Whether a yacht is used privately or commercially, international codes and conventions apply to any vessel navigating in international waters. Furthermore, safety on board for both passenger and crew is of paramount importance.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented. IMO measures cover all aspects of international shipping, including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal.
SMS works closely with a team of independent surveyors and can assist owners with any of the services listed below to help prevent any undesirable situation at sea and to ensure that the yacht is fully compliant with all maritime codes and conventions when approaching any port.
International Management Code (ISM)
The ISM Code sets out the responsibilities of people who manage and operate vessels and provides an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for the prevention of pollution.
The ISM Code became mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in 1998 and applies to all commercially operated vessels of 500 gross tonnes and above, including commercial yachts.
The ISM Code establishes safety objectives and requires that a Safety Management System (SMS) must be developed and implemented to ensure that all risks associated with on-board safety and the protection of the environment have been fully considered for operating each vessel.
International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS)
The ISPS Code is an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) that addresses the minimum security arrangements for ships, ports and government agencies. It was brought into force in 2004 in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The ISPS Code details the responsibilities of governments, shipping companies, shipboard personnel and port facility personnel to detect security threats and take preventative measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade.
Designated Person Ashore (DPA)
The ISM Code requires that a DPA must be appointed to ensure that there is a direct link between a vessel’s management and those on board. The DPA is responsible for monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each vessel, and to ensure the adequate resources and shore-based support are available.
The DPA also provides the first level of shore-based mediation for any complaints, grievances or disciplinary issues that cannot be resolved on board. In an emergency situation, the DPA is the leader of the Emergency Response Team and provides yacht captains with a single point of contact.
Emergency and Media Response
An Emergency Response Team (ERT) comprising experienced ship management staff will be activated when required in emergency situations to provide the necessary support to owners, crew and managers in the event of any incident – pollution, safety, security or media-related.
The ERT provides external support, organisation and communication, allowing the captain and crew to focus solely on the events at sea with the primary aim of maintaining the safety of the passengers and crew, as well as the protection of the yacht and the environment.
The ERT will report to and liaise with, for example, the coastguard and rescue services, the owner and/or the owner’s representative, flag state, coastal and port state, hospitals, next of kin, insurance companies and salvors, as well as with all other relevant parties.
e. MARPOL and SOPEP services
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) entered into force in 1983 and contains regulations designed to prevent pollution of the sea, land and air by oil, chemicals, harmful substances, sewage and garbage. All yachts, whether commercial or private, must comply with MARPOL, where applicable.
MARPOL requires that all ships of 400 tons gross tonnage or above must carry an approved shipboard oil pollution plan (SOPEP). It serves as guidance for the response of the vessel’s crew in case of oil pollution and how to report.
Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)
The MLC is an international labour convention that establishes minimum working and living standards for all seafarers working on ships flying the flags of ratifying countries, including commercial superyachts.
The MLC, which came into force in 2013, covers almost every aspect of seafarers’ work and life on board including:
- Minimum age
- Seafarers’ employment agreements
- Hours of work or rest
- Payment of wages
- Paid annual leave
- Repatriation at the end of contract
- Onboard medical care
- Use of licensed private recruitment and placement services
- Accommodation, food and catering
- Health and safety protection and accident prevention
- Seafarers’ complaint handling
The MLC contains a significant compliance and enforcement component based on a flag state ship inspection and certification system, and Port State Control.
All seagoing vessels are assigned to a specific class, which defines their type of permitted use, determines which certification they must hold and specifies the inspection and survey regime required to comply with this certification. These classes are established and assigned by the Recognised Classification Societies, who also approve surveys and inspections.
In the UK, the operation of yachts is covered by Codes of Practice. Pleasure vessels are not covered by the Codes. Small commercial vessels are defined as those of less than 24 metres load line length (or under 150 tonnes if built before 21 July 1968) that are engaged at sea and are not pleasure vessels. Large commercial yachts are defined as those vessels which are in commercial use for sport or pleasure, are 24 metres load line length or more (or over 150 gross tonnes if built before 21 July 1968) and carry no cargo and no more than 12 passengers.
In order for a yacht to be registered as a commercial vessel it must be in possession of valid certificates appropriate to its size. For yachts over 500 GT, this includes, but is not limited to, a Safety Management Certificate, an International Ship Security Certificate, a Continuous Synopsis Record, Maritime Labour Certificate (when applicable) and a Minimum Safe Manning Document. These Certificates must remain valid for the duration of the period that the yacht remains registered as a commercial vessel.
Classification and statutory surveys
Classification Societies set the rules and regulations for the construction and classification of different kinds of vessels. Following a satisfactory survey, a Classification Society may approve the assignment of class and issue a certificate of classification to the shipbuilder or owner.
When in service, the owner must submit the vessel to a clearly specified programme of periodical class surveys, carried out onboard the vessel, to verify that the ship continues to meet the relevant Rule requirements for continuation of class.
The scope of each statutory survey or inspection generally increases with age. It includes sufficiently extensive examinations and checks to verify that the structure, machinery, systems and relevant equipment such as the life saving, fire fighting or pollution prevention equipment are in a satisfactory condition and in compliance with the applicable standards.
Between surveys, the Conventions require the Flag Administration to make it compulsory for the owner to maintain the vessel in conformance with the regulations so that the vessel will remain fit to proceed to sea without danger to the ship or persons on board or unreasonable threat of harm to the marine environment.
Port State Control (PSC) audit
PSC is the inspection of foreign ships in national ports to verify that the condition of the ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of key international conventions and associated codes and that the ship is manned and operated in compliance with these rules.
Many of IMO’s most important technical conventions contain provisions for ships to be inspected when they visit foreign ports to ensure that they meet international requirements. The primary responsibility for ships’ standards rests with the flag State – but port State control provides a ‘safety net’ to catch substandard ships.
Maritime management experts can perform a PSC Verification Audit aboard ships and yachts to help minimise the risk that a PSC inspection could result in any deficiencies or even detentions. Our specialists will support you in the preparation for a PSC audit.