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Alternative ideas from The Superyacht Forum

TSF delivered an array of opportunities for the expression of interesting thoughts but were they all heard?

The Superyacht Forum 2022 saw an avalanche of ideas from every corner of the superyacht industry. As a relative newcomer, the diversity of voices and opinions took me by surprise. Superyachts can be overawing, and the industry can seem impenetrable and one-dimensional. As I listened to talks around the Rai in Amsterdam over the three days, some fascinating discussions stood out.

I did not appreciate the multi-dimensional space I was working in. As a journalist, I consider it my responsibility to hand the microphone to people whose voices may have been overshadowed in favour of those on the largest platforms or those that have taken up the most oxygen in the room. Some of the most insightful ideas seemed to be presented during the most experimental brainstorming and keynote sessions, and not always on the main stage.  

The brainstorming session about Crew Welfare, hosted by the Red Ensign Group addressed the reporting of abuse and the reemployment of individuals with a history of verbal or physical abuse. Audience members spoke about “the culture of secrecy” that pervades the industry. Accountability for one's actions is paramount for any healthy workplace and audience members expressed the need to devise a better way for the crew to report abusive behaviour that goes beyond the head of department. This seems like standard practice outside of the crewing sector, and it was jarring to hear that yachting seems a generation behind. 

Other topics included crew members experiencing the fear of missing out (FOMO) due to social media and those with no previous experience in the marine industry being unsupported and unaware of the reality of working for long periods on a yacht. Anybody who has access to a social media account understands FOMO so when crew members receive social media notifications about their friends and family’s lives it has an impact on their mental health. 

Tools to help crew struggling such as apps that help them manage their physically and mentally demanding roles exist, but, as touched on in the session, are not always enough and crew members may not even be aware of them. Seasoned professionals spoke about crew welfare being at the top of their priorities when it comes to improving the conditions on board. Among those was Captain Brendan O'Shannassy who expressed concern for current practices and his desire to see the treatment of crew improve. 

Cybersecurity is a space that demands expertise from professionals of many backgrounds. The yachting industry is no exception. Eliott Wilkes, former Consultant on Product Management and Cyber Security, for the Obama administration delivered an insightful brainstorming session hosted by Starboard Card, in which spoke about his own work at the Pentagon managing cyber attacks.

Of course, to beat a hacker you need to think like one. So experts who understand the language of coding and cyber defence are a must and increasingly will become integral to the choices of systems protecting clients on board. The ecosystem of hackers, who now have call centres and customer feedback channels to process ransomware attacks, seems to be evolving far faster than the conversation within the industry. 

The need to make the industry more inclusive and allow for talent from many backgrounds was top of the agenda at the Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY) keynote session. Speakers ranged from a representative for Damen Yachting to a founder of a software company. All agreed that the marine industry needs a shake up to stay in tune with the times. Many of the speakers themselves had not had contact with the yachting industry before joining it. According to the YPY members who were on stage, becoming more visible to young people who operate on the fringes of yachting, such as studying marine engineering, is the missing ingredient when it comes to recruitment.

At the Superyacht Influencers Keynote Debate, ex-crew, YouTubers and social media stars who influence public opinion on yachting spoke about the lack of diversity within the industry. The speakers had keen insight into how conditions for crew can be improved and spoke about their own conversations with their followers about practices that could be improved.

The debate was live-streamed and can be viewed here:

 TSF was a hugely educational experience for me and demonstrated the innovative space that marine industry professionals operate in daily. Seasoned voices were equally concerned about the issues highlighted in the sessions and supported the younger speakers' calls for change. Having spoken previously with those in the industry who support the vision displayed, I can see that actions to implement the suggestions made is not far away and change in said areas is already in motion. I look forward continuing the discussion around the key issues presented and seeing how the industry evolves as a result. 

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Alternative ideas from The Superyacht Forum

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