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Cha Cha Cha Changes

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As we all know, the only constant is change. This could not be clearer at the 11th annual Azimut-Benetti Yachtmaster in Trieste, Italy. The first big change is the move from ski to sea. This year, captains are unlikely to find themselves on the slopes; rather they will sail in the Yachtmaster Cup with the help of champion Italian sailors Francesco De Angelis and Vasco Vascotto. Captains were split into four teams, each champion in charge of two. The teams will compete in match races to crown the winner of the first Yachtmaster Cup. On Saturday, March 26, captains donned sailing kit for the first time at the conference – and for some motor yacht captains, for the first time in many years – and set sail to train for the big races on Sunday, March 27.

This change is not the only afoot, however. On Friday, March 25, 2011, captains met for a discussion and open forum on the MLC, 2006 and the regulations it will bring. While we’ve all heard the accommodation issues of MLC, 2006, accommodation is but one of five titles within the MLC. Title two particularly piqued my interest. This title is on conditions of employment and under this title captains found hours of work, hours of rest and manning – these regulations will remain the same. However, the proposed Seafarer’s Employment Agreement or SEA is one part crew agreement and one part crew contract and will be mandatory for all crewmembers employed on yachts. This document will lay out every entitlement for crew from leave – which soon will include all bank holidays of a vessel’s flag state – to social security. Yes, you read that correctly. Social Security must be paid – either by crewmember or by owner; this is yet to be decided.

Under title four – Health and Welfare – social security is laid out. Each crewmember will declare a country to which they will pay social security, generally this will be their country of origin. However, if the flag state of the vessel does not have a social security system, crewmembers will not be liable to pay. Regardless, this could open crew up to new scrutiny when it comes to taxes and offshore bank accounts. There is the question of who will pay the social security? Will owners raise crew salaries in order to compensate or will owners themselves pony up and pay out?

These are just some of the questions that have been asked as we look at the changes coming down the pipeline. Answers cannot yet be given as we must wait until ratification occurs. Of course we can only speculate now, but perhaps the days of tax-free existence are over for crew or maybe new loopholes will be found. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. And as for the Yachtmaster Cup…GO TEAM LEONARDO!

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