Creating a safe sanctuary on the open seas

Last week, the yachting world gathered in Monte Carlo for its annual Yacht Show, the highlight of the superyacht calendar, to inspect, drool over – and perhaps buy – one of the gleaming vessels that are on display. But how can owners, once their yachts are cruising the high seas, ensure they are operating to the best international standards?

“The yachting industry is hugely professional, but the people who work in it are probably the busiest people at sea. They never stop: not only do they have their everyday duties but they also look after their yacht’s owner or guests. So they won’t have time to sit down and think about whether the ship’s procedures could be improved,” says Paul Hailwood, a vastly experienced sea captain who is now a consultant.

Owners shouldn’t think that just because their yacht has passed a certification survey with flying colours that it is risk-free.

Hiscox MGA offers large yacht owners who are Yachtsure 24 policyholders a free risk assessment to, where they appoint Hailwood to cast his seasoned eye over a yacht to spot potential risks that could damage it or other vessels, and endanger its guests or crew.

“It isn’t a tick-box procedure,” stresses Matt Halpin, a yacht underwriter at Hiscox. “As a former yacht captain himself, Paul can provide valuable practical advice on how to improve how a boat is run.”


Ensuring a yacht is best in class

The assessment provided by Hiscox is very different from a run-of-the-mill certification survey. “I’m an experienced mariner who can offer practical observations based on the current industry best practice, says Hailwood, who helps train officers for Carnival and other large cruise lines, has advised on the building of new superyachts, and each year carries out around two dozen superyacht risk assessments.

Owners shouldn’t think that just because their yacht has passed a certification survey with flying colours that it is risk-free. Hailwood uses the example of a laundry room fire door kept wedged open by the crew. “So even though the ship is compliant to the relevant fire regulations, one of its everyday practices poses a fire risk. My assessment would pick that up, but would also offer a practical recommendation to easily manage that risk by ensuring the door is kept shut unless someone is working in there.”

Halpin and colleague Karen Weston, Hiscox MGA’s senior claims adjuster, recently accompanied Hailwood to Germany on one of his surveys of a large yacht. “We jumped at the chance to accompany Paul on such a rare opportunity to be taken around a yacht of this size and quality. It really helped us to improve our knowledge of these vessels, as well as to understand the process by which Paul produces his reports.”


Not a ‘don’t-do’ list

But the assessment is much more than simply a list of risks. Hiscox can help to highlight and resolve a wide range of issues, from helping a yacht captain liaise with a classification society over whether a refit involving the widespread addition of marble to the upper decks might compromise a yacht’s stability in the event of an accident, to advising a yacht owner on how to attract and retain the best crew.

The assessment process isn’t onerous – “I’m careful to not take up too much of the crew’s time or to get in their way,” says Hailwood, and the confidential report is shared only with the owner, captain and Hiscox – “there’s a closed circle of trust.”

The overwhelming response from owners and captains to his risk improvements is positive, says Hailwood. “They appreciate being given quality support, and what helps set Hiscox apart from other insurers is the comprehensive support programme it offers.”

Insurance isn’t just about paying a claim when something goes wrong, says Halpin. “These yachts are their owners’ sanctuaries, where they take their family and closest friends, so they appreciate any good advice on how to ensure they are as safe as possible.”

All comments