Yacht management explained

Yacht management explained


A yacht is so much more than a rather expensive floating asset. The shiny investment comes with a whole lot of responsibility. Superyachts are essentially businesses, becoming increasingly elaborate and time-consuming, demanding a diverse team with varying skills and experiences.

Modern yachting requirements, paired with the complexities associated with global operations can be overwhelming. Evolving captains have realized that they are not the only one with the perspective to meet the owner’s needs. Why go at it alone? Outsourced yacht management provides access to a wider set of expertise than is possible to have in a crew. With various approaches to yacht management, the consistent key to success remains unwavering focus towards the clients’ best interests.

What is a yacht management company?

Envision a triangle; the three points representing the yacht owner, the yacht management company and the yacht captain/crew. Always functioning at the top, the yacht owner will determine the hierarchical dynamic between the shore-based management company and crew. A yacht management company can be a valuable partnership between the vessel, the owner, and the captain. Providing a fresh outside perspective, the management company should enhance efficiency and improve the overall guest experience. The team of experienced professionals offer support, by providing complementary knowledge, advice, resources and solutions. Not only reducing stress, a yacht management company also mitigates both financial and legal risk. Depending on the vessel’s requirements, most companies will tailor their services to management needs. Typically, the shore-based mechanism supports yacht operations with respect to accounts, technical interventions and compliance with legislative requirements.

What is yacht self-management?

Simply put, self-management is the scenario whereby the captain works directly with the owner and/or their team for all aspects of the yacht’s operation. Self-managed yachts will vary depending on the amount of detail the owner requires and how particular the captain is. Back in the day, this was the original form of yacht operations. However, with tonnage and regulatory intricacy increasing, there is a point where this model reaches a limit. Not to say it isn’t possible, however, strong caution must be exercised with this management method. Realistically, this approach is probably only an option for small or very mature operations. If engaged, a recommended external operations/management audit (above normal compliance) should be undertaken annually.

Why the need for a yacht management company?

The ownership and operation of a yacht gives rise to a number of legal, fiscal, financial, technical issues and contractual relationships. All of which require careful planning and consideration. A luxury yacht is an increasingly complex business that could land you in hot water should important responsibilities be overlooked. Not a legal requirement, but a yacht management company will take care of the headaches that come with owning a luxury yacht. Some of the hassles include safety, crew, maintenance, insurance, audits, class, flag regulation, compliance and… the list is never ending when it comes to maintaining and running a superyacht. That’s why a management solution is worth considering, taking care of the million and one tasks occurring behind the scenes on a daily basis.

What is a Flag and how do yachts decide on a Flag?

This is probably one of the most important decisions a yacht owner will have to make. Not simply a matter of patriotism or aesthetics, the flag state will dictate the law of the land, or sea in this matter. Defined, the flag state is the country or governmental entity under whose laws a vessel is registered or licensed. The chosen flag will directly impact the vessel’s privacy, taxes, exposure to liability, boarding, and overall commercial success.

The owner could choose country of residence, however the more popular choice in the superyacht world tends to be an offshore flagging. The offshore ship registry involves selecting a country whose laws are attuned to the complexities of ownership and charter operations. A good starting point is determining Good vs Bad Flags. Good flags will be on the White List maintained by the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU). Flags on this list excel in the areas of safety, security and environmental protection. As a result, they aren’t on the radar which means fewer inspections from the port officers. The Paris MoU also maintains Grey and Black Lists, where the risk of ship boarding and detentions is higher.

Not to be taken lightly, choosing a flag is a matter best undertaken under counsel of a maritime attorney. Sailing under a particular flag can be a complex decision that involves sound knowledge of international maritime law. The flag state is authorized to enforce regulations related to periodic inspection, certification, and pollution prevention. It will also determine the number of days per year that the vessel needs to berth in its place of residence.

What is Gross Tonnage?

Tonnage is an important topic in the maritime and yachting industry. Significant, because it forms the basis for numerous items, including safety regulations, manning scales, registration fees and port dues.

