DATE CHANGE: Because of the uncertainty of Hurricane Jose, Triton Networking with Bluewater USA has been pushed back a week to Sept. 27.
Triton Networking is back in full swing with a mid-month event on the fourth Wednesday in September. Join us as we help Bluewater USA celebrate its first year. The crew of the former Crew Unlimited is still on site and just as glamorous as ever. Come get a tour of the updated digs, share in their signature cocktail and congratulate them on a successful merger.
Until then, here’s more about the company from Ami Ira, president of Bluewater USA.
So it was a year ago that you made the decision to merge your company with Antibes-based Bluewater. How have things changed for your clients?
For our traditional crew placement clients, there have been two major changes. First, they now have double the likelihood of finding amazing crew or jobs through us. When we combined our databases, we each had over 60,000 registered candidates — ours primarily based in the U.S. and theirs primarily based in Europe. Surprisingly, there really wasn’t much overlap, leaving us with a combined database of just over 110,000 registered crew. That means there’s no longer the need for captains to call multiple crew agencies to be sure they’ve found the best of the best. We’ve got them.
Secondly, we now offer a self-service option called the One Account, which allows employers full access to our entire database, 24/7, so they can search for the perfect candidates all year long, and hire whomever and how many crew they like, with no placement fee. The One Account is a yearly subscription, based on the size of the vessel, and is typically lower cost than a traditional placement fee for a department head-level crew member.
Further, whatever the yacht spends to become a One Account subscriber, the equivalent value is also allocated to the yacht in the form of crew training vouchers, which can be used at any of Bluewater’s schools in Fort Lauderdale, Palma and Antibes.
How have things changed for your business?
For my business, the biggest change has been in having so much support. We have such a phenomenal marketing team, management team, accountants, MLC compliance officers, and instructors. There must be over 100 employees in our company. Learning which ones to communicate with about what topic has been fun, since they are all in different physical offices from us.
Learning how to lean on them for their expertise has been challenging for the control freak in me, but it’s also been such a relief. As the sole owner for more than 20 years, I had to do so much of my own research and try to manage everything all the time. Now, we have talented people in position to answer any questions I have, and any questions our clients have. It’s been a big relief, honestly.
Most people know your company as a crew placement agency, but you do a lot more than that, such as charter marketing and yacht brokerage. How has the merger impacted those divisions?
While we did charter marketing and charter brokerage before, our name was not widely recognized for that. And we had never ventured very far into yacht sales, although I’d considered growing the company in that market many times. I always knew it would be difficult to break into, without hiring on an ex-captain or established broker to run the department, which would have been a costly investment.
But yacht brokerage is definitely not new to Peter Bennett, Bluewater’s director and lead broker. He’s been selling superyachts since 1991, and is a tremendous resource for our U.S. sales team, which consists of our broker Robert Moore, myself, and broker Albie Van Zyl, who just joined us last month.
However, it also can’t go without mentioning that Bluewater was founded on the basis of crew training in 1991, and it’s that differentiation that enabled our previous partnership between the two companies way back in 1998. Bluewater taught the course, Crew Unlimited recruited the captains, and Maritime Professional Training provided the classrooms. Together, we provided MCA CEC’s to about 60 USCG 500T and 1600T captains, enabling them to continue running the large red-ensign yachts they had been, prior to the change in the MCA rules.
What’s new in the charter world for you?
The Bluewater brand is well-known and respected for the more than 30 yachts we represent. The newest yacht to our fleet on this side of the Atlantic is M/Y Marcato, the ex-Copacetic. She’s a fantastic expedition-style yacht with enough space to host a cocktail party for up to 200 dockside, and the ability to cruise with 36 for dinner. (Only 12 overnight, though.) The captain and crew are planning a South American tour late next year, which makes it exciting to market. She’s perfect for charter guests who’ve already seen the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
Our charter management team is lead by Zelda Swindell in Antibes, who is backed up by several really creative marketing minds, specifically Jackie Baker and Bertrand Mattei. There is a whole accounting team to make sure the escrowed funds and VAT payments are calculated properly, sent, received, and recorded on time per the contracts, every time. I love having qualified people in place to do that part of the job, so I’m allowed the luxury of focusing on what I enjoy most, which is growing the business and booking charters.
There are a lot of placement agencies and even charter firms. Why should captains use your firm to place crew or market their charters?
We are the only company in the world where a person can buy or charter a yacht where the crew have been recruited, trained, placed and are managed in house. We are truly “One Company, one complete solution.” Oh, and because we do an excellent job at all of it.
Anything special planned for the Triton Networking event?
A toast to our first year as Bluewater, a barbecue catered by Dixie Pig, a game of cornhole, the unveiling of the cover of our new “Bluewater Life” coffee-table book, which debuts at the Monaco Yacht Show, and live entertainment by local band Zero to Sixty, playing all our favorite music from the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Make plans to join us from 6 to 8 p.m. at 1069 SE 17th St. in Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316. No RSVP necessary, but we do take our networking seriously, so come ready to meet new people.