“The first rule about kickbacks is: you do not talk about kickbacks”. An amusing play on the infamous Fight Club quote, but seemingly apt when the quoted crewmember said this in a Facebook discussion on the topic in question. That being, some years ago there were whispers (and some slightly louder murmurings) about kickbacks in the superyacht industry. An extra 20 per cent being added to a bill here, an extra 10 per cent there. But the murmurings have somewhat stopped. Is this because kickbacks have also reached the stop sign? Seemingly not.

In the Facebook discussion, on the Palma Yacht Crew group, a wealth of crewmembers and industry professionals have got together to share their experiences of what is still happening in the industry today. No names (in fact, the discussion starts by saying any comments with names will be deleted – this could of course turn towards dangerous and potentially libelous territory), but general agreement that this practice is, unfortunately, still happening today.

In an industry that is known for its plethora of networking opportunities, why does networking turn into kickbacks?

With no names being mentioned, any desire someone would have to get a company or individual into trouble is far removed. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that, at least to some extent, kickbacks are still taking place in the industry today. What is also clear from this discussion, should the accounts related be verifiable, is that it’s not a two-way street – it’s a complex connect the dots of the industry. Captains, managers, provisioners, shipyards, spares suppliers, port authorities, you name it – everyone gets a mention.

One question that arose in the discussion is the ethics of taking a client out for a nice meal, with a view to cementing a professional relationship. In other words, networking. This industry is an industry of networkers, whether you’re looking for your next job, your next refit project, your next yacht to supply to or your next article to write. So when does networking turn into a kickback? And in an industry that is known for its plethora of networking opportunities, how and why does networking turn into kickbacks?

Once again, this industry, of which we are all a part and treasure so dearly, is getting a bad name. And there are brilliant captains, managers, provisioners, refit yards, to name a few, who are getting tarnished with the same bad brush.

So we’d like to hear your thoughts, whether you’re a captain, crewmember, manager – you name it – on why these kickbacks seemingly continue to happen and how we as an industry can change this and professionalise our practices.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or email editor Lulu Trask at lulu@thesuperyachtgroup.com.

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