Initially used in reference to weight, nowadays it is a measure of the volume/size or cargo capacity of a vessel. An International Tonnage Certificate (ITC), issued by the flag administration, is necessary for vessel’s greater than 24m on international voyages. The certificate exhibits tonnage, length, breadth, and depth. For vessels below 24 meters, it is at the discretion of the flag administration whether to issue a comparable certificate or document, such as a Certificate of Tonnage or National Tonnage Certificate.

What services do yacht management companies provide?

Every owner is different and has different requirements, so the management company often offers bespoke services. Typically, yacht management duties may include:

  • Liaising: This ranges from shipyards to designers and brokers.
  • Updating documents: The company ensures legal, regulatory, technical, and financial aspects are current. In the long run, this can save valuable time and unnecessary expense.
  • Yacht registration: Often, the superyacht management company advises on the implications that location has on the yacht’s commercial success and finances.
  • Accountancy: This includes budgeting and reporting. A superyacht management company can provide a dedicated financial professional who understands the nuances of yachting.
  • Assisting with finding and employing crew: This lets your captain focus on his or her priority: the safe and smooth operation of the superyacht.
  • Identifying and securing berths.
  • Ensuring safety compliance: Certainty it meets international standards.
  • Planning and managing maintenance schedules: This includes full refits.
  • Assisting with insurance: For the yacht and crew.
  • Advising and/or managing charter operations.
What is a mini-ISM?

Nothing mini about this concept, the remarkable plan could mean the world of difference. Both a requirement of the MCA and Marshall Islands commercial yacht codes of practice, a mini-ISM aids to prevent disasters and impending lawsuits. Applicable to all yachts over 300 tons, the Safety Management System (SMS) should be relative to the vessel’s requirements. Many smaller yachts will also be liable in accordance to their flag.

A Mini-ISM consists of a simple plan to:

  • Check and maintain all the safety and critical equipment on board.
  • Train the crew for the more likely emergencies that yachts can have.
  • Familiarize new crew on safety awareness and duties as soon as they join.
  • Have checklists for hazardous events, such as bunkering and leaving harbor.
  • Encourage safety awareness.
  • Ensure that those who drive tenders, watercraft, or are charged with bridge watchkeeping really are qualified and know the idiosyncrasies of the equipment they are operating.
  • Document what you do and plan to do, ensuring bases are covered ahead of an investigation.
What is a yacht/fleet manager?

A yacht/fleet manager is the primary point of contact for yacht owners to report the essentials. They are in charge of significant decisions and the overall functioning of the yacht. The following attributes and skills are vital for a yacht/fleet manage,

  • Team player
  • Good leader
  • Multi-tasker
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Solid experience in the field, ideally either a chief engineer, chief officer or a master mariner.
  • Acquainted with ISM, ISPS, Port State Control and SOLAS codes that cover safety measures and rules and regulations regarding marine vessels.
  • Well versed with the flag state laws and regulations.
Do fleets operate virtually?

2020 fast-tracked the shift from local to remote quicker than anyone would have anticipated. With the technological advancements available today, working remotely is not only easy, but also considered the “new normal” and with it comes endless opportunity. This is no different in the yachting industry. Over the last 10 years, yachting has come a long way, with an obvious shift towards a digital way of operating. Working on-board yachts, crew are now accustomed to virtual communications and technology bridging the gap between the vessel and shore-based parties.

Yachts have been operating virtually for quite some time, communicating through email, whatsapp and VSAT whilst cruising. Uniformity is key when it comes to fleet management. Secure programs like Dropbox and Google Drive ensure operations are safely speaking the same language. A virtual knowledge base also assists with accessibility and is great for sharing latest guest preferences, changes in SOP’s etc.

The pros and cons of working with a fleet?

Fleet yacht management embraces an integrated approach, combining a plethora of resources, which could boost revenue and productivity. Some of the pros and cons include,

Benefits

  • Resources: Replenishment of stock/supplies from nearby fleet.
  • Recruitment: Interchanging of crew, should a replacement be necessary, avoiding the lengthy recruitment process.
  • Support: The larger team means access to the expertise of other captains and senior crew members.
  • Emergencies: Nearby fleet could assist in the event of an emergency.

