International Safety Management (ISM) Code: Yachts Have Some Catching Up to Do

I first joined the yachting industry five years ago after several years at sea onboard cruise ships. Initially, I could not understand why many of the international conventions and regulations I previously worked, lived by and was required to follow did not apply to privately registered yachts. This included the International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

During my deep-sea career, ISM was a fundamental part of daily life. Having experienced the benefits of the ISM Code first-hand, I am surprised that the same standards do not apply to many yachts. In my opinion, if the yachting industry wants to be recognised as a professional area within the wider maritime sector, with regards to safety management, we have some catching up to do.

The Private Problem

Being privately registered, yachts are presented with the choice of complying with the ISM Code, but it is not mandatory. A sizeable portion of privately registered yachts choose not to comply on a voluntary basis and so are not supported by a shore-based ISM company or have an allocated Designated Person Ashore (DPA) and his or her team of safety and compliance specialists.

Find out more about the roles of a Designated Person Ashore (DPA) here.

However, it is encouraging to see that despite compliance being non-mandatory for privately registered yachts, more and more are deciding to do so voluntarily.

But why should yachts comply with the ISM Code in the first place? Why should more, if not all, privately registered yachts comply with the ISM Code (over 500GT or over 300GT)?

Man shrugging his shoulders looking confused

The ISM Code and the Benefits of Compliance

Full disclosure, the benefit of ISM compliance is challenging to objectively and accurately measure. This is in part a result of the disproportionate number of vessels now complying in comparison to when the ISM Code was first introduced in 1997. Since then, the total number of vessels sailing and operating today under the ISM Code has more than doubled. An argument could be made that despite this increase in fleet size, the number of marine safety incidents has not increased at same rate. However, this simple analysis cannot reflect upon the effectiveness of the ISM Code as a whole.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), back in 2005, published an assessment of the impact and effectiveness of the implementation of the ISM Code and the conclusion was: “Based on the data collected, the group concluded that where the ISM Code had been embraced as a positive step toward efficiency through a safety culture, tangible positive benefits were evident” .

In yachting, a common path to yacht Ownership stems from chartering. Future Owners start their experience onboard yachts that are commercially registered which are therefore yachts that must comply with the ISM Code. As a reminder, ISM Compliance is mandatory for yachts that are:

  • 500GT or carrying more than 12 passengers must enable a Full ISM SMS system
  • Less than 500GT carrying less than 12 passengers must implement a mini-ISM SMS system as required by the yacht’s Flag State.

So, the question is, are Owner’s aware that when using chartering as a stepping stone or testing ground for yacht ownership they are benefiting from safety standards which may not be necessary replicated on their private yachts?

Based on my experience, yacht owners may sometimes be unaware of this and the pivotal role of senior officers in maintaining those standards on private yachts cannot be underestimated.

The SMS of private yachts are commonly developed ‘in-house’ without seeking the support of safety and compliance specialists or obtaining Flag State certification voluntarily. As a result, these ‘in-house’ SMS systems do not receive the benefit which arises from external verification of the system’s effectiveness. I view this approach as a ticking time-bomb. An accident waiting to happen. Shortfalls will only come to light when it is too late.

An Industry Leader... Or Not?

In areas such as technology, innovation and design, the yachting industry is (nautical) miles ahead in terms of leading industry standards. However, when it comes to safety management, this statement is far from true.

During my career at sea, I have been fortunate to experience a harmonisation of safety management systems at a corporate level. This meant any areas of the system which could have been improved was changed based on lessons learned, as well as experience gained by other companies and vessels within the same corporation. The changes applied at the time helped me understand the significant positive impact of a Safety Management System (SMS). Constant review by several different Flag States, Companies, Captains and Crew led to regular improvements compared to any other systems which do not benefit from the same widespread review and input.

A core objective of the ISM Code is to reduce the high proportion of maritime accidents attributable to human error. Therefore, greater participation and effective compliance with the ISM Code will undoubtedly achieve a much safer industry for our Crew, Owner’s, and their guests to enjoy their time aboard. None of us want to see accidents or fatalities due to a lack of oversight, accountability, or the ability to learn from the accidents and mistakes of others.

Unfortunately, due to several different factors there seem to be yachts operating their very own Safety Management Systems (SMS ) or in some cases, none at all. Whether or not external support is required, there is undoubtedly some catching up to do compared to the rest of the maritime industry. For me, it can only start with uniform participation in ISM compliance and external verification of the safety management activities across the yachting sector.

