Summer 2021 in France (Edited).

Breaking the Deadlock: (No longer valid as of 17 May 2021)

While we were all concerned with the consequences of the new anchorage limits and regulations in French waters (Arrêté 123/2019 and its precisions per department), The COVID crisis has prepared a nice little bomb for us to deal with in the coming weeks.

Some of my colleagues may already be aware of l’arrêté PREMAR 238/2020 

Those who haven’t are in for a bad surprise if they have already planned French Riviera charters. Long story short: If you have a flag out of Shengen area, you are not allowed to anchor in French waters.

The reasons for that are quite puzzling as the same ships are allowed to enter ports where they have a firm booking, which creates more exposure for both crew and the public. It is also quite strange that a yacht coming from South Africa or Florida under a Shengen flag is allowed to anchor in France, while a yacht under, say Marshall island flag, which has been in France for the last 8 months, will be refused permission to anchor.

One can only hope that the authorities will sensibly alter those maritime measures as they relax other restrictions on shore, but obviously we cannot count too much on that. Hopefully ECPY, PYA and other bodies are already voicing our concerns on this issue.

If nothing changes, I fear the usual anchorages of Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, Cannes and St Tropez will be very quiet this summer. This is of course good news for any yacht with a Maltese or Portuguese flag at the stern.

What’s in a name?

Why “The VV team” ?

The name of our senior partner, Vivegnis, comes from “les Vi Vegnes” meaning “the old vines” in the Walloon language. Vivegnis is also a village on the outskirts of Liège where wine was produced in the renaissance period, on the North bank of the Meuse river where the sun was favorable and the soil was rich.

An old vine is the age of reason. The roots are deep. The crops are less in quantity, but so much richer in quality, more balanced. The wines express the terroir that nurtured them and its personality. One must take the time to appreciate them, for they have a tale to tell.

At The V.V. team, that is our vision. We take stock of a long past in order to help shape a strong, enjoyable and reliable future. We dedicate ourselves to the evolution of the marine and yachting sector in the light of the best if its history and tradition

Our motto, Ex Vineis Veteribus (from the old vines), confirms that vision.
Our logo represents two old vines protecting the old anchor of our maritime past.
(That is actually the anchor from China, but thereby hangs another tale)

Cyber Security vs Cyber Safety?

Breaking the Deadlock:

When Cyber Security regulations came on the floor, I couldn’t help wondering which industry stakeholder had put enough pressure on IMO for something like that to happen, but mostly, for it to happen so fast and so poorly defined.

Let’s look at it from a functional point of view. Cyber security is a very ship specific concept. Within a company operating possibly many, potentially different ships, the requirement that cyber issues are addressed in the company SMS cannot mean more than some vague statement that individual ships have been assessed and made compliant in a ship specific way. That brings me to the first quandary: How can a “security” aspect, something intrinsically confidential, be handled in the company SMS? The SMS should be the most openly and widely published document in any company. Doesn’t Cyber Security rather belong in individual ship’s SSP’s ?

With that question in the air, there is the other aspect. What do we mean with “Cyber Security”? In our luxury yacht industry, people promptly jumped to data protection and the confidentiality of owners and guests. The concentration was always on malignant activities, while the focus of the rules, in my opinion are rather on the prevention of accidental events. Where malignant events are concerned, the fact that the regulations have been put under ISM rather than ISPS should be an indication that they are still concerned with the safe operation of the ship rather than data theft or its use for criminal activities.

In a recent video pitch, Matthew Roberts of Riela Yachts very smartly used the term “Cyber Safety”, and the whole speech was very much in the same line of thoughts. Have a listen as it is quite insightful:

A few months ago, I had a discussion with a friend about Motor Yacht VENUS and her bridge visibility. The opposing argument was that all is computer driven and the captain just walks about on deck with a little interface device and steers the boat from anywhere. The thought of all that can go wrong there plain frightens me. Must be me being old school, but then again…

… Most people in our industry are aware of the very recent incident with MY GO in Sint Maarten, The first indications, as commented on by captain Johnson himself, are that a heavily computer based system suddenly decided to take maneuvering in its own hands. This is no “Speed 2” material, nor any malignant attack. Your computer at home does crash or act up once in a blue moon. In a bridge controlled by 14 computers, unexpected things will happen. It’s not a question of if, but just of when.

Would this be what Cyber Safety is all about, rather than cloak and dagger hacker stuff?

I’d be curious to have the industry’s operational staff honest opinion on the whole deal.

