Earlier this year, Capt. AJ Anderson was elected president of the International Superyacht Society. As a seafarer for 40 years and an industry leader in operational management for 20, he shares his perspective on the industry.
I was asked to share a few thoughts on where the large yacht industry is and how it has developed over the last 40 years. It could be summarised by a simple definition of what large is. Forty years ago, large meant 100 feet or 200-300gt. Today, large means 300 feet and 3,000gt, with a number of yachts afloat and in construction in the range of 350-550 feet and 5,000-12,000 gt.
Most everyone who might read this knows there is a tremendous difference between the old large and the new large. Other than cost, the difference is related to regulatory requirements, technical design, engineering, construction and in operations – even before the regulatory changes that have increased in scope and became more clearly defined in the past 20 years.
The yacht industry is comprised of organisations, including the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), flag-states, port states, IACS (International Association of Classification Societies) members, associations and companies. These companies are insurers, refit and building shipyards, co-makers, new build owners’ representative firms, berthing facilities, suppliers, service providers, publications, law firms, educators, brokerages, charter and operational managers, medical and security firms, crew placement firms, crew, and all professionals serving in the above list. Any specific group unintentionally left out of this list are also included.
Those of us who have been in the yacht industry for 20, 30 or 40 years would probably agree that the past 25 years have witnessed organisations, companies and individuals, imperfectly but deliberately, continuing to adopt higher standards of professionalism and overall practices.
Additionally, there is a higher level of organisational collaboration today than there was just five years ago, while 20 years ago the word collaboration would have been misspelled in any language.
Regarding professional education and training, comparing what is happening in 2018 to 1998, there is no question of the substantial advances made in those 20 years. Organisations have required higher — aka more — seafarer certification. Companies providing crew education and training have not only responded to requirements, they have also developed ways to explain the requirements to seafarers – which as a seafarer, I can say this is immensely helpful. Additionally, management firms and others have invested in higher relevant education for their staffs.
While it will reasonably be argued that aspects of the regulatory changes may have been overreaching — and, in respect to education investment, may have been underreaching — there is clearly room for improvement. Still, the industry has made measurable advances in professional development of crew and other professionals. Professional education has been adopted for immediate effect and for long-term sustainability.
While our industry is achieving excellence at a number of levels, a reasonable person would acknowledge that there are areas that require improvement and would point to other areas that are barely touched opportunities to contribute in a higher way to our world’s sustainability. That means people and the environment.
In the past 20 years, charitable investment in time, human resources and cash has grown substantially across all yacht industry sectors and by individual industry professionals. The last five years shows a near vertical curve. Those charitable investments include the environment, medical care for those in need, hunger prevention, youth development, local assistance to disenfranchised people, and local assistance to others who have given for their countries and need help. Check out the results-based organisation YachtAid Global and the future-leaning Research Expedition Vessel environmental project as only two important examples from the maritime perspective.
There are large yacht industry associations that provide a platform for their members to share ideas and lobby for what they believe is right. There is objective evidence of positive influence by associations such as the Professional Yachting Association, Superyacht Builders Association, and the U.S. Superyacht Association, to name just three, doing important work relevant to us all, regardless of borders. Young Professionals in Yachting, an international organisation, has provided a platform for non-seagoing yachting professionals to learn, share ideas and to influence company leaders toward a better direction. Media has also contributed to professional understanding that helps with influencing for best practices worldwide.
Bringing professionals from all sectors of the industry together to share ideas, influence regulatory decisions and encourage professional excellence through education and recognition is the backbone of the International Superyacht Society. There are over 30 nationalities in all industry sectors represented in ISS membership. There is an obligation to represent their ideals and interests with concrete action.
For the International Superyacht Society, 2018 has determined a number of managerial and results-based objectives – two of these objectives are of interest to the industry. One objective is that the executive committee and board of directors decided to provide other associations with tangible support where it is helpful to their important goals being mutual to ISS goals. The other objective is how to accelerate the Society’s role in education. The education committee has been given resources, autonomy and authority to take on educational projects that are challenging and at a higher rate than previous years.
Overall, the yacht industry is doing important things, and like any organisation, company or individual, the industry has the opportunity to build on the successes while avoiding past missteps. Not the only, but one way to ensure sustainable success in doing these important things is for associations and companies to band together on these mutually important issues. Collaboration is a word; real collaboration takes determination, patience … humor helps.
Last but first – the owners of yachts. Often, they take their life’s work and turn to our industry to provide them with the best results possible for their families’ safety and privacy in off-time, something every person hopes for. While providing a positive life experience is key, yacht owners also expect that industry professionals are doing business in an appropriate and sustainable manner.
The industry must develop practical solutions. This includes the development of mentoring and education processes while encouraging current and future professionals ashore and afloat. All sector organisations and companies can participate in this activity by way of investment and providing opportunities.
To summarise, organisations, associations, companies and individuals can come together to focus on matters of mutual importance. Reach higher. As always, it is our choice on how to accomplish this. It is work, but it is joyful work.
Capt. AJ Anderson is managing director and CEO of Wright Maritime Group.