Malcolm Jacotine

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So far Malcolm Jacotine has created 5 blog entries.

Crew Rotation In the Superyacht Industry – Part I

Although commercial shipping has rotated crew for many years, it is a recent phenomenon in the superyacht industry. It started to become a reality on yachts first with engineers, and then on the larger yachts where manning regulations required officers with STCW qualifications.

When rotation first started is a little unclear; it was certainly in use in the late 70’s when I was with BP Shipping – though it only applied to deck and engineering officers. However, what was clear, that it was not born out of regulation, but driven by market forces and a recognition that to attract and keep the right people they had to offer a better work/life balance. Today, these very same reasons are relevant to yachting.

So, in our latest post, we are going to take a dive into rotation and, due to its importance to many captains, their families and yacht owners, we will break it down into two parts and focus on the whys, how’s and the impact this fundamental employment change has had on the yachting community.

This week in Part I, Brendan is writing of his own employment journey to supply some context, then next week in Part II, Malcolm will take a deeper look at the pros and cons and how you might present the idea to a yacht owner using a worked example.

Brendan

I entered yachting when contracts and structured leave were rare to the point of not known. Leave was when it suited the yacht’s programme, often with little notice. Crew would scramble to make last minute arrangements when a window opened. With limited leave, weekends in port was our time to get away, explore and socialise, leaving the yacht to the care of a couple of watchkeepers. Regardless of age or relationship status, life revolved around the yacht and no alternate lives ashore were maintained.

This began to change for me in 2007 when I joined my first 100m+ yacht and realised there was no stopping a yacht of this scale. It needed crew every day to keep the show running and there were no more ‘weekends with a couple of watchkeepers’. I remember naively saying to the Heads of Departments we would shut the yacht down one weekend for everyone’s rest; they humoured me, said yes, but ignored the instruction and kept the yacht working the way it demanded.

Since that time, I have modelled many and various employment structures for yacht owners and their representatives. When I do these, I do not speak of rotation from a crew’s perspective, it is with consideration of the yacht owners needs and their investment. My point being that the yacht, the owner and guest experience should not suffer because of crew taking leave. I support this position with a crude calculation; add the finance cost of the yacht to the operating expenses and divide by 365 to gain the cost per day of the yacht’s existence. The number can be staggering and to think that you would intentionally stop the operation so the team can take days off does not show good value.

Further to this crude calculation, the owner is reminded that the beauty of yacht ownership is freedom and spontaneity. Rotation can allow that when a gap opens in their diary, they can escape to their yacht and enjoy the pleasure of being on the water with family and friends; something that is even more relevant today.

In one of the presentations the yacht owner agreed for senior crew without hesitation, saying, “but yes, they have families, and we want them to be focussed on us when they are here and not worried about when they can get home.” For junior crew there was a different perspective with the principal asking, “why do these crew want so much time away when they were young?” Weren’t these the years to earn money, travel and gain experience needed to progress?

Malcolm’s comment – the latter point I also heard from an owner. One 80m+ example lost several junior crew because of generous leave/rotation! The basic reasoning was it was expensive to spend so much time at home, all their friends were working so no one to hang out with, and it took far longer to gain the necessary sea time and experience to progress. Sometimes you cannot win!

Be careful what you wish for.

Since 2007 (outside of shipyard construction) I have been on equal time rotation. This is a Nirvana for many but, having defended the position to the owner that the yacht requires 365-day attendance from its captain and senior team to get rotation over the threshold, you are accountable to work accordingly.

So now, during a 2-3-month roster onboard, I tend to focus completely on the yacht and my days exploring the wonderful areas I sail through are a distant memory. Crew come and go in and procession of rotational changes and although bonds are still made perhaps, they are a little weaker? That said, when they return refreshed, the faces are familiar and they quickly adapt back to life onboard without missing a beat; ensuring operational readiness, a consistent service quality, better maintenance and safety.

It could be said that with better leave and rotation means the yacht is now the place we work; it is no longer the centre of our universe and the place where we also lived our lives!

Clearly this is a much healthier balance but, occasionally, I do look back on those time long ago in sepia, when spending 11-months of the year with the same tight crew created my most memorable experiences and learning opportunities. I am open in saying my memory is grander than the reality, it was unsustainable if I wanted any sort of normal life outside of yachting. I could not have raised a family without rotation and so today I am content with a few laps around the yacht at anchor or a quick morning run on the rare times in port. My days exploring are not lost, I now have the time and freedom to return to destinations in my own time and with my family, and that is incomparable.

