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The Passenger Yacht Code in 2015

GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman; 21 April 2015

The luxury yacht industry continues to evolve in line with the tastes and demands of yacht owners, who are continually looking for more innovative and flexible designs including larger vessels that can accommodate a greater number of passengers. 

This demand for larger vessels has presented a challenge to ship builders, operators, and the National Administrations that regulate them.  The requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), had evolved to deal with merchant cargo ships and passenger ships, but had not fully addressed the growing demand for larger yachts. In 2008, the Red Ensign Group agreed to support the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry (CISR) in the development of a new code for yachts carrying up to 36 passengers, up from the previous limit of 12 applied by the Large Yacht Code.

This new standard became known as the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC).  This code sought to rationalise the requirements and standards to be met by a pleasure yacht of any size which carries 36 or fewer passengers on international voyages, particularly with respect to the IMO Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS), International Load Line and the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) conventions.

The Code was developed considering that the methodology of operation and the associated risks of operating a merchant Passenger Ship differ from the operation of a Large Luxury Yacht and that compliance with some of the provisions of the conventions brought little or no benefit. In some instances they were disproportionately onerous in terms of design and cost, when compared to the incremental increase in safety levels achieved, given the typical operating patterns of yachts.

First published in November 2010, the Code is now republished annually with updates that take into account any changes to the IMO conventions, as well as any new practices in the large yacht industry and technical innovation.  The 5th Edition was published in January 2015. 

Since the Code’s initial conception, the CISR has retained responsibility for the drafting and maintenance of the Code on behalf of the Red Ensign Group.  This responsibility is a testament to the solid foundation of expertise the CISR has in both new build supervision as well as consultation services.  The CISR has been convening and chairing the annual industry working group since its inception to aid in the development of the PYC, and to act as the focal point for the continued development of the PYC. These meetings ensure that the PYC is maintained as a highly respected, practical, and internationally-recognised standard through collaboration and the exchange of knowledge and experience for the betterment of the industry.

The PYC has gone from strength to strength with the total number of yachts in build at any one time steadily increasing, despite the global financial crisis and ongoing recession; with over 15 projects now currently in build under the specialist supervision of the Cayman Islands’ team of Passenger Yacht Surveyors in locations all over the world.

The projects taking advantage of the PYC and its increase in allowed passenger numbers from the Large Yacht Code, tend to do this to the fullest extent that the vessel will accommodate. This has seen the average size of this type of vessel in build around 115m with four currently being over 130m in length.

Four vessels designed and built under the PYC have already launched and a fifth is due in the coming weeks. There are also a number of full SOLAS passenger vessels registering in the Cayman Islands as PYC vessels, taking advantage of the beneficial registration structure available to Passenger Yachts over conventional passenger ships and the associated operational benefits that this brings.  These benefits include private registration options and reductions in the restrictions imposed on passenger ships for the use of commercial docks and anchorages.  Combining the new and existing vessels, the Cayman Islands now has seven vessels registered as Passenger Yachts on the Flag.

The Cayman Islands continues to push the Code forward to ensure that it remains up-to-date and representative of industry needs and best practice.  Three specialist groups of worked through 2014 on the required amendments, the 5th Edition represents a code in parallel to the current international requirements, whilst meeting the needs of these unique vessels and their owners. The Code is being further advanced to include provisions for sailing vessels and this work is scheduled to be published in the 6th Edition at the beginning of 2016.  This will represent over two years of development, consultation and research which we are excited to be able to offer to the industry enabling vessels to be built to this new section of the Passenger Yacht Code.

Editor’s Notes:

In general, MACI functions as the maritime administration of the Cayman Islands and as such discharges, on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government, the range of responsibilities and services normally associated with such a maritime administration.