As the superyacht industry grows in its professionalism, owners are competing to provide improved employment packages in a bid to achieve crew longevity and within this, training is often included. However, what are owners really gaining from this? Unfortunately, according to Connor, very little.
“I wish there were training classes that have a quantifiable benefit to both crewmember and employer," Connor explains. "How much time does the owner have to spend training his crew in classes that actually don’t help him get a better cocktail or the better meal? Sadly, most of the classes paid for by the owner are not going to improve his guest experience."
This problem, morevover, is set against the background of an increasingly regulated industry with heavy financial penalties, and where an owner believes those regulations attributed to crew may not affect him, he could be wrong. “Let’s face it: a seaman’s discharge book doesn’t do an owner any good," says Connor. "Why do they need to spend USD 3,000 to get discharge books for their crew and why should their boat be impounded or stop being allowed to transit if upon an inspection three crewmembers are seen without a discharge book? I’m not saying I don’t want to run a safe boat, but come on, that boat’s not safe because the crewmember just has a photocopy of his STCW rather than the original on board."
- Rupert Connor, president, Luxury Yacht Group
Taking the crew out of the equation and moving to the shipyard is another area where Connor believes owners are having to pay unnecessary costs due to overregulation. Connor was recently involved in a simple six-month refit that saw a helipad added to a superyacht where this problem manifested itself amply. “We spent USD 60,000 just in surveys, inspections, redrawing plans – not actually changing anything, but USD 40,000 in fees for people at USD 200 an hour or more to justify this rubber stamp on the helipad,” Connor explains. “Forget the half a million to do the work – that’s over ten per cent for administrative costs. Did that extra USD 60,000 actually make it a better helicopter platform, when most of the revisions were required as a result of feedback from crew and construction contractors to make it work, not the people making the rules who approved a first set of drawings that were woefully incomplete?”
Many owners can technically afford these extra costs, but that isn’t the point and isn’t the attitude we as an industry should be adopting. It’s whether they should be paying these costs in the first place. And speaking with owners, Connor believes these arguably unnecessary costs are starting to have an effect on owners’ views of their place in this industry.
“We’ve got one owner who, every time we email him, he’s just like, ‘You can take the boat and stick it; you do a good job and care about how much money I’m spending but every time I hear from you, we’re spending more money. I’m not using my boat for the next three months but I know during those three months you’re going to send me an email saying a pump broke or a crewmember quit and it’s just not fun – get my boat sold.’" Connor tells us. "I think we’re going to find more and more of that happening. We’ve come out of the recession and still have an industry that’s allowed itself to be regulated in the wrong direction. think we’ve messed up and missed an opportunity to get more competitive and realise what our customers want.”