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The PYA: fending the future of yachting industry

Crew aboard my Moonlight II. Copyright Katie Jane HowsonThe yachting industry experienced a boom time in the late 1980s and early 90s. The number of luxury motor yachts surged and owning classic sail yacht became a symbol of wealth and sophistication, but as the workforce swelled in size, so did the need for regulation and protecting the rights of crew. Riviera Insider meets with PYA Development Manager Carey Callender.

The Professional Yachting Association is now over 25 years old. Who first formed the PYA and what were its founding principles?

In the 1990s, the growing yachting sector was starting to attract attention from the regulators and was at risk of having unrealistic qualifications and legislation imposed on it. Prior to 1992, certain classes of vessels under certain gross tonnage levels were exempt from any formal requirements for masters or officers to hold Certificates of Competency (CoCs). With this situation about to change, almost all yacht crew in command or senior positions would have been unable to meet the new certification standards – only Merchant Navy officers would have held acceptable qualifications.

Fortunately, a few senior yacht crew recognized that [these] regulations would not be suitable for the industry and with the support of some shore-based stakeholders in brokerage and management, they established the PYA in 1991 to lobby the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The PYA made a submission for a new category of qualifications to be drawn up; relevant to and limited to yachts. The MCA proved receptive to the PYA overtures and the submission was accepted. The fledgling PYA worked in close consultation with the MCA in drafting the syllabus for the job-saving CoCs for deck officers. This led on to similar certification for yacht engineers.

Yacht crew nowadays work within the framework created by the MCA, in consultation with the PYA. They take the same STCW modules as all entrants into the commercial shipping world, but then move onto the bridge or engineering track specific for yacht crew.

Had it not been for the PYA forming all those years ago, the commercial yachting sector would have vanished or shrunk to accommodate only officers with full commercial certificates from cadetships or cruise shiptype backgrounds. These principles of representing the people who work in our industry are still very much relevant.

What is the relationship the PYA has with the MCA today?

The MCA is a branch of the UK government whose mission is to ‘work to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea, to produce legislation and guidance on maritime matters, and provide certification to seafarers’. The MCA has the task of implementing – through domestic legislation - the various international maritime conventions such as the Maritime Labor Convention 2006.

The MLC was drafted without any input from the yachting industry. On reading the contents of the MLC, some PYA Council members became aware that the mandated standards for crew accommodation, when applied to yachts, would have meant that crew quarters would have taken up so much volume that no owner would ever order a new yacht for the charter market.

The PYA quickly formed a work group to bring the matter to the urgent attention of the MCA, the ILO, MYBA, SYBAss and Nautilus. It became immediately apparent that the Convention was already passing into international law and that no amendments could be made in less than four years, and then only with a major effort. To underline the seriousness of the situation, senior representatives from the ILO and from Nautilus were invited by the PYA to Antibes, and were shown a variety of yachts - sail and power of different sizes - to demonstrate the reality of yacht volumes and layouts.

Once the disconnect between the MLC and the realities of yacht construction had been demonstrated, the MCA formed a tripartite sub-group to establish ‘substantial equivalence’ in the MLC parameters for the yachting industry. After a series of meetings, it was a PYA Council member wrote the final draft of a document that was used by SYBAss and associated stakeholders to present to the MCA. This in turn became the basis for the relevant section of the MLC and was achieved only about a year before the MLC came into effect. It happens that, for historical reasons, the vast majority of large yachts are registered in one or another of the countries and territories that together constitute the Red Ensign Group (REG). Again for historical reasons, the management of the maritime affairs of this group is under the umbrella of the MCA. The result for this is that the MCA and REG have acquired a role as the leading regulator for large yachts and their lead is followed by many flag state administrations around the world.

The PYA, as the main professional organisation for seafarers working on large yachts and the only association that exclusively represents the interests of yacht crew, has a longestablished working relationship with the MCA, going right back to its founding. This relationship is focussed on working to try and ensure that the laws and regulations put into effect by the MCA (and the other REG administrations) are appropriate and effective.

Because the nature of our relationship with the MCA it is often misunderstood, some people have the idea that the PYA is in cahoots with the training providers and encourages the MCA to introduce new qualifications and compulsory courses. In fact, the opposite is true and we try ensure that compulsory training is limited to that which is truly necessary.