Disadvantages

  • Conflict: Different leadership and management styles may lead to conflict among captains and senior crew.
  • Decisions: Multiple personal preferences could result in delays.
  • Logistics: If fleet are not in close proximity.
  • Disgruntled crew: Insight to other work environments could result in job role comparison.
  • Loss of information: With so much communication occurring, some information tends to get a bit lost.
How can Virtual Pursers assist with yacht management?

Not a yacht management company; Virtual Pursers are an extension of your crew and act as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. The administrative pressures faced by yacht owners, captains, management companies, and even full-time Pursers, can be difficult to keep on top of. Virtual Pursers “get yachting” and understand that time is a precious commodity.

Fulfilling the role of a Purser, just virtually, the team perform a wide range of services, including; vessel and crew administration, accounting, logistics, provisioning, itinerary planning and guest concierge. With over twenty years combined experience, working for an impressive array of yachts all over the globe, the team of industry experts provide a specialized service built on the foundation of practical knowledge. To name drop, the team have worked with fleets such as M/Y Anastasia, M/Y Nirvana, M/Y Barbara, M/Y October, M/Y Tatoosh, M/Y Meduse, M/y Hampshire II. Offering remote assistance to superyachts just as ‘virtual’ becomes the standard, Virtual Pursers provide a bespoke shoreside solution with the mission to save time and alleviate stress.

With access to a skilled Purser, the benefits are far reaching and can also extend to establishing uniform operations for fleets, better preparing brokers for charter, or lending a helping hand to shipyards/marinas. No matter the size of the yacht or the extent of the need, as trusted yachting professionals, Virtual Pursers are readily available to support all vessels. Taking up no space on-board, a dedicated Purser without the overheads, Virtual Pursers are proud to offer the most cost-effective Purser solution on the market. This flexible approach is ideal for yachts that are fully crewed, have minimal space on-board, or who don’t necessarily require full-time support. Visit virtualpursers.com for more.

Maritime Administration

Cyber Security IMO Regulations

Cyber Security IMO Regulations

Maritime Administration
Ignorance is bliss? Not when it comes to Cyber Security.

Technology plays a critical role in our daily lives. Technological advancements are blisteringly fast compared to previous years, which is why it has become an urgent topic of discussion. In this digital era of ubiquitous computing, organizations without Cyber Security are at risk. Land, air, water and cyber; it’s recognised as the fourth ground for nation-states. 

As the drive towards digital transformation continues to ceaselessly gather momentum, industries need to reassess their security strategies. By not properly protecting the attack surface, private and public sectors leave themselves exposed to possible breaches.

What is Cyber Security Management and why is it so important?

In short, all connected digital systems are prone to cyber-attacks. Expanding networking capabilities to all corners of our lives can make us more efficient, but more susceptible. 2020 catapulted industries online, with cyber security becoming a top priority for businesses. The pandemic has effectively become a catalyst for cyber security threats to rise exponentially, with all sectors being vulnerable. Connecting to the internet also means connecting to potential cyber threats. Attackers are always on the prowl to compromise systems. Generally, hackers are motivated by financial gain via corporate espionage or by acquiring personal data. Not having “top secret type government information” or “lifestyles of the rich and famous” does not make one untouchable.

Maritime Cyber Security Risk

While the threat is very real, the yachting industry has been quite lackadaisical until recently. Reality is – the fancier the yacht, the greater the risk. Adding complexities to ensure an immersive, bespoke experience, has resulted in modern superyachts closely resembling an enterprise-grade network. Vessels are more connected than ever before. Despite the cutting-edge technologies to allow for reliability, efficiency, and safety, cyber security seems to have fallen by the wayside. A breach is troubling in any business; however, consequences could be far more serious in the maritime environment. Don’t assume to know what hackers want. Money may not be the only motive, terrorism is a scary reality. “A successful breach of a vessel’s control systems can potential grant the assailant the ability to take control of bridge systems and control the vessel’s operational functions from anywhere in the world, in real time”, Super Yacht News

