In response to increasing requests for temporary medical staffing on board superyachts, MedAire is offering a service providing short-term medical personnel placement. The company now places experienced doctors, nurses and paramedics, who remain under their employment, on yachts to ensure medical care is always available to those on board.

Through its parent company, International SOS, which works with many oil rigs located in remote sites, MedAire benefits from a large database of medical professionals familiar with working in remote environments available for placement.

“Many of our clients are looking for a short term medical staffing solution," explains Steven Bates, general manager of yachting for MedAire. "As clients are traveling to increasingly remote locations, may be engaging in high-adrenaline sports and riskier activities, or may have a guest that needs extra medical care, there is now the option to add a doctor or paramedic on board for a period of time."

Bates adds that this service has been of particular interest to 60m-plus superyachts intending on remote cruising, and to charter yachts that might have guests with specific medical conditions and wish to have a medical professional on board just in case. Another popular request is for paediatric nurses, which help take the responsibility off crew when there are children on board.

Such personnel will remain under MedAire employment throughout the duration of their placement. They are not involved in the operations or safety of the vessel so they are not classed as crew but as contractors – something that is particularly important to note for those yachts in compliance with the MLC 2006. Supernumeraries, such as short-term medical personnel, have continued to be a grey area under the regulations.

Paul Grace, technical policy lead at the Isle of Man Ship Registry explains that, when the MLC entered into force, the term ‘supernumerary’ became largely obsolete as it was assumed that everyone on a yacht would either be a seafarer or a guest. “This caused confusion within the industry, so to provide some clarity on the definition of ‘seafarer’, ILO published a resolution providing guidance on various occupational groups,” he says.

“The Resolution allows Flag States to write their own regulations, and introduced a new phrase for people who principally work onshore, but who occasionally spend a short period working on a ship; ‘occasional workers’. Some categories of personnel are self-evidently occasional workers, for example surveyors, superintendents and port workers. Other categories are more open to interpretation since there is no agreed definition of a ‘short period working on a ship’.”

In light of this, a medical specialist who has been contracted to a yacht for a short term charter lasting a few weeks would most likely be considered an occasional worker, however this would have to be confirmed with the yacht’s Flag State. “The Flag State may have additional requirements for occasional workers, such as ensuring the medical specialist receives familiarisation training, is medically fit and has a contract from his or her employer,” Grace adds.

Finally, Grace cautions that if the medical specialist was to work on a longer charter or a series of charters, they may become considered a seafarer instead of an occasional worker. “The operators would have to be aware of this prior to the medical specialist joining a ship as they would then have to be issued with a seafarer’s employment agreement and have the same entitlements as the other seafarers on the yacht, including accommodation,” he concludes.

Image courtesy of MedAire

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