The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) requires that all yachts carrying 15 or more crew and engaged in a trip of more than three days must provide a dedicated medical space on board which, according to the convention, “will, in all weathers, be easy of access, provide comfortable housing for the occupants and be conducive to their receiving prompt and proper attention.”

The requirement, which only applies to commercial yachts under a flag that ratified the MLC, also only applies to those yachts yet to be built, and exactly what constitutes a medical space that meets the requirement varies between flag states.

So far it seems owners are either leaning towards adhering to minimum standards or going all out. “There’s two ways this is being viewed. Either people are just putting in the minimum that is required or they’re looking at it and saying, ‘We can provide the same level of medical care that is available ashore so why wouldn’t we do this properly?’” explains Tony Nicholson, director – luxury yachts, new builds at MedAire.

While the MLC is a convention to improve crews’ rights, Nicholson believes those owners going above and beyond the minimum are keeping their own medical safety in mind. “Crews’ rights certainly isn’t the driver that we’re seeing. The space tends to be guest based but can be used for crew too,” he explains.

Nicholson details that these medical spaces are incorporating equipment from digital capture x-rays and ultrasounds to blood diagnostics and the ability to manage someone’s airway and stabilise them from cardiac arrest. This sort of equipment, when put into a well thought out space, could prove life saving for someone on a trip where it might take them a day to get to land – or more, depending on whether or not the closest land-based medical care is adequate.

“As soon as you step through the door of dealing with something like this, the capabilities increase dramatically but so do the complexities, so it does need to be handled very carefully otherwise you end up with a situation where you have really unusable space,” warns Nicholson. “Practically or functionally it may not work, or at the least may not be ideal. What we’re seeing now is that four or five years before delivery, we’re getting engaged with the owner’s medical team, the shipyard, the interior designers and the owner’s rep team to really provide oversight from a medical point of view.”

When planning a medical space, designers will be looking at a different way of thinking while keeping the yacht’s overall design in mind. In no space more than this one could functionality and practicality be more important, so it will be interesting to see what starts leaving the shipyard in the coming years.

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