Why not make scalable ISM compliance mandatory for all private or commercially registered over 300GT? Or 200GT? What do you think? Would the yachting sector be safer? Would the costs deter smaller yacht Owners from becoming yacht Owners?

ISM: Steps to Success

If you are a privately registered yacht using an in-house Safety Management System or just a small collection of onboard procedures, I would suggest you first engage with safety and compliance specialists. The likelihood is the in-house Safety Management System (SMS) has not been inspected externally or received a thorough inspection or audit in the past 12 months. Maritime safety and compliance specialists can then arrange internal audits and conduct a GAP analysis against the ISM standards to ensure the SMS is fit for purpose and compliant with the functional objectives of the ISM Code.

As with any audit or inspection, there will likely be areas identified that can benefit from more detail or improvement.

After an internal audit or GAP analysis, the Safety Management System (SMS) can then be developed further with the results of the internal audit until an ISM Company and DPA are appointed. An “Interim Audit” may be requested by the yacht’s Flag Administration. An interim flag audit would be the first step towards voluntary compliance and the achievement of full-term certification. This commitment speaks to the crew and the industry that despite not having a mandate to comply, the beginning of a continuous improvement process has begun with the aims of embracing the highest standards of maritime safety.

The yachting industry is one of a kind. I feel lucky having met large volumes of extraordinary professionals over the years. The industry is full of visionary characters who make yachting one of the leading industries of innovation. However, if we want yachting to become a true industry-leader, safety is where innovation is required.

 

Connect with Giuseppe Corrado on LinkedIn and continue the conversation here.

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ALEXANDRA HERNáNDEZ

Yacht Manager

Alexandra Hernández is Riela Yachts’ Yacht Manager. As part of this, Alexandra is the initial point of contact for our vessels; working closely with our other specialists to provide support and service coordination. Alexandra supervises crew management and plays a heavy involvement in the development and maintenance of our award-winning electronic Safety Management System (eSMS).

Born and raised in Colombia, Alexandra completed her degree as a Lawyer, and she is on track to receive her diploma in Superyacht Management.

Alexandra’s legal background and experience within the Marine & Aviation industries cover a wide range of roles, helping to gain invaluable knowledge, develop communication skills and actively cultivate solid industry relationships to deliver the highest of standards in every project.

Jay Houghton

JAY HOUGHTON

Riela Group Finance Director

Jay Houghton is the Riela Group Finance Director. Jay is responsible for overseeing the Financial Strategy of the Group alongside the financial reporting and control structure of the Group and its companies.

As a qualified accountant with over 30-years in the financial and service industries, Jay has built a wealth of experience in business analysis, investment appraisal, financial control and reporting.

Cameron findlay

Safety & Compliance Officer

Cameron “Fin” Findlay became a part of the Riela Yachts team in late 2021, initially joining as a Trainee Yacht Safety & Compliance Assistant. Fin’s commitment and dedication have enabled him to understand the intricacies of the industry from the ground up, leading him to being promoted to Yacht Safety & Compliance Officer in 2023. Fin is now a qualified Company Security Officer (CSO), actively contributing to the implementation of Riela’s Safety Management System across our fleet, working closely alongside Clive Harrison and George Self.

Christian Crompton Yachts

Christian crompton

Product and Development Lead

Christian Crompton is the Riela Yachts’ Product and Development Lead responsible for translating the requirements and operations of the Safety and Compliance team and implementing this into the forefront of the electronic Safety Management System (eSMS).

Since graduating with a first-class honours degree in Computer and Information Security in 2018, Christian has worked on designing and developing superyacht solutions using Laserfiche in the Maritime Software Industry.

With Christian’s security background and software experience streamlining business processes, Christian applies his knowledge into the Riela Yachts strategy and innovates new systems for both Riela and their clients.

Tony Partridge

Tony Partridge

Product and Development specialist

Tony Partridge is a Product and Development specialist at Riela Yachts where he will be working closely alongside Mark Bridson and Christian Crompton. Tony’s main focus is building an innovative client focused dashboard, whilst providing a new outlook and perspective to our current processes, policies and procedures.

 

Before joining Riela, Tony started his own web development business where he built applications and websites for a large group of different sectors, growing a strong and long-lasting clientele base. With over 10 years of experience, Tony brings a depth of knowledge and expertise to the Riela Yachts team which will be used to help progress the company’s development through the innovation and development of Riela Yachts solutions.

Robert Tobin

Riela Group Managing Director

Rob Tobin is the Managing Director of the Riela Group of Companies and is responsible for overseeing our business operations, our people and driving excellence in all we do.

