The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has announced that it will be allowing twin cabins to be built for non-officer-level seafarers on commercial yachts between 3000 and 5000gt, based upon a proposed set of substantial equivalents by the Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss).

Version three of the Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY3) includes the substantial equivalent accommodation regulations for the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC). Though the substantial equivalents outlined are lengthy, for yachts of 3000gt or more, the LY3 directs its readers back to the MLC and indicates that after the Convention comes into force, vessels should comply with the full requirements of standard A3.1 of the Convention. Standard A3.1 9(a) states: “In ships other than passengers ships, an individual sleeping room shall be provided for each seafarer”.

The substantial equivalents put to the MCA by SYBAss on behalf of its members outline the fact that a single cabin for all seafarers would likely result in the meeting of minimum MLC standards – something that we should avoid at all costs, especially when current level of superyacht crew accommodation are, in most cases, fairly good.

Crew accommodation on board Vicem's 46m new build motoryacht, courtesy of Vicem Yachts

“It is clear from our studies that large yacht crewmembers would not benefit from the application of this single cabin rule in our sector of the industry,” explained Chris van Hooren, SYBAss technical director. “To reduce the considerable economic impact of single cabins, yacht designers would likely opt for minimum MLC-standard cabins. On board yachts over 3000gt, such cabins would have awkward dimensions with recessed bunks and no en-suite facilities. This would actually lead to crew having lower standards of comfort than is currently the case on superyachts.”

SYBAss’ application for a substantially equivalent twin-cabin option for seafarers on board LY3 yachts over 3000gt is conditional on minimum size and provision of en-suite facilities. The MCA has accepted this and it will be included as part of the UK’s MLC implementation package.

Mark Towl, vessel policy manager at the MCA, shared the view of Van Hooren when he told SuperyachtNews: “The MCA are very pleased to have agreed to a substantially equivalent standard for the use of twin cabins on Large Commercial Yachts between 3000gt and 5000gt. We believe that these standards will provide a better standard of accommodation for crew than would be required by compliance with the minimum MLC requirements, and that they help towards securing the future viability of building yachts over 3000GT.”

Crew accommodation on sailing yacht Hanuman, courtesy of Royal Huisman. Credit: Cory Silken.

But for seafarer union Nautilus International – member of the tri-partite UK working group in conjunction with the chamber of shipping and SYBAss – questions remain. “It does seem interesting that it is felt that a 5000gt yacht cannot be designed to accommodate crew in a single cabin,” Garry Elliott, senior national secretary and head of membership and recruitment at Nautilus International, told “What Nautilus is keen to ensure is that the UK does not progress a concerted effort to apply everything to a minimum requirement and this cannot be about a race to the bottom.”

But with many concerned that the MLC is yet another set of regulations designed for the commercial sector and pinned on the superyacht sector, this announcement is a positive step for the superyacht sector stamping its mark upon the wider industry. “One of the key roles of SYBAss is to facilitate regulations that reflect the unique nature of the superyacht industry,” added Van Hooren. “This decision by the MCA helps support a level playing field for the large yacht sector.”

Profile links

MCA - Maritime and Coastguard Agency / Ensign

Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss)

Nautica International, Inc.

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