IMO Cyber Security Regulations

“When we talk about cyber security, it is not a matter of if you will be attacked but when. In order to deal with that, you should have a risk management approach on it and this what the IMO is introducing.” Mr. Chronis Kapalidis, Cyber Expert, HudsonAnalytix

Because of the ever-rising threat of an inevitable attack, the IMO has put cyber security regulations in place for compliance by 2021. The MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3 guidelines enforce a mechanism for dealing with risk rather than listing controls that should be implemented. Not reinventing the wheel, the IMO decided to build off established international frameworks for cyber risk management, adopting five functions that represent a holistic approach to cyber risk management: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover. By taking this functional approach, captains and security officials have the flexibility to use their discretion to tailor a program that effectively meets the requirements of their vessel without becoming excessively onerous.

NIST Cyber Security Framework

Not industry or size specific, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (“CSF”) is a useful benchmark which the maritime industry can refer to when developing internal regulations and standards.

The CSF features five core functions,

  • Identify: Define personnel roles and responsibilities for cyber risk management and identify the systems, assets, data and capabilities that, when disrupted, pose risks to ship operations.
  • Protect: Implement risk control processes and measures, and contingency planning to protect against a cyber-event and ensure continuity of shipping operations.
  • Detect: Develop and implement activities necessary to detect a cyber event in a timely manner.
  • Respond: Develop and implement activities and plans to provide resilience and to restore systems necessary for shipping operations or services impaired due to a cyber-event.
  • Recover: Identify measures to back-up and restore cyber systems necessary for shipping operations impacted by a cyber-event.

Is your vessel ready for IMO’s Cyber Security compliance?

“It’s been decided that no later than the annual verification of each company’s Document of Compliance, the 1st of January 2021, all shipping companies will be mandated to ensure that cyber risks are appropriately addressed in existing safety management systems (as defined in the ISM Code)”, Pelion Consulting

With a strong background in the yachting sector, Virtual Pursers recommend Pelion Consulting to ensure Safety Management Systems are updated and ready for audit after the deadline date.

Maritime Administration

Virtual Pursers are not a yacht management company; we are an extension of your crew and act as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. As trusted yachting professionals with 20 years combined industry experience, we are here to help as well as to keep you informed on relevant industry related news and updates! For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.

Recruitment

What is ISM?

What is ISM?

Recruitment

The History of ISM

Otherwise known as International Safety Management, the ISM code has been integral to the SOLAS convention since 1994. The regulation came about due to investigations into accidents revealing errors on the part of management. It all started in 1987 when the Maritime Safety Committee developed guidelines concerning shore-based management to ensure the safe operation of ro-ro passenger ferries.

From July 1998, compliance became mandatory to all commercially operated vessels of 500 GT and above, including commercial yachts.

The Purpose of ISM

Safety of personnel and protecting the ocean remain the marine industries top concerns. The purpose of ISM is to ensure and maintain an international standard of safety for seafarers and prevention of pollution. Providing universal guidelines for the safe management and operation of ships at sea, the ISM is a common platform across all nationalities. This safety protocol eliminates discrepancies ensuring all vessels adhere to global mandatory regulations.

Safety Management System (SMS) & the Designated Person Ashore (DPA)

To effectively implement safety policies as set out by the ISM, “the Company” must establish a SMS for the vessel. Of which, a copy of the SMS must be readily available on-board. Detailing all the important policies, practices, and procedures, the SMS ensures compliance with the mandatory safety regulations recommended by the IMO and concerned maritime organizations. Yacht management companies should develop, implement and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS). Every company is expected “to designate a person or persons ashore having direct access to the highest level of management” in order to provide a link between “the Company” and those on board.

ISM Code particularly requires that the SMS incorporate the following

  • A safety and environmental protection policy;
  • Instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships and protection of the environment in compliance with relevant international and flag state legislation;
  • Defined levels of authority and lines of communication between and among shore and shipboard personnel;
  • Procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformity with the provisions of the Code;
  • Procedures to prepare for and respond to emergency situations; and
  • Procedures for internal audits and management reviews.
Document of Compliance (DOC)

When the Company is verified for complying with the ISM Code, they will receive a Document of Compliance (DOC). Valid for a period of five years, the DOC is subject to annual verification within three months before or after the anniversary date confirming the approved SMS.

