Rich Hallam has logged over 22,000 nautical miles, including two transatlantic crossings while working as a private diving instructor on board a 65m Feadship. Currently working as a producer, master scuba diver trainer, and cean yachtmaster, he has been involved with marine conservation initiatives around the world. Other Marine Conservation Expedition (MCE) representatives to join Hallam in Amsterdam include Ian Kellett who has filmed extensively underwater for National Geographic, and the BBC amongst others; as well as Michael Pitts who is regarded as one of Britain’s foremost underwater cameramen, and has won Emmy’s for cinematography on two BBC series, including 'Oceans' and ‘Blue Planet’. Hallam recently spoke with The Superyacht Owner ahead of his appearance at the Global Superyacht Forum, set to take place in Amsterdam from 18 to 20 November.

SYN: What is one of your most interesting projects/career highlights to date?

Our filmmaking expedition to Belize earlier this year was a real highlight. Belize is often referred to as ‘Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret’ bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the West and the warm emerald coloured Caribbean sea to the East, it is a gem of a destination. Our mission to Belize was to film a documentary in support of its Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). What we often find is that a country will impose a protected area but there is no buy-in from local populations and fishermen, resulting in what is known as a ‘Paper park‘. Our films provide a platform for these people to voice their opinions, challenges and communicate hopes for the future well-being and health of their marine ecosystems.

Our seven day expedition was packed with activities ranging from snorkelling,  scuba diving, kayaking, fly fishing, mangrove exploration, swimming with dolphins and manatees and insights into the lives of fishermen, resort owners, coast guards and marine biologists studying the health of the reef which surrounds the atoll.

The most memorable encounter was meeting Lobsterpot Watchman ‘JD’ who arrived on the aft deck of our yacht in nothing but his underpants to introduce himself. He turned out to be a very charismatic individual describing his life isolated from civilisation and we quickly turned the cameras on him to record his story. We decided to film a sequence of a day in the life of a Lobsterpot watchman and JD invited us to his humble home, which turned out to be a 4 x 4 metre shack on stilts above the waterline. It was incredible to see the look on the faces of our multimillionaire guests, (who we refer to as ‘Executive Producers’) used to life’s ultimate luxuries as they were immersed through the filming of a life far detached from their own. "Not a day goes by without smiling as I reminisce about our adventure that I describe to friends as a life-enriching experience" one of our owners and 'Executive Producers' Karen wrote.

Rich Hallam
SYN: What is your involvement in the superyacht industry and why do you feel it is important?

I personally have a great affinity with the ocean and spend as much time above, below, filming and studying its biodiversity and coral reefs as possible. I am a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Ocean Yachtmaster which led me to work on board a 65m Feadship for three years as Deck/Diving Instructor. MCE on the other hand provides an exciting opportunity for superyacht owners and charterers to have truly epic and potentially life-changing experiences whilst on board. This involves providing an opportunity to actively participate as Executive Producer in the filming of an incredible conservation documentary, alongside world-class filmmakers in a luxury environment. The all-inclusive and bespoke approach to encouraging a significant impact in ocean conservation is an attractive proposition for people who are driven by legacy and the opportunity to align their philanthropy with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

I think this is important because superyacht owners are looking for experiences that augment their lives in meaningful ways. They are seeking deeper, more profound experiences not widely available to consumers. Our expeditions immerse our clients in experiences and interactions with people and nature that they could never hope to otherwise encounter. MCE works with local NGOs to get access to stories and locations unavailable to the average tour. We also spend valuable time learning about our Executive Producers so that the expedition is tailored to their passions and interests. Our filmmaking team of up to eight world-class cameramen, tv hosts, editors and scientists have the Executive Producer's education, enjoyment and fulfillment as their main priority.

It is also important because yachtsman have the capacity to make a difference by aligning their travel experiences with conservation initiatives. Certainly in the developed world, we can no longer plead ignorance to the degradation of our oceans and the effect this is having on the livelihoods of more than 3.5 billion people who depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. Nearly 60 per cent of the world's remaining reefs are at significant risk of being lost in the next three decades.

Films are a very powerful method of educating people, changing their mindsets and behaviour to preserve rather than pillage. The MCE filmmaking team have years of experience in producing persuasive media for conservation initiatives. We film local people talking about their experiences and hopes for the future of their marine habitats, we re-frame conservation through sustainable economics and we work with youth on journeys of discovery. We exhibit a film in which local people are talking to themselves about the importance of conservation as apposed to outsiders dictating best practices. This builds community solidarity and is a fantastic way to connect to a culture. The great thing about this whole process is that it exposes you to intimate connections between people and wildlife that is both humbling and inspirational.

SYN:  What are some interesting and exciting changes you are seeing in your field at the moment?

There has certainly been a remarkable shift towards an appetite for the more adventurous type of charter experience. Yachts are being built to explore, their power and range capable of travelling to the most far flung locations on earth. Their owners are wanting more from their ocean experiences and precious time on board; they want their boat to open up new worlds, diverse environments and interesting cultures. This is an incredibly exciting movement, not only for the owners themselves but for the industry as a whole. Brokers can offer a broader range of intriguing charter opportunities, crew members are able to realise that the reason they joined the industry was to see the world as opposed to sitting at port of Antibes. Through innovative organisations such as MCE we aim to provide such experiences.  

I firmly believe this trend stems partly from the knowledge that the ocean as we know it within the next half century will be a very different place on earth. The UN stated that a third of the world's coral reefs have already died. By 2030, that figure is predicted to be closer to 60 per cent. Unfortunately science indicates time is ticking for people to enjoy the breathtaking sight of the underwater world thriving with healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Those with the capacity to reach locations such as Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea, can still witness pristine marine habitats. My hope is that the superyacht industry and the people who clearly have a passion for the ocean also have the interest and willingness to do their bit to help protect it.

Hallam will deliver a presentation and then speak on a panel of ocean enthusiasts on Day 3, Wednesday November 20 from 10:30 - 12:00. If you have any questions you would like to submit to Hallam or topics to be raised during this session, please contact Rebecca Curran. For full details on the programme please go to the website. If you would like to register your place, please contact Suzie on +44 207 801 1014,, or click here to register online.

We would like to thank our sponsors AdvanTec Marine, Awlgrip, Caterpillar, Cayman Islands Shipping Registry, Clyde & Co., MTN, MTU Friedrichshafen, Palladium and Struik & Hamerslag.