Done right, better leave and rotation offer crew and yacht owners many benefits and, although there are added costs, carefully planned, they are not as high as might be imagined, and there are many advantages that cannot be measured purely in monetary terms that can add value to the yacht owning experience.

In Part II Malcolm’s deep dive is where you need to go to look to the tools that you might need when structuring your own rotational plans to a yacht owner, their representative or yacht manager. The strength of your case will depend not only of the financial model, but also the quality of your reasoning and supporting facts. Without a compelling case, the yacht owner or their representatives might be thinking “living the dream, sailing the seas, working half a year and still complaining?”

To be continued….

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By |2020-10-22T10:58:17+00:00October 22nd, 2020|captains, regulations, yachtowners|

COVD-19 Recommendations From the Healthy Sail Panel

It could be suggested there is too much information available on COVID-19 and the pandemic; including, an almost infinite number of articles and commentary on the internet, numerous Circulars and Guidance from the IMO and, publications from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) such as Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers (version 3.0 29th September 2020).

This excess of information can be confusing and, also as suggested in Tom Nichols book “The Death of Expertise” result in a tendency to trust in the internet to make us ‘experts’ in all manner of subjects and, resist or even ignore, advice from those with a deep understanding and experience of the subject matter, including COVID-19 – this can lead to poor outcomes.

With the absence of a collective response from the industry, it has been left to individual yacht management companies and/or captains and crew to wade through the mass of information, try to assess its quality and efficacy, and then develop and implement their own protocols and procedures in response to the virus. And, whilst some of these are well thought out and effective, others on deeper analysis, are perhaps like the ‘Swiss Cheese’ risk assessment analogy, have holes for the virus to pass through.

Recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel

So, it was a great relief to come across the “Recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel.” This is the first document I have seen from a related industry with a well-researched and holistic approach to the prevention, protection and mitigation of COVID-19, in an easy to follow format.

The Healthy Sail Panel is a collaboration between Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd who put together a panel of World leading experts to help inform and find a new pathway back to the “new normal” of sailing. The resulting research and recommendations are broken down into 5 key focus areas, with over 70 recommendations, many of which are applicable to yachting.

The key focus areas are: –

  1. Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  2. Sanitation and Ventilation
  3. Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
  4. Destination and Excursion Planning
  5. Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

It is well worth downloading and reading. I suggest you also follow up on some of the footnote references.

COVID testing is one of the subjects with references in the footnotes. Further reading clearly highlights the value of testing for screening and diagnosis but, like the use of electronic aids to navigation, you have to be aware of the limitations, errors and accuracy.

I was certainly confused by the various tests; Rapid Antigen, PCR, Antibody, etc., their effectiveness for screening, diagnosing present and past COVID infection. The US CDC footnote reference in the Healthy Sail Panel certainly helped my understanding, along with the infographic below – found on the Nature website in their article Fast coronavirus tests: what they can and can’t do.”

Courtesy: Nature Fast coronavirus tests: what they can and can’t do

It became clear that, amongst other factors, the timeline of infection has a big effect on the various tests and why caution is required – especially with the Rapid Antigen tests that may be used by yacht crew.

Indian Ocean and Caribbean Passage

As many yachts and crew are readying themselves for passages to the Caribbean, Indian Ocean or further afield, I thought it was also worth considering this in the context of COVID-19 and posing the following question: –

“Should you self-isolate the yacht and crew and test before departing?”

Clearly, the time taken in transit is likely a suitable quarantine period for destination arrival purposes. However, the reason I pose the question is that given that most yachts will be departing from countries/areas with high rates of infection, and crew will have been enjoying shore leave and their time in port, what happens if a crewmember is infected, but tests negative (if tested) and is asymptomatic prior to departure?

Once underway and symptoms present, not only would there be concerns of further infections amongst the crew, and medical treatment if severely affected, there would also be concerns about at the port of destination; would the port allow the yacht to berth and what are the reception and medical facilities for any infected crew?

The same goes for ‘crossing crew’ do you bring them in early and quarantine (onboard in single cabin) and test prior to departure?

Clearly, no captain wants to restrict well-earned shore leave but, then again, it is important to avoid any crewmember being infected and becoming a medical emergency and/or a vector for further transmission, especially on a long sea voyage, so it makes sense to try and prevent this outcome.