Safety Management Certificate (SMC)

For a DOC, the company’s ships must first receive their SMC. A SMC verifies that the Company and its shipboard management are operating in accordance with the approved SMS. The certificate issued to an individual ship has a validity period of five years.

An internal and external audit determines the issue of both the DOC and SMC. The company and ships carry out the internal audits, whereas, every 2-3 years, the ships flag state performs the external audit. To qualify, a manual consisting of information, records, reports or statements, indicating implementation of SMS by the company and the ship is required. This manual serves as proof of evidence based on observations, measurements or tests made during the audit. Failure to uphold the requirements of the ISM code will result in non-conformity, posing as a serious threat and requiring immediate corrective action.

To find out more about the ISM Code check out the International Maritime Organization

Some think the ISM code is a best practice, but it’s a minimum standard. Although super yachts have been engineered to be highly safe boats. The most critical safety element is the crew! Working alongside yacht management companies, well trained crew are paramount to the safety of the boat and its occupants.

Virtual Pursers are not a yacht management company; we are an extension of your crew and act as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. As trusted yachting professionals with 20 years combined industry experience, we are here to help as well as to keep you informed on relevant industry related news and updates! For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.

The Role of a Purser

The Role of a Purser

Size means everything in the superyacht world. Although, the bigger the yacht, the more pertinent the role of a Purser. As yachts increase in size, so do the administrative pressures faced by Captains and their shoreside counterparts. This explains the significant growth the Yacht Purser job role has had over the past few years. Soon, the role of a Purser will hold the same weight as the more familiar yacht crew jobs. Without a Purser, the ever-increasing regulations and administrative workload could be detrimental to the proper functioning of the vessel.

What is a Yacht Purser?

The need for a Purser exists on larger yachts with the sole purpose to ensure seamless operations. Under the Captain’s direction, the Purser is essentially responsible for the effective and smooth running of the vessel. As a senior crew member, the Purser manages several areas, including HR, accounts, interior, purchasing, inventory, and legal aspects. The role of the Purser is to be the single point of contact for all department heads. A credible and qualified Purser should create uniformity and streamline administrative duties, making them an invaluable asset to the Yacht.

What does the role of a Purser entail?

Pursers generally have multiple essential and important duties. Some of these tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Finance – Takes ownership of all fiscal matters including accounting, budgeting and bookkeeping
  • Buyer – Purchases everything needed to cater for crew and guests including food, drinks, uniform, cleaning products and more
  • Contracts and Negotiation – Liaise with suppliers and distributors to ensure the yacht is provisioned
  • Crew Administration – Will administer payroll for the crew and oversees all crew immigration
  • Yacht Administration – Organise port clearances, logistics and customs.
  • Charter Administration – If the yacht is chartered this will incur further responsibilities
  • Guest Activities – Liaise with guests and crew to organise activities

Industry experience required to become a Purser?

Eloquent communication skills, sound industry knowledge, first-hand experience, and an eye for detail are absolute must-haves for a Purser. Since the role of a Purser revolves around paperwork, efficient and accurate administration and accounting skills goes without saying.  

Although the job requirements may differ per yacht, in a nutshell, a well-rounded Purser should encompass the following

  • At least five years’ experience in the superyacht industry
  • Corporate land-based experience
  • Exceptional service, communication, organizational, diplomacy, and delegation skills
  • Excellent computer skills – proficient in Microsoft Office and various accounting software
  • A good understanding of maritime law
  • ISM and ISPS protocols
  • Financial management
  • Knowledge of cruising areas, including restaurant suggestions, shoreside activities
  • Provisioning around the globe
  • Excellent knowledge of wines
  • STCW & PSA
  • ENG 1 Medical

On-board vs shoreside Purser

An on-board Purser is self-explanatory. Land-based Pursers do everything an on-board purser does, just in a remote capacity. There are many reasons why yachts choose to outsource their yacht administration and opt for a shoreside Purser

  • Space – Can’t accommodate a Purser on-board 
  • Cost-effective – A dedicated Purser without the overheads
  • Flexibility – Don’t require a permanent employee or prefer flexibility with hours  
  • Staff retention – The Purser you’ll never lose

What salary can you expect as a Purser?

