Nobody can deny the importance of technology on board superyachts these days, right? Wrong. In fact, the industry is largely in denial about our increasing reliance on new innovations, which is having a negative knock-on effect in some quite significant ways.
I believe there are red flags that amount to industry hypocrisy here. One of these is the focus of this article and I’d like to wave it early on: the majority of superyachts don’t budget anything for AV/IT training during their build OR operation.
Lip service vs reality
We keep hearing more and more across the industry about how crucial the onboard AV/IT systems are. This recognition is certainly an improvement compared to just a few years ago, but a lot of it seems to be simply lip service, saying what others want to hear but doing nothing about it.
It remains the case that most superyacht systems are still being operated by crew without adequate training or support made available to them. In fact, over 80 per cent of SEACertify’s students pay for their AV/IT training themselves. In most cases, they’re also visiting us because they’re struggling to manage crucial systems in their current role.
Furthermore, most new build superyachts are still not training the build crew properly either. Why? Because contractually nobody has been asked to do this, so it doesn’t get budgeted for.
The following adapted excerpt is typical of what was stated in the build specification of superyachts I commissioned. I can’t be any more specific, but I can assure you this would be typical of many large yachts built in recent years:
“System installers will familiarize crew with operation of the AV/IT systems. The system installer may also choose to recommend appropriate training to crew to assist in their day-to-day duties.”
That’s it, no specific requirements, meaning the systems installers would not assign any significant time or costs to this. “Familiarize” was interpreted as showing the crew around quickly, whilst stating they “hadn’t been asked to do more”.
Mandatory vs crucial training
Another problem seems to be management thinking: “Why should we pay for it when we don’t have to?”. Well, I would argue, they do have to. Certain training is absolutely crucial for a superyacht, while still being non-mandatory.
There will be provisions made for STCW training of course, so the vessel can operate legally and be insured. But the superyacht sector has many different requirements compared to the rest of the marine industry, so the right balance of training in our sector is a blend of non-mandatory courses to compliment STCW requirements. STCW certifications focus on minimum safety requirements. They are a stop on the experience journey, not a destination in themselves.
The issue with crew longevity
Another problem is the how the industry hangs on to outdated views about crew longevity. “Why should we pay for their courses, they’ll leave anyway?” is an attitude that doesn’t seem to be going away. I believe this largely comes from the past when we had more seasonal crew on smaller vessels, but with larger and more commercially run vessels these days, crew do stay longer. Superyacht jobs are careers for many now, especially officers responsible for AV/IT equipment.
Yes crew inevitably will leave, even if they have stayed longer than in the past, but wouldn’t it be nice if they were replaced by someone who already had the same training funded by another yacht?
Also, it isn’t as simple as just employing experienced crew with the existing skills, because these are in shorter supply than ever before. If a vessel doesn’t have a budget for training, they probably won’t offer the right employment package for experienced crew anyway.
It has become common for systems on large vessels, which can cost up to €10 million, to be operated by crew with little previous experience, yet often these crew don’t get backed up with training or support. Sadly, they then get blamed and their experience level is questioned when things go wrong. In other words, they are hung out to dry.
It's staggering when you consider that these systems have already been purchased, and at great cost, without any budget in place to train crew to properly maintain them. That must be the very definition of a false economy.
A simple solution? All new build and operational budgets must allow for adequate crew AV/IT training. And why wouldn’t they?
To discuss matters related to superyacht AV/IT training and consultancy, Scott can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Molloy is Director at SEACertify
Image credit: Captain Mark O'Connell