(c) GO picture from Superyacht News, the others from google.

Assessment of a ship for conversion.

Let’s assume a prospective yacht owner has gone through all the analytical steps to decide on a yacht conversion objective.
(see our article on the subject).
The next move would be to start viewing conversion objects. At that stage, decisions may have to be made fast. The boat may be coming for auction, or appear to be in high demand, or simply the buyer is in a go-do-it-done mood.

There are countless details that will be critical at some point during the conversion works. Designers, architects and project managers will be able to analyse the plans with class and flag, and make decisions about those doubts… or could it already be too late by then?

Let’s look at the “model of operation” options in turn, with a few examples of critical points. The older the original certification of the boat, the more intricate the gap analysis will be. That is even assuming the boat has class and certification still in place.

  1. Private or commercial?

At first sight, it may appear that a private yacht is a way easier goal to achieve than a commercial one, however there are caveats. Many of the recognized yacht flag codes strongly advise private yachts to comply. While not an obligation, one must realise that the insurance, for instance, may consider non-compliance as a reason for weighty penalties. In case of serious accident that could be attributed to the “non-compliance”, there will be a lot of explaining to do, and it could really not be enough to avoid litigation and more penalties.

There are also flags out there that will simply not consider any ship above 24m as private. The ship will be inspected as per SOLAS, period. Those flags that do not have a yacht code but will allow registration of private yachts without certification will probably restrict the yacht’s liberty of movement and acceptability in mainstream ports.

Aside of all this, the main reason to have the yacht coded is resale value.

Some examples of points to look at:

  • Tonnage change due to conversion, particularly if the vessel is close to a threshold GT.
  • Load line items like doors and sill heights, freeing ports, ports and windows, vents, hull openings, to mention a few.
  • Structural items (We have seen quite a few large ships with a non-compliant collision bulkhead for instance.
  • Fire protection, structural as well as functional.
  • MARPOL status and all tank related issues.
  • Lifesaving appliances and all “applying to all ships” SOLAS regulations.

Instinctively, one would chose to stay with the current classification society of the vessel, but sometimes, societies are more amenable than others to look at exemptions or interpretations. Again, there are choices flowing out from elements discovered at the first visit.

Many safety aspects have to be already envisioned at this stage
  • Yacht or “passenger”

For most flags, any ship carrying more than 12 paying guests is a passenger ship. Below that, a ship falls under the “general cargo ship” rules. It is also true for yachts. Under flags that have a dedicated yacht code, those statuses go with the systematic acceptance of some exemptions and some degree of flexibility.

The conversion from anything towards a passenger yacht or ship is always a challenge and happens at considerable cost. The main differences are in life saving appliances (firm requirement for life boats and davit launched rafts), fire protection (both structural and equipment), electrical sources and lighting, but also some perverse issues such as corridor and stairway width that also apply in crew areas.

Consequently, any vessel that has a current passenger ship certification should be critically looked at with the options to maintain the notation, and the status of equipment that she has. Typical example is a ship with open life boats and hand launched life rafts (pre 1998) could be allowed to keep them (in our business for ease of installation and aesthetic arguments.)

FUNCHAL, one of the more exotic candidates for a conversion.
  • Passenger yacht or ship?

If a vessel has been coded as a passenger yacht, depending on the number and nature of the exemptions granted, keeping the “passenger” status under another flag may be impossible without another major conversion. On the other hand, a passenger ship equipped for more than 36 passengers may well get advantage from going below that 36 guests limit to allow some flexibility in the configuration and equipment of the final product.

Even if the owner wants to be able to host commercial events with over 36 guests, there are options, with “class C” under European flag, and on the base of risk assessment under most yacht code flags.

  • Conclusion

We should assume that the prospective owner of a boat has an idea of the plan when attending or commissioning the first visit of a vessel.

Any vessel is potentially subject to several conventions: Tonnage, Load lines, SOLAS, MARPOL and more recently MLC. Each of these can be applicable or not depending on the size, intended use, and chosen flag. These conventions create the obligation or not to follow several codes: LSA, FSS, FTC, Stability, just to name a few. Those codes and conventions keep evolving with time and the number of elements to be considered is impressive.

While brokers and many yacht surveyors are suitably versed in the main elements, it takes a long experience of facing issues during conversion to be able to make an instant gap analysis during a visit that will typically last a day or less. Naval architects and yard managers will also have the information, but could lack the understanding of how a yacht operates in real life to satisfy guests. Let’s be fair, this is not their core business.

