Peter Southgate of the Cayman Islands Registry, and Peter Chesla of The Marshall Islands Registry

‘Ask the Flag’ panel offers insight, answers questions

Oct 28, 2021 by Dorie Cox

Peter Southgate of the Cayman Islands Registry, and Peter Chesla of The Marshall Islands Registry
– Photo by Dorie Cox

Ongoing concerns with hours of work and rest, cyber security and more keep the yachting industry wondering how to best comply.

Some of these questions were answered yesterday afternoon at “Ask the Flag,” a roundtable discussion sponsored by the U.S. Superyacht Association. Yacht captains, senior crew, and industry experts had the opportunity to ask the Cayman Islands and Marshall Islands registries experts first-hand.

Cyber security regulations were a hot topic. Yacht crew and industry experts hoped flag states could provide more concrete compliance procedures, but because every yacht is different, it’s up to the individual yacht to create those procedures. And even though cyber security rules went into effect Jan. 21, 2021, many yachts are still out of compliance, Southgate said.

“There seems to be some confusion,” said Peter Southgate, regional director of the Americas and Yacht Code Specialist with Cayman Islands Registry. The U.S. Coast Guard has been very strict, very onerous, judging by the number of detentions and “rectify before departures” issued.

An audience member’s example of a yacht stew’s social media post of a selfie with the yacht name and location highlighted just one potential cyber situation.

That stew’s life details are probably on Facebook and her computer could be the way into the ship’s system, Southgate said. But this type of unintentional breach still falls to each yacht to set guidelines, he said.

Cyber issues may not be malicious, but even the upload of a software patch at the wrong time could unintentionally shut down a yacht’s ventilation or main engine.

When asked for a defined document for yachts to use to prevent such issues, Southgate said, “We only have the guidelines because there are many ways to achieve this. We give a broad framework. It’s up to experts to lead you through the requirements. Cyber issues often benefit from specialists.”

He recommends yachts look at their ISM code for shipboard operations and identify their risks and consider what could go wrong.

“Now that everything is connected, see if there is a cyber element, then assess and mitigate,” he said.

Another audience member asked about creating standardization for cyber training. Southgate reiterated the difficulty of mandating guidelines and recommended using the International Safety Management (ISM) code.

“We can’t dictate training requirements but use SMS (safety management system) as a starting point,” he said.

News from the Marshall Islands included the release of the RMI Yacht Code 2021 in May, according to Peter Chesla, senior technical manager of yachts with The Marshall Islands Registry/International Registries.

“We’re already on the first supplement to remove anything too onerous,” Chesla said.

A technical group worked on the updates, which include revisions to the Polar Code for 300-500 gross tons, as well as work on the Yacht Engaged in Trade program.

“We want to expand the area where this is operating,” Chesla said. “It is opening up to make it more accessible outside of France and Monaco waters.”

And the Marshall Islands have improved helicopter requirements for yachts. This will rectify discrepancies between requirements for landing areas on yacht builds and requirements for ship-yards. Also, as of Nov. 1, the flag will have a new inspection body to certify the standards for helicopter landing areas.

Both Marshall and Cayman flags continue to battle with compliance for yacht crew work and rest hours.

“We can’t continue to bury our head in sand, the hours of rest do matter on yachts,” Southgate said. “It’s not just for watchkeepers. It is here to stay.”

Long crew hours are a problem, and many yachts are out of compliance.

“We see the chef worked 8 to 5 — really? And no one was up past midnight on a charter?” Southgate said. “There are not a lot of accidents, but it only takes one.”

An audience member asked, “Why not go to management company, not the crew” with work issues. The Cayman flag representative said they look at individual hours, watch patterns and rosters, and hold crew interviews during inspections.

“The crew ask, ‘What can we do?’ We try to help and take it to management. We try to do our part to get compliance. But at same time, we understand the nature of the industry,” Southgate said.

Both Marshall and Cayman flags are working together to enhance Yachts Engaged in Trade. This includes communication with a variety of governing bodies in Europe, especially Italy and Croatia. Although based on European Union regulations, ultimately it is each country’s prerogative.

Where the Marshall Islands have new rules, the Cayman Islands “decided to have period of consolidation, to stop moving the goal posts,” Southgate said. The next wholesale update will be in 2024.


About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is a writer with Triton News.

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