Robert brings over 25 years of successful leadership and entrepreneurial experience across a range of industries including Family Office, corporate services, construction engineering, Superyachts, cyber security and information technology development to our Group, and to our customers.

In the past 15 years Rob has gained a prominent reputation within the Superyacht industry for his passion, integrity, innovation and achievements to date.

“Being part of an awesome, capable and forward-thinking team that have a shared passion for Superyachts, people and the environment is the highlight of my career and puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step every day”.

Clive Harrison

Clive Harrison

Operations Director

Clive Harrison is a Director at Riela Yachts and leads the Operations Team.

After a 22 year service as a Deck Officer in the UK Royal Navy, Clive moved ashore and is enjoying a second career, spanning over a decade,  in the yachting industry and relishing the challenges that this brings.

Clive brings a wealth of expertise and experience to our Company and has earned a reputation for providing a professional and pragmatic approach to the delivery of our services.

George Self

George Self

Safety & Compliance Manager

George Self is a Safety & Compliance Manager and responsible for the implementation and development of operational compliance for yachts at the company.

Accruing a 10-year service of sea time, beginning as a deckhand before respectfully concluding her career as a Chief Officer, George now contributes a wealth of first-hand practice and insight into the support she now provides to yachts daily. George also brings shore side experience from her time working at a number of established Ship Management firms on the Isle of Man.

Ken Hickling

Ken Hickling

Director

Ken Hickling is a company Director at Riela Yachts (UK) Ltd.

Ken has spent over 30 years working in the Yachting industry at Boatyards and materials manufacturers, and more recently as a Specialist Business Advisor. During this time Ken has served as International Superyacht Society (ISS) President and is currently on the Superyacht UK Executive Committee. He also works as a project leader on the ISO work group focused on Superyacht Quality.

The experience that he brings to The Riela Group in optimising our internal business processes helps to ensure that the quality of service we provide to our clients is at the highest level.

Louise Gimson

Director

Louise Gimson is a Director, Senior Administrator and in-house HR Manager and is responsible for the day to day running of the company and client accounts at the Riela Yachts.

With an extensive background in finance, Louise brings almost twenty years’ experience in accounts within the ship management industry to Riela Yachts, where she is dedicated to implementing dynamic solutions to benefit clients.

Louise has diversified her responsibilities by taking on data handling duties within the company and in 2016 began assisting the Operations Team with internal compliance procedures.

Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts

Head of Sales

As the Head of Group Sales at the Riela family of companies, Matthew leads the company’s sales strategy, execution, and growth.

Matthew has a successful record building trusted client relationship and delivering upon set expectations. An accomplished sales leader, he delivers a sales process that provides clients with the information and support they need to make the right decisions for their organisations and their constituents.

Matthew has significant experience within the maritime industry having previously worked across various sectors including insurance, security, satellite communications and managed IT. Matthew’s most recent experience encompasses almost 5 years spent with the leading satellite communications and managed IT provider in the maritime industry, focusing on their superyacht clientele.

Mark Bridson

Mark Bridson

Product & Development Specialist

Mark Bridson is a Product and Development specialist and responsible for the integration of Laserfiche within the company and the developing of an electronic Safety Management System.

Marks career started in the Royal Air Force as a data analyst maintaining Aircraft engineering records and the provision of Aircraft statistics.

Returning to the Island Mark spent the next 25 years working in IT for an aircraft design company. In this role he provided Computer Aided Design and document management support for offices within the UK and Europe.

Moving from the Aircraft industry to Maritime, Mark has spent two years with a Yachting software solutions company using Laserfiche to design purchase ordering systems for Superyachts.

Tina - Riela Yachts

Tina Dahn

Crew Officer

Tina Dahn is a Crew Officer and responsible for the administration of yacht crew contracts, monthly payroll and crew certification at Riela Yachts.

After a 12 year service in the Royal Navy undertaking various administration and PA roles, Tina began working for the NHS in 2001 and was responsible for duties including managing payroll, recruitment and HR administration.

Tina returned to the Isle of Man to undertake the role of Crewing Officer in the superyacht industry in 2011, where she oversaw a portfolio of clients whom she provided crew employment, administration and payroll services.

Christian goelz

Director

Christian is involved across the Riela family of companies with particular attention to the technology businesses, Cyber and Tech.

Christian gained a postgraduate Master in Finance degree at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland and completed his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Before joining us, Christian worked for six years at Argosy Capital, an Isle of Man-based private equity and venture capital business focusing on early-stage growth businesses. At Argosy, he focused on managing investment companies, research and financial analysis and served as a director on several boards.