With time short and the risk of losing a bargain if a decision is not made fast, how do you approach that important first visit ? Keep in mind that with most projects, the cost of the refit will be way above the current value of the asset. The decisions made at this point must be based more on the future yacht potential than on the condition of the vessel as surveyed.

After purchase, if this step has failed, the same exercise still has to be made, but now, with less options. In case of problems, it’s either change the model, or swallow the extra costs.

(c) pictures from, KHMB Design,

Solving the Boat Equation

Breaking the Deadlock

A boat, any boat, is always a compromise. I have showed recently how that affects classics of similar length such as The Krupp yacht “Reveler” and the US built “Delphine”

Within the last few weeks of this year 2020, two vessels have been presented to the press with extensive details and comments: The explorer yacht “Shinkai”, by Feadship, and the light and fast under 500GT yacht “Phi”, by Royal Huisman.

Both yachts are around 55m, and interestingly “Phi” at 58,5m is reported to be the longest yacht under 500GT. On the other hand, “Shinkai” at 54,9m is still a long range explorer good for 5500 miles at 12 knots. To achieve that, she is able to cram an impressive 140000 litres of fuel in her 974GT volume.

With probably much less fuel and a top speed of 22 knots, “Phi” does not have that kind of range, and also does not really need it. Indeed, to achieve the small tonnage, most of the social spaces are inside/outside areas protected by cleverly designed fashion plates. That kind of restricts the use of the yacht to warmer climates and friendly seas.

Over her four plus decks, “Shinkai” achieves not only the habitable volume and tankage, but also carries an impressive collection of toys including a 3-man submarine and large limo tender.

Both yacht can carry 12 guests, and 11 or 12 crew to proverbially ensure a relaxed luxury yacht experience. Interestingly, both yachts reportedly will use gyro stabilisation, albeit in different variants.

This pair of yachts shows how two experienced owners can achieve two completely different results of the boat equation within the same size category.

As usual, we are quite impatient to discover more, and particularly GA plans to see how all that fits together. This quick introduction, though, should give food for thoughts to any potential yacht owner who would not have the previous experience to know exactly what they want.

(c) Pictures “Royal Huisman” and “Vitruvius”… and “Navsource,org”

How independent are your internal audits?

Breaking the Deadlock:

In our yachting world, we pride ourselves in our short communication lines, optimised collaboration at all levels and utmost reactivity. To achieve that, operators work in very tight-knit communities where everybody, in theory, knows what everybody else is doing.

That could create a challenge in terms of independence of auditors, but the code recognizes that challenge and words it. 

12.5 Personnel carrying out audits should be independent of the areas being audited unless this is impracticable due to the size and the nature of the Company. 

In a very large corporation, operational departments run production based on their own procedures and work instructions. At regular intervals, auditors come from the upper storeys of a tower in a big city and examine the situation on the work floor. They are arguably independent. They may have participated in the creation of general management systems under which the work place operates, but did not write the work instructions.

In a small shipping company, however, the situation is very different. The DPA and auditors often are very close to, or even the same as, the operational managers. They have often written the whole system under which the ships operate, very likely down to the working instructions. When they are on board for an audit, does it feel like an independent scrutiny, or more like a review of the processes they manage on a daily base? Is it unreasonable to assume that while performing an audit, if they find a failing, they will very likely rather question the people than challenge their own system?

Guidance 41 of IACS for auditors of the ISM code does recognise such a challenge, and addresses it particularly in the appendix on “captain owners”. IACS formally recommends third party internal audits in those cases.

Let’s look at various aspects of an audit that would benefit from third party audits.

  1. the experience of the auditors.

Granted, most DPA’s today have followed some formal training, and they probably have sailing experience, albeit not necessarily in the same branch of the industry, possibly even in a navy. Given that one does not want to burden the ships unnecessarily, the audits would typically be one per ship per year. At the end of the day, your typical auditor’s experience would be anything from two to ten audits a year, while the rest of the time, they polish the system or manage operations, being closely involved in the very processes they “independently” audit.

2. An audit or a survey?

Given the lack of experience, companies often give a preset plan or a check list for the auditor to fill in. A very commonly seen drawback of this is that the less experienced auditor will stick to it to perform a good job. Once a deficiency or shortcoming is observed, it is recorded and one moves on. To be clear, the existence of a deficiency is not in itself a non-conformity. There is a possibility that the deficiency is known, recorded and handled to satisfaction. If not, then the non-conformity is not the deficiency itself, but a failing in a system that allowed it to exist. The auditor should not rest before that failing is identified.

