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Operating safely in the new normal

ABS Group has developed a risk management model to aid yachts in the COVID-19 environment…

ABS Group, a subsidiary of American Bureau of Shipping focused on safety and risk management, has developed a model that can be applied to superyachts to encourage safe working environments by implementing the various practices and protocols required in view of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have been focused on developing a risk management approach for helping operators of various businesses and assets, including ships and yachts, think through how to prepare a safer workplace in light of the COVID-19 crisis,” says Matthew Mowrer, director of ABS Group’s product development and innovation centre. “There is a lot of guidance out there, whether it is from the EU, WHO, centre for disease control or others, on the measures that need to be taking place in various environments, but often they are very generic, so we are advising on how to apply these measures to specific space or assets, including superyachts. Every area is unique, and there are different risk tolerances within organisations, so we have created a risk management approach that tailors a specific strategy across the entire business or asset.”

By now, most people are aware of the standard measures that are in place to support the safety of both workers and private individuals and a number of key themes emerge from the advice provided by the world’s various health organisations. Typically, these measures include social distancing, sanitisation and hygiene, and personal protective equipment.

“There is a real range of specificity across these various bodies. In some cases the advice can be quite broad and in others it is extremely detailed towards a particular business or activity,” continues Mowrer. “What we have done is look across the authoritative guidance to develop a comprehensive library of controls and provide a systematic way to walk through areas of the asset in question, whether it is a superyacht or an office building, and evaluate the unique risks associated with each area. It is a function of the number and variability of the human network that operates in those spaces.”

ABS Group’s model assesses a number of network exposure risk factors in conjunction with virus transmission factors, whether that be surface touching or airborne proximity. Based on the unique combination of these factors, ABS Group recommends a series of controls and best practice systems, systematically walking through various spaces and scenarios to understand risk profile and advise accordingly. According to ABS Group, the model itself is extremely flexible and can be applied to almost any space, provided it is isn’t a high-density venue. The ultimate reduction of risk, however, is reliant on adherence to the advice provided.

“This is the biggest challenge, because a lot of the controls are administrative in nature, they require a certain level of compliance, whether that is wearing PPE or adhering to distancing protocols and those sorts of things,” explains Mowrer. “The less control you have over personnel compliance,, the more difficult to ensure safety. You can’t entirely engineer risk out of superyacht operation. But there are certain elements that you can implement that have proven to be very effective, but it is still going to rely on human behaviour, which is a major challenge to the superyacht industry.”

Superyachts are, in some ways, the ideal environment during pandemic. For the most part, superyachts are incredibly sanitary environments, even without the bolstered levels of hygiene now expected. Furthermore, the extreme wealth of those individuals that are able to buy superyachts, as well as those that charter the vessels, enables them, more so than the layman, to travel from and via sanitary environments. Theoretically, movement from a private home, via a private jet or car to a superyacht has little by way of health risk. However, a superyacht is arguably a less than ideal environment to impose systems and controls, given that the guests on board are often unwilling to act on anything other than their own whims. As a result, ABS Group’s system relies on reducing human interactions in terms of their size and variability and puts an emphasis on the actions of the professionals on board to adhere to these policies – UHNWI-proofing.

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