I’d be interested to know how yachts and management companies are dealing with this. Some considerations:

  • What methods are in use for mitigating the risk of infection prior to departure
  • Has the port authority of your arrival destination been contacted and what is their policy in the event of an infected crewmember on an arriving yacht
  • Do the hospitals have the facilities and capacity to handle a COVID-19 patient
  • Are there any additional medical supplies and PPE above ‘Medical Scales’ that may be recommended to carry

The above, departs slightly from the main reason for this post but, for those about to embark on a lengthy passage, it’s something worth thinking about?

As always at OnlyCaptains, or goal is to share knowledge and help inform. Hopefully, the Healthy Sail Panel offers some useful information on COVID-19 that may help with your own procedures. And, perhaps it might be used as a reference by industry associations such as MYBA, LYBRA, IYBA, in a collaborative effort to create our own yachting recommendations. These would not only be of value to captains, crew and yacht management, they would also help to instil confidence in owners and charterers through the knowledge that industry accredited measures were in place to protect them whilst onboard.

By |2020-10-09T20:15:16+00:00October 9th, 2020|captains, covid-19, environment, yachtowners|

Measuring Yacht Efficiency – How And Why It Matters

Last week, I attended the Yacht Cub de Monaco: Capital of Yachting Experience. It was a very well organised and attended event, with some very interesting presentations and discussions.

It was also the launch of the Yacht Club de Monaco Superyacht Eco Association (SEA) INDEX. Supported by Nobiskrug and Credit Suisse, this is an important initiative with a goal to benchmark yachts in terms of their CO2 environmental performance. And, whilst there are other emissions, CO2 is by far the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) of importance and the one most visible in the public eye.

The principle is that it uses the IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) formula with a few changes to make it more specific to yachts.

The SEA INDEX is the first tool designed to assess and compare the efficiency of a yachts design and its environmental impact in terms of CO2, with a transparent and easy to understand rating system. Stars are awarded from 1 (lowest rating) to 5 (highest rating) depending on where a yacht sits above or below the rating bands relative to the baseline of sampled yachts.

Image: Courtesy of the SEA INDEX

The data from approx. 130 yachts of various length and displacement was sampled and their data entered in order to develop the initial baseline – there are now over 200 yachts.

It uses max power and speed, which may seem excessive, but a metric was required and, if you consider this as the ‘maximum emissions potential’ of a yacht, by using the same set of data points for all yachts, it provides a ‘standard’ for comparing their designs. For example, on comparable sized yachts, a more efficient hull will require less power for the same speed, and more efficient HVAC and hotel systems power management, will require smaller generators, both of which will result in reduced emissions and a higher INDEX rating.

And, as new designs and engineering innovations are introduced into yachting, the SEA INDEX will help highlight the improvements being made.

Of course, actual emissions depend on many variables that are affected by an owner and the operational profile of a yacht – these are hard to assess in any consistent or meaningful way. If we had recorded all yacht activity and consumption over the last 10 or 20 years, we would be able to draw a curve of standard deviation and have an idea of what might be described as ‘average use’ on which to make comparisons. Unfortunately, we don’t have this information, and this is perhaps the flaw in all such tools, so the only true account of a yachts CO2 emissions has to be calculated from their fuel consumed.

The factor the IMO use for CO2 emissions from MGO is 3.206, this means for every 1,000t of MGO used, 3,206t of CO2 is generated so it is easy to calculate your CO2 from fuel.

Any design efficiency gains, and improvements that can be made in the operation of the yacht, such as running at lower speed, managing power, switching off unused lighting and equipment, etc., will reduce the power required, fuel consumed and emissions.

In combination with efficiency gains, Carbon offsetting is one way to mitigate a yachts emission. Though, as I have written in a previous piece Superyacht Carbon Offsetting great care is required to select one that is fit for purpose.

But, it’s not just the amount of CO2 that is an important consideration. Looking to the future, it is very likely that shipping, like other industries, will be impacted by Market Based Mechanism’s (MBM) to drive forward the transition to a greener future, and these will have cost implications.

The IMO by 2023 will introduce their new framework for the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping and it could include a carbon tax. The EU in a recent plenary session of parliament, agreed that shipping should be included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) possibly in 2021and include vessels less than 5000gt. Trafigura, one of the World’s largest ship charterers, published on 25th September “A proposal for an IMO-led global shipping industry decarbonisation programme” calling for a $100 – $200 tax per ton of CO2 on shipping as the only way of driving the necessary industry change.

As further evidence of the direction of travel for CO2 emissions for business, Swiss Re made this announcement on the 15th September 2020:

“Swiss Re steps up its internal carbon levy to USD 100 per tonne as of 2021 and will gradually increase it to USD 200 per tonne by 2030”

Any such taxes or levies imposed on CO2 emissions will increase the cost of yacht ownership.

