The role of yacht agents
How can superyachts have a more constructive relationship with yacht agents around the world?
Superyacht cruising itineraries continue to become more diverse and the constant changing of locations is keeping captains and crew on their toes when it comes to complying with different entrance procedures from country to country. While the captain or management company is ultimately responsible for the legal employment of the crew in each country the yacht visits and it is an individual crewmember’s responsibility to keep their own documents up to date, agents can help share the burden when it comes to putting additional paperwork and procedures in place when a yacht visits a new region.
“The vessel and its management body need to make sure crew are legally employed in accordance with their flag state,” explains Kerry Allerton, operations manager at Evolution Yacht Agents. “However, customs is another matter and port agents have a responsibility to inform their vessels of clearance requirements and expectations from immigration authorities in that respective port, as these can change not only within the EU customs zone but [also] from port to port in the same country. It is our responsibility to obtain the correct documents and facilitate the correct information between the vessel and the authorities.
While it is up to the individual vessel or crewmember to be responsible for obtaining a visa in order to visit a specific country, agents can provide useful assistance in ensuring everyone is legally allowed into the country and that there is planning in place for necessary extensions or departures. “We will start visa discussions with a yacht long before they arrive, as we often have to arrange options in advance of the yacht’s arrival,” says Andy Shorten, managing director at the Lighthouse Consultancy in Indonesia. “This is especially when entering in a more remote or obscure port.”
As such, yacht agents play an important role for yachts around the world, but this role can be maximised if captains and crew work with them to ensure every visit goes as smoothly as possible. For Ugur Kara, managing partner at BWA Yachting Turkey, this means getting in contact with the agent well in advance of arrival. “This will enable us to provide complete and correct information to the yacht concerning clearance procedures and visa requirements,” he says. “In reverse, it means that crew can provide required documentation and information to the agent on time. It thus supports the identification and solution of any issues at an early stage and avoids any difficulties and significant time delay on arrival of the yacht.”
“Most problems occur because of last-minute changes to itineraries or a lack of communication regarding specific rules and regulations of certain aspects of a vessel’s operation in one jurisdiction or another..."
As with all initial contact between an agent and a vessel, it is crucial that the agent is informed of the full details of the proposed itinerary, the crew and guests, the vessel and any special requests regarding guests and crew arrivals or departures during the visit. “It should then be the responsibility of the agent to communicate specific knowledge regarding requirements of arrival and departure documents and procedures as per the port authority, maritime police, customs and immigration and health authorities,” adds Christiana Cairns, executive secretary at the Association of Yacht Support Services (AYSS). “[This is] in addition to procedures surrounding cash declarations, firearms, security personnel, crew and guest visas and tender-and-toy usage.”
For Kim Williams, co-founder of Yacht Services Tunisia, having an honest and transparent relationship between the yacht and the agent is the key to success. “We can usually resolve any problems before they arise if we know of possible issues in advance,” she says. “This allows us to advise on the best course of action to be taken and minimise any unnecessary disruption for the yacht, captain and crew.”
Xisco Notario Gil, operations manager at Evolution Yacht Agents, agrees that open and free-flowing communication between yacht and agent ensures that information is provided and questions can be asked and answered prior to arrival so all parties are clear on expectations. “We take customs procedures extremely seriously,” he says. “The consequences of incorrect entry into a country or port can be devastating to all parties involved, including the port agent, so we have to make sure we are up to date with the latest legislations and implement the protocols required by the relevant customs office.”
Many yacht agents have the capability to be heavily involved with all aspects of a superyacht visit and so the stronger the relationship between the yacht and the agent, the less likely it is for the ball to be dropped. “There are often plenty of opportunities for something to be missed or forgotten,” continues Shorten. “That’s the hard thing about yachting; every single element matters – a driver pick-up, a check-in time, the jet arrival time – they are all so important that you have to be focused on every interaction.”
Given the broad spectrum of destinations, cultures, languages and maritime authorities that superyachts encounter, what agents typically need from yachts and their crew varies considerably on a port-by-port basis. In general, most jurisdictions will require a copy of the vessel’s registry, a crew list, a copy of hull and machinery insurance cover and P&I insurance cover, to name but a few. While other documentation and procedures may vary from place to place, in all instances the more notice that is given, the better.
“Most problems occur because of last-minute changes to itineraries or a lack of communication regarding specific rules and regulations of certain aspects of a vessel’s operation in one jurisdiction or another,” concludes Cairns. “For the most part, the agent is responsible for eliminating surprises for the crew and guests with full disclosure of operating procedures and good communication. At the same time, however, the crew is responsible for eliminating surprises for the agent with advance disclosure of all relevant details as well.”
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