This is an internal process that should go way deeper than during an external audit. The time allotted for internal audits, and their subsequent analysis at head office level is generally too short.

(The existence or not of a non-conformity and its handling is the subject of its own, up-coming article)

3. motivation.

Clearly, the objective of the code is continuous improvement. In small organisations, it can be clouded by the motivation to show that the system works. Many people in management still have the credo that the system works well if no non-conformities are raised. I could not agree less. When I was auditing companies on behalf of the RO/flag, one of my KPI’s was the relation between near misses, internal non-conformities, and findings from external audits. In many cases, the external audits raised more findings than all internal processes together. Does that seem logical? How can one man, coming from outside, not knowing your system and learning as he goes, suddenly discover in one day more improvement information than what your own DPA department has raised over one year with its intimate knowledge of the working of the company?

4. …or the lack of it

I have lived that scenario many times: the audit goes on, notes are taken, then there is the closing meeting. The auditor reviews his notes with the captain or head of department ashore, lists his findings, then chooses the one or the few worth writing about. The others are supposedly in good hands, I trust you to handle it, there is no time to fill in 10 forms… for whichever reason, most of the improvement information is lost. In addition, the auditor may be sympathetic to the ship’s staff, and not willing to impose too much on their time as they have to remain in good working terms.

5. A fresh look.

As a DPA, I have had to argue with some operational managers on the theme of having known, trusted, close to home external auditors each time, rather than letting the RO use their local staff. My view was that using auditors without a previous knowledge of our system would increase the chance of improvement information being identified. I do believe that it can also help in the scope of internal audits. There is also the chance that, when the auditee is stuck with an issue, an internal auditor will feed the auditee answers. At that point, an external auditor would have to work with the auditee to figure out the answers from available documentation, and coach them at the same time.

In Conclusion:

To sum up the advantages of using a carefully chosen third party auditor for your internal audits, you would have an experienced auditor, performing a real audit without interference from in house objectives and agenda’s, allowing the management to learn as much as possible from the working of their operations without the stress of the penalties potentially associated with external audits.

Bonus points kick in when that auditor has R.O. external audit experience, is given time to process the collected information into a constructive report, and possibly coaches the company DPA staff if they stand in during the audits.

That solution also helps the quandary of “who watches the watchers?”.
The Crew and Systems department of your company also needs internal auditing. Who does that, again, with experience and independence?

(images from Safety4sea, ABS, SEATAM, ClassNK)

Benchmarking for Green Yachting.

For the last decade and more, the IACS classification societies have offered ship owners the optional possibility to get a “clean” ship notation. That goes in steps from operational equipment, over to design, recycling and eventually also operations.

While this notation was mainly a marketing tool in the early days, the advent of IMO tier III, ballast water convention and more recently the sulfur cap have slowly merged the additional notations with standard practices, leaving still many voluntary options open.

In the yachting, there has been a more recent trend to try and improve the image of our industry in the field of environmental awareness too. Some owners are truly committed to help make a cleaner world. Others, maybe, just want to avoid being branded as the ugly villain from the movies, polluting regardless of consequences.

The public could argue that the best thing to do, then, would be not to own a huge vehicle that serves a purely selfish purpose. The industry has already demonstrated that this argument is far from valid, considering the positive economic impact of large yachts.

Several project and even existing yachts go a long way to reduce footprint. But how far do you go, and how efficient can that be. “Meten is Weten” (measuring is knowing)

Last year, the media officially launched the “Water Revolution Foundation”. The non-profit organisation had already been around for a few months and has several goals, all connected to helping reduce the environmental impact of luxury yachting. They have produced an “assessment tool” that should help owners, designers and operators to asses, control and if possible reduce the impact of a vessel through its complete life cycle.

Last week, The Yacht Club de Monaco held a series of events that would normally have been part of the Monaco Yacht Show. Next to Covid related subjects, we saw a press conference for the launch of “Superyacht Eco Association (SEA) Index, the first benchmark for yachts in terms of environmental performance”.

