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Letter from the President of the International Superyacht Society

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Earlier this year captain AJ Anderson was elected to the role of President of the International Superyacht Society. As a seafarer for forty years, and an industry leader in operational management for twenty years, we asked AJ to share his perspective.

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Captain AJ Anderson, Wright Maritime Group

I was asked to share a few thoughts on where the large yacht industry is and how it has developed over the last forty years. It could be summarised by a simple definition of what “large” is. Forty years ago, “large” meant 100ft or 200-300GT. Today “large” means 300ft and 3000GT, with a number of yachts afloat and in construction in the range of 350ft to about 550ft and 5000GT to about 12000GT.

Most everyone that might read this knows there is a tremendous difference between the old ‘large’ and the new ‘large’. Other than cost, the difference is related to regulatory requirements, lifestyle design, technical design, engineering, construction and in operations – even before the regulatory changes which have increased in scope and became more clearly defined in the last twenty years. 

Breaking it down - and other opportunities:

The yacht industry is comprised of organisations, which includes IMO, Flag-states, Port-states, IAACS members, associations and companies: companies being insurers, refit and building shipyards, co-makers, yacht designers, new build owners’ representative firms, berthing facilities, suppliers, service providers, publications, law firms, educators, brokerages, charter and operational managers, medical and security firms, crew placement firms, crew and all professionals serving in the above list. Any specific group unintentionally left out of this list are also included. 

Those of you who have been in the yacht industry for twenty, thirty or forty years, would probably agree that the last twenty-five years have witnessed organisations, companies and individuals, imperfectly but deliberately, continuing to adopt higher standards of professionalism and overall practices. 

Additionally, there is a higher level of organisational collaboration today than there was just five years ago, while twenty years ago the word ‘collaboration’ would have been misspelled in any language.

Regarding professional education and training, comparing what is happening in 2018 to 1998, there is no question of the substantial advances made in those twenty years. Organisations have required higher, aka more, seafarer certification. Companies providing crew education and training have not only responded to requirements, they have also developed ways to explain the requirements to seafarers – which as a seafarer I can say this is immensely helpful. Additionally, management firms and others, have invested in higher relevant education for their staffs. 

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2017 ISS Gala Reception - photo credit Susan (Suki) Finnerty of YachtingToday.tv

While it will reasonably be argued that aspects of the regulatory changes may have been over-reaching and in respect to education investment, may have been under-reaching - there is clearly room for improvement. Still, the industry has made measurable advances in professional development of crew and other professionals. Professional education has been adopted for immediate effect and for long-term sustainability.

While our industry is achieving excellence at a number of levels, a reasonable person would acknowledge that there are areas that require improvement and would point to other areas that are barely touched opportunities to contribute in a higher way to our world’s sustainability. That means people and the environment. 

In the last twenty years, charitable investment in time, human resources and cash has grown substantially across all yacht industry sectors and by individual industry professionals. The last five years shows a near vertical curve. Those charitable investments include the environment, medical care for those in need, hunger prevention, youth development, local assistance to disenfranchised people and local assistance to others who have given for their countries and need help. Check out the results based organisation YachtAid Global and the future leaning REV environmental project as only two very important examples from the maritime perspective… both touching humanity ashore and afloat.

There are large yacht industry associations that provide a platform for their members to share ideas and lobby for what they believe is ‘right’. There is objective evidence of positive influence by associations like the Professional Yachting Association, Superyacht Builders Association, US Superyacht Association - to name just three - doing important work relevant to us all, regardless of boarders.

Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY), an international organization, has provided a platform for non-seagoing yachting professionals to learn, share ideas and to influence company leaders towards a better direction. Media has also contributed to professional understanding that helps with influencing for best practices worldwide. 

Bringing professionals from all sectors of the industry together sharing ideas, influencing regulatory decisions and encouraging professional excellence through education and recognition is the backbone of the International Superyacht Society. There are over thirty nationalities in all industry sectors represented in ISS membership. There is an obligation to represent their ideals and interests with concrete action. 

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Assisting at the ISS Awards Gala 2017 - Stephanie Pittington of Ice Marine and Amy Knowles of Zeidel & Co (both YPY members), and ISS member Ashling Schiffelbian (Student and Former Yacht Crew Stewardess).

For the International Superyacht Society, 2018 has determined a number of managerial and results-based objectives – at least two of these objectives that are of immediate interest to the industry. One objective is that the Executive Committee and Board of Directors decided to provide other associations with tangible support where it is helpful to their important goals being mutual to ISS goals. The other objective is how to accelerate the Society’s role in education. The Education Committee has been given resources, autonomy and authority to take on educational projects that are challenging and at a higher rate than previous years. 

Overall, the yacht industry is doing important things and like any organisation, company or individual, the industry has the opportunity to build on the successes while avoiding past missteps. Not the only, but one way to ensure sustainable success in doing these important things, is for associations and companies to band together on these mutually important issues. Collaboration is a word; real collaboration takes determination, patience… humour helps. 

Last but First - the owners of yachts. Often, they take their life’s work and turn to our industry to provide them with the best results possible for their families’ safety and privacy in off-time - something every person hopes for. While providing a positive ‘life experience’ is key, yacht owners also expect that industry professionals are doing business in an appropriate and sustainable manner. 

The industry must develop practical solutions. This includes the development of mentoring and education processes while encouraging current and future professionals ashore and afloat. All sector organisations and companies can participate in this activity by way of investment and providing opportunities. 

To summarise, organisations, associations, companies and individuals can come together to focus on matters of mutual importance. Reach higher. 

As always, it is your choice on how to accomplish this. 

It is work, but it is joyful work. 

AJ Anderson

ISS Mission Statement

Our Mission is to Ensure Sustainability & Excellence in the Global Yachting Industry. 

ISS was founded in 1989 and represents the large yacht industry. Our mission is delivered by building alliances worldwide with regional and functional associations; to serve as a communications conduit for issues affecting the marketplace, owners, crew and industry members; and to recognise achievement as well as provide educational opportunities and networking events.

The organisation is member driven and reliant on the volunteer work of Board and regular members supported by our marketing and administrative staff. Our funding comes from our members and sponsors which in turn enables the ISS to work on initiatives that benefit the large yacht industry as a whole.

Become a Member of ISS!

If you would like to join us at ISS, please visit our membership signup page and complete your details.

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