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The AV/IT skills needed on superyachts

Are the increasingly complex AV/IT systems installed on board superyachts causing manning issues?

Audio-visual (AV) and satellite communication systems found on today’s superyachts can be complex and, crucially, are a major part of the guest experience. Electro-technical officers (ETOs) and engineers on board modern-day vessels are under immense pressure to ensure all systems work seamlessly all of the time. But with this technology constantly evolving, it is increasingly difficult for crew to keep abreast of the skills and training required to maintain them. 

Typically, it is recommended that ETOs have experience with each main system component on board their yacht, but this is difficult to acquire prior to joining the vessel. AV training is not always directly available to crew and, where it is, it can be time-consuming and expensive. Also, specific manufacturers’ courses can go beyond what crew need as they are intended for those installing and programming systems regularly.

However, some companies in the sector are trying to do something about the skills shortage. Just ETOs is a marine electronics training provider that focuses on tailor-made yacht electronics training courses aimed at ETOs, electricians, AV/IT officers and engineers. Its courses cover the core skills needed to maintain AV and satellite communication systems.

There are certain skills required of crew based on the current technology that is now featured on the most modern superyachts, and identifying these is an important step towards ensuring that demand is met. Scott Molloy, founder of Just ETOs, thinks it is the technology trends as a whole that drive most of what is installed on superyachts, and these trends also dictate the skills that are required on board, which is why they can’t be ignored.

“Digital trends, and the industry not recognising or reacting to them sufficiently, is the reason behind the ongoing crew AV/IT skills shortage,” Molloy explains. “I believe the biggest trend to be the continued move towards IP-based solutions on board. Most large-yacht systems will now connect and inter-connect using the ship’s LAN [local area network], unlike 10 or more years ago. This has led to many more yachts now finding they need a network specialist on board. However, finding experienced crew with strong networking skills remains challenging.”

Molloy adds that consumer ‘gadgets’ and online services are also rapidly changing, being such big business now for the manufacturers and providers. With all this latest technology coming to market, crew need up-to-date training to keep pace. This trend is driven by the fact that most of western society lives in a digital age and spend lots of money in these areas.

“We must also consider the exponential curve of ever-increasing consumer video standards – 4K, 8K etc.,” says Molloy. “Video is the biggest consumer on most yacht networks, with the throughput required for the latest video standards increasing fast. The most recent new builds also tend to have an IP-based video distribution solution, such as Crestron NVX, as opposed to the traditional central video matrix. Again, this is indicative of the ongoing move towards IP-based solutions. Crucially, all of this needs a well-designed, robust and future-proof LAN and somebody to support it.” 

So, how can the superyacht industry ensure that it has enough crew with the required skill-sets in the future? “Something that I have noticed through the Just ETOs business model is that the majority of crew who train with us are funding their training privately,” responds Molloy. “Most of us will probably agree how important AV/IT systems are on superyachts. However, most vessels are either failing to recognise this or failing to provide for appropriate crew training.” 

Molloy believes that addressing a vessel’s skills requirements shouldn’t be a case of the captain or chief engineer just handing a list of ideal and hopeful requirements to a recruiter. “These skills are in very short supply, so crew development also needs to be an important part of the manning strategy,” he continues. “Of most concern is that the digital trends driving these skills shortages are nothing new. I actually joined my first yacht back in 2005 due to an IT skills shortage. So, will industry attitudes in these areas really change any time soon?”

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