On top of that we have Environmental Governance and Sustainability (EGS) targets that are becoming ever more prevalent, especially in investment and finance. The Poseidon Principles is just one initiative, launched the 18th June 2019, “major shipping banks will for the first time integrate climate considerations into lending decisions to incentivize maritime shipping’s decarbonization” their goal is to work towards the IMO 2030 and 2050 reductions in GHG by ensuring that their loan books are aligned with those targets – finance will become harder for vessels that fail to meet efficiency improvements and GHG reductions.

Could similar lending rules apply to yachts in the future, how would that affect the value of older less efficient yachts?

Whilst it is not yet clear how taxes and regulations will be imposed in the future, what is clear, is that yachting is unlikely to escape their embrace. And our intimate connection to the sea and the environment places additional responsibility on the industry to protect the health of our oceans and planet. The SEA INDEX is the first of many important tools, including those from the Water Revolution Foundation, that will help us to understand our environmental footprint and drive the necessary change that puts us on a pathway to a sustainable superyacht industry.

Like any instrument that is reliant on data; the more yachts that participate, the more refined and accurate the SEA INDEX will become – I would call upon all Captains to get involved.

More information, including the Free calculator, can be found here https://superyachtecoindex.com/

By |2020-09-29T13:35:29+00:00September 29th, 2020|captains, environment, regulations, yachtowners|

Yacht and Commercial Qualifications and the Path to Yachts >3000gt

With the superyacht fleet >3000gt still growing, I thought it worthwhile to look at the difference between Yacht and Commercial qualifications, the various pathways to an Unlimited CoC and, some considerations to factor into your choice of pathway.

A Little Background

We know that education, training and experience are vital to ensuring safety on yachts and ships, and although there is the Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention that regulates minimum standards, it was introduced for commercial ships and those destined for a merchant navy career.

In recognition of the requirements of the yachting industry, in 2002 the MCA and, their contributing partners, introduced MGN 195(M) the first yacht specific standards of training and certification as allowed under Article IX of STCW.

Prior to this, commercial STCW qualifications or RYA qualifications for recreational boaters were the only qualifications available to professional yacht crew. Given yachting’s trajectory, it made absolute sense to combine elements of both to develop a qualification that was relevant and attainable. There is no doubt that the Large Yacht Code has significantly improved the standards of safety and professionalism within our industry.

Though there have been amendments, and we are now at MSN1858 (M+F), there are perhaps questions whether it has adapted sufficiently to the changes and challenges we have seen within our industry and, of course, why there is still a barrier that prevents Yacht captains serving on Yachts >3000gt? To answer this and other questions we need to explore the options available.

For unlimited tonnage qualifications under MSN1856 (M+F) there are several different pathways. If we look at the MCA Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/HND) route for experienced mariners the one experienced yacht crew would be more inclined to choose – there are significant differences in the educational and sea service requirements. For example, the classroom time requires an extra 53 weeks compared to Yacht qualifications.

Another difference is bridge watchkeeping. No verifiable bridge watchkeeping duties or, experience, is required for a Yacht OOW/Chief Mate <3000gt, only 4 months for Master 500gt and, 8 months for a Master Yacht <3000gt and Marshall Islands (MI) Master (Yachts) Unlimited – this is in stark contrast to the minimum of 30 months required for a STCW Master Unlimited under MSN1856 (M+F).

Perhaps these are the reasons why it has proved so difficult for the MCA to provide a suitable transition – how do they reconcile the differences and still comply with STCW? Perhaps an Endorsement, like there are for special vessels like tankers, could be a way forward; though, it should be pointed out these Endorsements are on top of STCW qualifications.

The Marshall Islands recognised an opportunity to provide a pathway to unlimited tonnage yachts for experienced captains and introduced their own qualification. This allows experienced captains, through additional modules and an assessment by MI examiners, to obtain an Unlimited CoC restricted to Yachts.

Below is a summary of the main differences.

MCA Master Yachts <3000gt

  • 21 weeks education and short courses
  • Minimum 60 months sea service – including 8 months of bridge wathckeeping
  • Cost approx. €25,000

MI Master (Yachts) Unlimited – including MCA Master Yachts <3000gt

  • 31 weeks of education and short courses,
  • Minimum 72 months sea-service – including, 8 months of bridge watchkeeping, and 12 months served as a Master on a yacht >500GT
  • Cost approx. €40,000

MCA Master Unlimited – following the HNC/HND experienced seafarer route

  • 61 (college) + 13 (home study) a total of 74 weeks of education and short courses
  • Minimum 60 months sea-service, including 24 – 36 months of bridge watchkeeping, and 6 months watch keeping duties prior to OOW
  • Cost approx. €25,000

Of course, there will be additional expense for a MCA Master Unlimited due the course duration, loss of earnings and subsistence costs.

