Photographer: Jean Christophe Magnetet/AFP via Getty Images

Uber-Rich Treatment of Superyacht Crews Angers U.K. Union

  • Nautilus International cites bullying and harassment of staff
  • Global fleet nearing 4,500 vessels, employing 33,000 people

Superyacht crews are being exploited by unscrupulous owners as the global fleet nears 4,500 and safety breaches and abuse cases escape investigation, according to a U.K.-based labor union for seafarers.

Lack of regulation and use of so-called flags of convenience mean some staff work long hours in brutal conditions, Nautilus International will tell delegates at next week’s Trade Union Congress according to a draft document ahead of the meeting.

The group wants unions to support a campaign to enforce the Maritime Labour Convention, which sets standards for working and living conditions.

“Seafaring is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs and superyachts are no different,” said Andrew Linington, director of campaigns at the union. “There has been no shortage of horrendous accidents, and some cases where badly injured crew or the relatives of those who have been killed on superyachts have received no compensation.”

The number of superyachts, defined as those longer than 24 meters (79 feet), is rising rapidly along with the number of rich households with cash to spare, the union said. More than 33,000 crew are employed on the fleet, which has grown by 77 percent in less than a decade.

While the union welcomed the increase in employment and recognized there are many responsible owners, it cited a survey of crews carried out by the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University which found that 75 percent of crew are worried about job security, and more than 40 percent have faced bullying or harassment.

Variations in regulations around the world make it difficult to investigate and pursue legal action over accidents and claims of bad treatment, the union said. Casework from crews on superyachts has included unpaid wages, the confiscation of passports, injuries, bullying and harassment.

“The crew surveyed by SIRC served on superyachts operating under a total of 45 different registers, all of which creates a jurisdictional nightmare when it comes to dealing with accident investigation or determining liability for compensation,” Linington said. “It’s vital that the Maritime Labour Convention is applied to the superyacht industry and enforced by the countries who register these vessels or host them in their ports.”

The convention was agreed by the International Labour Organisation in 2006 and has been ratified by by 84 of its 185 member states so far, including the U.K.. It sets requirements for employment contracts, working hours and conditions to try to create consistency across jurisdictions.

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