Water Revolution is mainly based in the Netherlands and started with highly specialised scientific as well as industry players. It is backed by some of the largest yards, designers and media organisms in Northern Europe. The SEA, reportedly backed by YCM, Credit Suisse and Nobiskrug, has not published much in mainstream media. From the launch presentation, we gather that they are adapting the IMO energy efficiency design index (EEDI) calculations to luxury yachts. That is a more limited approach, considering mainly carbon emissions in operation. The goal being to promote designs that will result in a yacht operating with the lowest possible emissions. In any case, the availability of another option to assess and benchmark a yacht’s eco performance must be a good thing. Both benchmarks can probably happily work together.

To quote Bernard d’Alessandri, secretary general of the YCM:
“Raising awareness is no longer enough – time now for action and solutions!”.

For more info:

Images from:
Groupe Sinot / Lateral Naval Architects
Superyacht Times
Dennis Ingemansson Design

Becoming a yacht captain.

For those contemplating a career on yachts, there is a nice summary on “becoming the captain” given by superyachtyachtcaptain on youtube. It describes one possible route for a UK citizen, or anyone following the MCA system. Other countries have equivalent systems to grow from the ranks and become an officer, and ultimately a captain or chief engineer.

The MCA was very early to recognize that yachting was becoming a serious industry rather than a pleasure activity. They created specific codes for ships and crew certification. That crew route, however, was mainly designed to allow those who were already in the industry to grow and keep their rightful place in officer positions.

I have been a yacht captain for over eight years now and I have seen a lot of new crew joining my ships. Some of them were the old fashion backpackers out for a quick buck and fun before they engaged in a “real” job, some needed the money to move on in a career or in their studies, there have been many different circumstances.

Many of my young crew, however, do consider pursuing a career on yachts and more generally at sea. Most come from a social environment that would allow college studies. Hearing them talk makes me think of myself at the same age: not from a maritime background, born and bred far inshore but with a passion for ships and the sea.

So in a few quick sentences, what is the difference between the “yacht” route and the “commercial” education?

(c) HZS

AGAINST maritime college

  1. You loose at least two years of income. College does not pay and the curriculum in most maritime countries is two to four years.
  2. You’ll start dockwalking aged 20 or more, and possibly with less patience considering your level of education.
  3. To fulfill the sea time requirements of your unlimited licenses, you will be limited in your choice of yacht (commercial above 500 tons etc…) and may even have to do a stint on a cargo ship or supply tug, you name it.
  4. You’d be hired as a midshipman on a cargo or passenger ship, but probably still as a deck or engine hand on a yacht.

FOR maritime college

  1. You are really “unlimited”, not only in tonnage, but in the type of ship you sail on.
  2. Get fed up with yachting? you can find a good, well paid, truly rotational job close to home and family (ferries, towage, offshore industry etc…) 
  3. Your license is endorsable by most IMO flags. National “yacht” licenses are sometimes hard to get endorsed by other flags, particularly out of the MCA system.
  4. You want to step ashore? Some jobs will just specify “college education”. The argument is not whether it is justified or not, it is a simple fact nobody can ignore.

So there we are. I do hear influencers out there saying that nobody needs college education to “make It”. True enough, but it never hurts to have more in your pocket.

Another thing many people in our modern and functional world chose to forget is this: Any college education allows you to test and prove that you are able to concentrate on, and understand, complicated matters that are, at the time, apparently totally useless to you. That is an extraordinary skill too much underrated in these days of pure functionality.

I hear and read a lot about mentoring in our industry today. I can only urge all my colleagues who “mentor” newcomers to keep the college alternative in mind, and make their mentorees aware of all options available in their particular circumstances, and the long term consequences.

Building the “Pit”

The Primaat, from the drawing board of e.g. van de Stadt, is a light and very nimble cruiser. I have been sailing one in the nineties and used to say that she could sail on the memory of a wind.

I have recently failed to secure a nice light second hand gaff cutter on the market. To replace that, I was drawn to the idea of taking a Primaat hull and modify her to give her that last century look, and hopefully feel at the helm.

The first step has been taken. A hull has been purchased and arrived at our shed in Wolphaartsdijk.

In the meantime, decisions have to be made regarding sail area and centres. Rigging must be planned before we start on the deck and coachroof.

We have decided to go for a significant increase in main sail area, as a smaller sail would not look good. That means that we could end up sailing a lot on a very deep first reef, but we’ll have even more power in very light airs than she already had.

The fore triangle centre moves forward thanks to the bumpkin. Its area is also increased from the original plain sail plan. The final balance will have to be judged at trials, but looks all right so far. We always have the option to add a small skeg before the rudder. That was done on two small cruisers that we studied in the past years during the development of prototypes.

MORE COMING, in due time.