The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) requires that all vessels carrying 15 or more crew and engaged in a voyage of more than three days must provide a dedicated medical space on board. Furthermore it outlines “the competent authority [on these ships] shall ensure that the accommodation will, in all weathers, be easy of access, provide comfortable housing for the occupants and be conducive to their receiving prompt and proper attention.”

Flag states can differ on what constitutes a “dedicated medical space”; however, a significant number of owners, owner reps, management and build teams have been requesting rooms with increased medical capabilities on board, according to Tony Nicholson, director of luxury yachts and new builds at MedAire.

“Some flag states are saying this area can be a combined crew overflow cabin, others are saying it has to be a dedicated medical space.  What we are definitely seeing is an increase in the number of requests that come through for creating a more medically capable space,” explains Nicholson. The increase in requests, Nicholson notes, is mainly in the 70m-plus market, which, according to the results of our recent Superyacht Golden Ticket crew survey carry 29 crewmembers on average – nearly double the 15 crew that requires this medical space.

"Optimal medical care for the owner and guests is the most common driver we’re seeing. They tend to be a guest-based space that can also be used for crew."
- Tony Nicholson, director of luxury yachts and new builds, MedAire.

Some yachts are happy to meet what their flag state has deemed the minimum requirements, while others are taking it quite a bit further. “The equipment goes as far as digital capture x-ray machines and blood analysis to the ability to manage someone’s airway in an advanced manner and stabilise them from cardiac conditions until they get off the boat,” reveals Nicholson. Of course, these medical spaces are nothing without the qualified medical personnel, the recruitment of which has also significantly increased, as we have discussed recently.

Nicholson believes that while the convention aims to protect the rights of crew, the targeted end user is, in most cases, the owner. “Optimal medical care for the owner and guests is the most common driver we’re seeing,” reveals Nicholson. “They tend to be a guest-based space that can also be used for crew. The owners may have a medical team that travels with them, who may want to carry out very specific tests and treatments. So it’s partly driven by some of the legislative changes, but certainly not entirely.”

Regardless of the influencing factors, crews on these yachts will now have much better access to the appropriate supplies and equipment should they need urgent medical treatment. “It’s particularly important when yachts are going further afield,” says Nicholson. “Maybe down to the South Pacific, where there isn’t necessarily the option of getting them to shoreside facilities that have any type of medical diagnostics facilities available.”

But with these medical spaces are there enough doctors to fill them? Read our article on the increasing request for nurse/stew positions.

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