Technology is having an increasing presence on board superyachts, particularly in the bridge and when it comes to AV and IT systems, but we are now starting to see a trend of technology permeating the service sector of our industry. Can technology ever replace crew? Or is it about utilising it for an even more seamless service to the industry’s owners?

Jack Robinson, director of commercial development at Net Logic Marine, recounts a recent visit to a five-star hotel where “the staff positively jumped out of my way, turned off vacuum cleaners as we approach or ducked into side doors”. Confused as to how the morning paper turned up in his room when he woke up, it turns out the room came with a number of small cubby holes, allowing the staff to place objects in the room without disturbing the guests.

So how does this relate to the superyacht industry? “If I were to charter a yacht, the last thing I would want would be to be bumping into crew as I wandered around, yet a yacht has to be run, and I would still want food and drink at my fingertips as fast as possible,” Robinson explains. He adds that realistically this needs to be considered in the built stage, with a detailed look at corridors and service efficiency, but what about those yachts already on the water? Robinson believes that technology is the answer.

“As all AV is driven my programming, it is very flexible and it is not a huge set up to integrate service menus,” he says. “This could cover you for food, drinks, laundry, calling for a tender and so on. But how do you track the requests and deliver the information to the crew?” Net Logic Marine’s answer: an intelligent radio system. For example, a food order is sent (with customisation options), and is directly transmitted to a screen in the kitchen and received by the stew on her radio. “The owner never sees the crew and gets better and faster service,” Robinson explains. Another example: the owner wants the tender ready, so presses the relevant button on the AV screen on the yacht’s system, selecting which tender and the number of guests that will be departing the yacht. “The information is directly sent to the deck crew and by the time the owner walks up the stairs, the tender is ready.”

"Crew will never be replaced by automated vending machines. Instead, technology is supposed to aid the human effort in operations."

If this is where technology is heading – and it’s certainly where Net Logic Marine is taking it – it is important to remember that it is an aid to – not replacement of – crew. Margarita Amam, founder of Interior Management Systems and its CRYSTAL software designed for interior management, explains: “Crew will never be replaced by automated vending machines. Instead, technology is supposed to aid the human effort in operations. Technology has to work for you – not the other way around. It is supposed to relieve crew of stress and pressure of high demands and facilitate better planning and scheduling. It should elevate crew and bring them closer to owners and their expectations.

“When the technology is applicable it allows crew to say in the field of action, instead of being pulled behind a desk,” she adds. “We shouldn’t be afraid of technology.”

Join The Crew Report’s debate on the concept of ‘invisible crew’ here.