment services on both sides of the Atlantic, monopolising the field. Although John Wyborn, director of Bluewater, assures the industry this is not about dominating the market. “It’s not so much about monopolising. It’s about actually being able to offer a service in both key locations,” he explains, speaking exclusively to SuperyachtNews.
The merger, or partnership, has come about as a result of Bluewater’s One Account – a service whereby money spent with Bluewater on recruitment is given back in the form of training vouchers. But until now, with no Bluewater training facility in America, US-based crew gained little to no benefit from the One Account. “The obvious solution to that was to team up with a crew agency. We’ve worked with Ami Ira at Crew Unlimited for many years, so that was the obvious choice. Then of course we needed the training element, and after meeting more of the ICT team at a Yacht Qualifications Panel last year, it seemed to me that they were a really good match for us too,” says Wyborn.
This isn’t the first time Bluewater has dipped its toes in US waters. In 2007 the company considered setting up across the pond but the decision was turned on its head following the global financial crisis. “Rather than try to do that again, we thought, there are some really good people over there. Let’s actually work with them,” Wyborn explains.
International Crew Training, or ICT, has recently finished the building and development of brand new facilities, which the new ICT-Bluewater team is understandably excited about. “Bluewater’s finally got a pool!” is the excited response from Wyborn, but it’s the facilities available to crew taking the more advanced courses that should be of most intrigue. “We’ve spent a lot of money in the last year or two, on not just completing the training facility, but on fine tuning it. We now have three different simulator systems: the Transas T bridge, our Transas Nav and Radar simulators, and the Transas GMDSS simulators,” says ICT president Brian Luke.
The investment from ICT has not only been in the facilities, but in the course material itself – something Bluewater had originally planned to do away with, until they realised just how much effort had gone into producing top-quality courses for crew. “Over the past three or four years, ICT has really made a big effort with their courses. It’s actually created a bit of a headache, because now we have to work out the best bits of what we’ve got and the best bits of what they’ve got. The process of merging is actually one that we’ve been working very hard on,” admits Wyborn.
Yet it’s the recruitment market that Wyborn believes will really see this as a game changer. “There are more crew agencies in Fort Lauderdale, and certainly in the US, than you can imagine. They’ve not had a database and sophisticated search facility like this before, so I certainly think it will put a cat among the pigeons in the crew world over there.”
For Ami Ira, managing director of Crew Unlimited, it's clear the crew get the best of both worlds. "Crew will get the best of both worlds without feeling disloyal to either of us. Our crew will have access to all the jobs that the Bluewater captains post through their One Account subscription, and our captain clients will now have access to all the crew registered with Bluewater. It’s a win-win for everyone, before we even mention the free training credit our clients receive when they subscribe. So I guess that makes it a win-win-win!"
What Wyborn is most excited about, however, is offering crew a consistent level of training and recruitment standards across an ever- growing and increasingly varied crew sector. “What I’m really focused on is providing a consistent standard for the whole industry,” asserts Wyborn, and it’s something the excitement in his voice simply cannot hide.
So as we enter show season, you’ll see the same team from Bluewater, ICT and Crew Unlimited, but this year, the only name you’ll see will be Bluewater. “It’s a union of talent. It’s the same teams the crew are already familiar with, but they’ll be flying the Bluewater flag.” And slogan that Bluewater is using to promote this new era is one that highlights the area of the world in which the training and recruitment provider believes the benefits will be most evident: ‘Same stars, new stripes’.