What is the PYA’s role in developing training paths?

The PYA has been part of the MCA Yacht Qualification Panel since its inception. It’s the only independent voice in the room when MCA-approved training providers and MCA Deck and Engineering departments meet on an annual basis to discuss and analyse the yacht training system. It’s at this table that we present the concerns and feedback of our members on all matters relating to the training and certification pathways.

Over the years the PYA has offered up positive and negative feedback on current training provisions, and has assisted in both rejecting as well as finding alternative options to what the training providers and the MCA have suggested. As the yacht crew representative, we examine the submissions and have the chance to respond if we believe that they do not seem prudent to the yacht operations or obtainable when the crew in our fleets usually have to self-fund their training as well as take leave to achieve the required training routes.

The Efficient Deck Hand (EDH) certificate is a good example. In the last eight years or so, crew agents and management companies have been demanding the Yachtmaster Offshore CoC as the entry level qualification for junior deck crew. This CoC isn’t fit for purpose at that level nor is it achievable for most junior crew. Many PYA members had concerns with the competencies of the crew who were being forced to rush their training.

The RYA and training providers could also see that the course was being diluted within its own right as a ‘Master’ CoC. The EDH now gives junior crew a better stepping stone to progress through the ranks - and at a better pace - with the right skill sets to do the job.

 We don’t win all the suggestions, but in the case of the watch keeping requirement for Master 3000gt, the MCA took note of the PYA feedback regarding realistic hours of watch keeping on long passages and at anchor.

Another more recent example of this is the PYA’s success in getting the MCA to agree that ‘experienced’ chefs could gain a Ship’s Cook Certificate by passing a special evaluation process and so avoid the need to go back to school.

The PYA is relentless in its aim to take direct feedback from its members (yacht crew at all levels and in all departments) to the MCA YQP table. We understand that the current training platform is not perfect, yet we do the best we can, as do the MCA, working within the parameters of marine governance to fulfil statutory versus industry requirements.

The PYA is often described as the ‘voice for yacht crew’. What are the organisation’s primary concerns?

Carey Callender (second from left) with PYA team. Copyright Katie Jane Howson Crew welfare; crew representation; protecting the yachting industry; taking the opinions of crew forward to administration level; assuring the quality of crew training is upheld and that the training is relevant to the needs of our industry; guiding crew through their careers; and relaying accurate, impartial information to our members.

Your membership reflects the international nature of yachting. How many crew are on your books and what are the main benefits of becoming a member?

The PYA has around 1,500 members of 90 nationalities who are based all over the world and in all ranks of yachting: deckhands, officers, captains, stewards, stewardesses, chefs as well as land-based yachting professionals. For a crew member, the main benefits of joining the association are: verification of sea service, careers advice, representation, information (the association has selected over 30 voluntary council members with a wealth of combined knowledge and experience in yachting to help its members with all kinds of questions, including contracts, legal advice, career planning, regulations, flag states and much more - the advice and information provided by the PYA is always impartial) and access to our programme of educational and social events throughout the year.

What does the future hold for the PYA?

2017 has brought with it some big changes for the association. In addition to the newly adopted structure of the association, we have just launched a brand new website and members’ area, offering a huge amount of information and advice for crew. Members can also upload their sea service testimonials directly into their members’ area and log on to see the verification status of each document.

With the recent changes in the sea service verification procedures from the MCA, the PYA is now able to verify sea service for nonmembers as well as members (on a pay-as-you-go basis). We anticipate that the volume of sea service requiring verification will increase and as such have been building up our sea service department.

The PYA is currently actively involved in the updating of LY3 to become Part A of the new Red Ensign Group (REG) Yacht Code. Submissions by the PYA have been enfolded into some specific sections of the new code which will be of benefit to all yacht crew. The PYA GUEST programme will be expanded across the industry, spurred by its growing acceptance as a benchmark for interior crew.

The PYA is also moving forward with proposals to raise the professional status of holders of yacht CoCs - deck and engineering – through developing ties with other professional bodies in the wider maritime field. We will continue to offer our members a range of educational and social events, bringing the latest issues in yachting to the forefront with accurate guidance and advice for seafarers.


Elsa Carpenter