M/Y Penny Mae has become the first Marshall Islands flagged yacht less than 500 tons to become MLC 2006 certified.
All commercial ships and charter yachts are required to comply to the MLC 2006 standards in the countries they sail (which include most countries yachts frequent except the United States), but only vessels over 500 tons are required to be certified.
“Penny Mae elected to take the extra step to become certified, which not only reinforces our proactive outlook toward safety, security and well being of guests and crew, but will also help to streamline the process when undergoing port state control inspections,” Capt. Mike O’Neill said in an e-mail.
That’s the key, said Graeme Lord, president of owner of Fairport Yacht Support, a yacht management company based in Ft. Lauderdale. Although yachts under 500 tons don’t have to comply with MLC 2006 and be certified, they may still be inspected by port state control officers who will seek to determine if yachts visiting their countries provide certain things for the crew, including a crew agreement and proper time off spreadsheets.
“What he did was extremely smart,” Lord said of Capt. O’Neill’s decision to become certified. “Under 500 tons, you don’t have to be certified, but how do you prove it? You can’t leave this to chance. Take the reigns and control it.”
It has taken about a year for Capt. O’Neill and his crew to reach the standards required. “Luckily, we had a fairly comprehensive mini-ISM system in place, which served as a good baseline to start,” he said. “However, there was still a fair amount of rewriting of the onboard procedures with particular emphasis on health and safety, and risk assessments.
“The biggest change was the complete overhaul of our Seafarers Employment Agreements (SEAs) and the restructuring of the yacht’s P&I insurance to facilitate the coverage of crew regarding repatriation and unemployment benefits,” he said, noting that Marsh Insurance helped with the latter. “Other areas of change included the reformatting of our crew’s hours of rest records to meet the revised working hours requirements, implementation of complaints procedures and the need to document crew salary payments (pay slips).”
A big help was the generic SEA document drafted by Fairport, which was pre-approved by the Marshall Islands and several other flag states.
Fairport also was involved in the first Cayman Islands MLC certificate for yachts over 500 tons.
“I can honestly say I’ve got MLC down,” Lord said. “This is a crew benefit, so crew need to understand their benefits and get their benefits.”
Lord said he’s been working on MLC documents for about five years, and in the past year he and his staff have produced a manual, complete with an SEA, to help owners and captains get their vessels in compliance.
“What we do is provide a manual that has everything in it to become certified,” he said. “We give them all the tools to get their certification and we’re done. That ends our involvement.”
Fairport doesn’t manage M/Y Penny Mae; they just worked together on this certification process.
“He doesn’t need us,” Lord said Capt. O’Neill. “We don’t manage his boat. We just sold them the manual, and with that we offer training and familiarization with MLC, what they can expect in the audit, we speak to the insurance company, and then we submit all the paperwork to the flag state for approval. … I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”
M/Y Penny Mae had “an extremely successful summer” in Croatia and is available for charter now in the Bahamas year round.
“The biggest challenge for yachts in the less-than-500gt size range is the ever increasing need for documentation, procedures and paperwork,” O’Neill said. “This is really the norm nowadays on the larger vessels, but very new to the mid-sized yachts.
“As mentioned we were fortunate enough to start with a comprehensive ISM system in place so the step up for MLC was not too much of a shock,” he said. “However, I see many other yachts of similar size where there is not a ‘paperwork’ mindset in place and MLC could prove a lot more daunting to those crews.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.