For an established onboard Purser, with great responsibility, comes great reward. The role of a Purser oversees business critical functions, so it is fair to expect just compensation and time off. The salary is largely dependent on the size of the vessel, however tools such YPI can provide a more-or-less ballpark figure. As per Yachting Pages, “pay for a Purser can range from roughly €4,000 to upwards of €7,000 per month” and will most likely include rotation. Most commonly 2 months on two months off, requiring vessels to employ two Pursers to cover the one role.

How can the role of a Purser assist you?

A superyacht is essentially a business and as such should operate as one. Without a Purser, large yachts may struggle to function effectively, let alone maintain the high standard of service that on-board guests expect. The role of a Purser is established to assist the Captain and Chief Officer to alleviate the administrative duties, eliminating stress through saving time and effort. With twenty years combined experience, Virtual Pursers are industry experts who understand first-hand the ever-increasing administrative pressures faced by the maritime industry. Offering a flexible approach, Virtual Pursers are readily available to support all vessels, no matter the size of the yacht or the extent of the need, as well as other maritime professionals such as Yacht/Fleet Managers, Charter Brokers, Marinas/Shipyards. An ideal solution for yachts that are fully crewed, have minimal space on-board, or who don’t necessarily require full-time support. As well as yachts who have an established Purser, supporting shortfalls and as a temporary solution. Using Virtual Pursers guarantees continuity in a cost-effective manner, introducing the concept of “The Purser You’ll Never Lose”; retaining all the information and experience that comes with a great Purser, for years to come.

Q & A with co-founder of Virtual Pursers Bec McKeever

How did you become a Purser?

I came into yachting with a background in accounting, not planning to utilise my past life profession at all actually. My first yacht with the infamous M/Y Octopus, at 126m she is a beauty! I was instantly in awe with the Chief Stewardess & Purser but it wasn’t until a year or two into yachting that I started thinking about a career path and that I had the potential to climb the ranks. I was Chief Stew for a few years before Purser. Two very different roles but a lot of personal and professional development in the Chief Stew role, I believe, that really makes a positive difference to your ability in the Purser role.

Do you think you need yachting experience to be a Purser?

Yachting is so different to any other industry and experience within it lays a solid foundation, it’s the integral part of becoming a successful Purser.

What’s your favourite aspect of being a Purser?

Having my finger on the pulse and being able to orchestrate the logistics of the entire vessel. It’s so rewarding to see my plan come into action and be pulled together, especially when you have a bit of OCD.

Q & A with co-founder of Virtual Pursers Dominique Smit

Do you have to be a Chief Stew before you become a purser?

Even though it is a completely different role, it is recommended that you have some Chief Stew experience before you become a Purser. Not only will it give you a better sense of responsibility and leadership but it allows you to work closer with other department heads and gives you a better sense of how the different departments function together and the bigger picture of how the boat functions overall which is essential for the purser position.

Would you recommend doing a Purser course?

I would definitely recommend training for the role of Purser, background knowledge is essential and any additional training is always beneficial. However, do your research before you pick a course. Having a mentor to guide me through my career has been invaluable so if you do have anyone you trust, ask for their advice.

Was it always your goal to become a Purser?

I didn’t start yachting with the goal to become a Purser, I didn’t even know what a Purser was in the beginning! But as my career evolved, I started enjoying the constant challenges each new position brought and the Purser position is so stimulating and every day is different that I felt like it would be the perfect job for me.

Virtual Pursers trusted business model intends to revolutionize the yachting industry by providing an innovative, cost effective, practical shoreside solution. A dedicated Purser without the overheads. The Purser you’ll never lose. For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.