From Yacht to Unlimited

There is the MI Master (Yachts) Unlimited and, although a practical option for those with Yacht qualifications to upgrade, there are some considerations. So far, the Cayman Islands are the only Administration to have recognised this CoC, the fleet of Yachts >3000gt is small, and the Yacht restriction, further reduces its value compared to an Unlimited commercial CoC.

Unfortunately, the MCA don’t make it easy. A Yacht captain, irrespective of experience, still must start at the beginning with an Unlimited OOW, followed by Chief Mate Unlimited before Master Unlimited. Due to time/cost considerations, this only makes sense for those who make the decision to follow the commercial pathway early in their career or, already have an STCW OOW or Chief Mate Unlimited, and wish to upgrade.

There are other Administrations, such as AMSA in my example below, who also have their own pathways. But these are generally based on STCW.

Interestingly, there is a growing number of deck crew, especially those working on the larger yachts, who are choosing the commercial route, it certainly provides them with better career opportunities, including commercial shipping, harbour Pilotage, ferries, as well as shore-based employment with a Class Society, Flag Administration or insurance company.

Whatever pathway you choose to Master Unlimited, there will be a cost and no guarantee of the returns. You might have to accept work as a 2nd officer or chief officer to gain the relevant large yacht experience. And, the reality is that, as mentioned, the Yacht >3000gt fleet is small so opportunities are limited, and you will be competing against commercial officers and captains who have now made yachting their home.

My Own Journey

Late in my career I embarked on my own journey to Master Unlimited. I had earned my OOW Unlimited working for BP Shipping before yachting and with that and my sea service on yachts (all Private) I was accepted into the Chief Mate Unlimited/Master Unlimited pathway with AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Agency.

The process involved attending college full-time for almost 10 months in Fremantle, Australia, for my Chief Mate Unlimited. This was an experience, as I was, let me say, a more mature student, and my classmates were all about 20 years younger, with relevant commercial experience; I was that ‘white boat captain’ a bit of a novelty! I was certainly self-conscious of that from the outset. However, what became clear was that, as seafarers, ultimately, we face the same maritime challenges, and whether a ‘white boat’, box boat, tanker, or anchor handler, there was much similarity and we all benefited from the different experiences we brought to the classroom.

On obtaining my Chief Mate Unlimited I then returned to sea to earn another 12 months of sea service necessary to sit my Master Unlimited orals exam. This was not easy as AMSA required sea service on vessels over 3000gt for Master Unlimited (they were supposed to reduce this to 500gt but Australian politics intervened). Fortunately, my industry connections came to the rescue and I found myself as Chief Officer on Katara then Eclipse where I obtained the bulk of the sea service required. I then returned to Fremantle for a months prep before successfully passing the oral exam and becoming Master Unlimited.

So, starting with an OOW Unlimited to becoming a Master Unlimited, took nearly 3 years and I had already worked for nearly 20 years as a yacht captain. And, the the cost of taking a significant amount of time off, leaving a good job with loss of earnings, living expenses, college fees, etc., all mounted up.

Summing Up

So how was my own return on investment?

If I’m brutally honest, the financial rewards have not been great. However, for me, the sense of achievement, professional pride, my greater knowledge and understanding, and the experiences gained from my time served on Yachts >3000gt, have been a far more important measure of success than the monetary cost.

For those starting their career, it is worth considering the MCA or, equivalent, Commercial qualification pathway. This will provide you with the greatest flexibility and broader range of opportunities in the future. And not just at sea, there are many related industries who value a Master Unlimited qualification.

Unfortunately, until the MCA change their qualification standards and pathways, the choice is limited for experienced yacht officers/captains who want to serve on Yachts >3000g. The options are, the MI Master Yachts (Unlimited) or, the MCA Unlimited or, other Administrations, Commercial pathways.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that there are some amazing yacht Owners and yachts below 3000gt and that bigger, is not always betterthey come with challenges and differences that may not suit. Think carefully about the time and cost involved and your career goals. And, find time to speak to those who have already trodden the path

By |2020-08-28T17:39:24+00:00August 27th, 2020|captains, qualifications|
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