Yacht agencies: Not just middle-men
Last updated: 26/06/2017
The basic idea of any type of agency revolves taking on work that could typically be completed without the agency’s assistance, with the understanding that the agency can complete the work in a somehow-more-valuable fashion. This could mean they’re quicker, cheaper, more efficient, more knowledgeable, more exposed to a particular location or industry – you get the idea; they offer some kind of compelling reason to use their services, instead of directly approaching the desired end-result yourself.
Naturally, people from all over the world have their opinions on agencies and agency work. Some say agencies simply serve as a middle-man for tasks and projects that needn’t have one, whilst some say that agencies offer a legitimate and useful service to clients, taking care of excess baggage on a project or task, allowing the client to focus on more pressing matters.
In the superyacht industry, yacht agents are subject to the same split of opinions: Many captains and crew praise the services of yacht agents in helping them source important items for guests, gain clearance, or find the last remaining berth in the region. Likewise, some also claim agents are unnecessary, saying they offer nothing you couldn’t just do yourself.
Going it alone without a yacht agency
We thought we’d ask some yacht agents themselves about their experiences with yachts and captains who have ‘gone it alone’.
Erika’s Yacht Agents told us about a yacht captain entering SVG (Saint Vincent & the Grenadines) who was unaware of how the cruise fee worked in the country.
“In this country, a yacht pays a cruise fee when arriving. It is good for 30 days. It can leave and arrive as many times as it likes within 30 days without having to pay the cruise fee again. One yacht used our clearance service for their first trip, but It seems they decided they could bypass us the second time. They paid the cruise fee again, because they were not aware of the regulation and did not mention the previous trip to the government agents. The amount they paid was higher than our fee would have been.”
This story from Erika’s, whilst not catastrophic, shows one example of hundreds of small pockets of legislation. One single person, regardless of position, is unlikely to be able to recall all these small, local rules and laws. In these situations, the captain has to make a call on whether their, and their crew’s, knowledge is sufficient enough for an efficient, successful trip, without blunders such as these arising.
That said, catastrophes do happen in situations where an agent could have prevented it – as Erika’s went on to explain to us:
“A yacht decided to cruise in St. Vincent & the Grenadines without using an agent. They had a crew member who was returning home to the Philippines, so they dropped her in St. Vincent before they left the country. She flew to St. Maarten, where it was noticed that she did not have the correct paperwork to fly through Europe. Her Schengen visa had expired, so her routing through two Schengen zones was not allowed.
“After many hours of waiting and unpleasantness, the crew member was deported from St. Maarten back to St. Vincent. At this point, the yacht hired an agent in St. Maarten, who recommended us to assist in our country. We spent almost three days working out how to get the crew member home, looking at many travel itineraries and options. In the end, she made it, but not after a huge amount of stress for her and an entire weekend of work for us. Needless to say, the cost of the original flights was lost, new flight costs were incurred, hotel bills were involved and agents from several countries became involved before the poor woman got home.”
Had an agent with local knowledge of customs and visas been hired prior to organising the crew member’s trip home, the whole ordeal she experienced wouldn’t even have surfaced.
Sometimes, it just comes down to local knowledge of new areas and the ability to impress demanding guests
When agents aren’t helping yachts and their crew organise everything for their next charter, or finding the fastest way to source British fish and chips for guests who fancy something closer to home this evening, they use their local knowledge to provide services for guests that are far-beyond what the crew could deliver.
Giuseppe Solina from EasYacht4U told us about his experiences in providing services that often the crew simply cannot provide themselves:
“We've assisted many yachts with particularly demanding guests, for their interest in history, culture, sports, as well as in food and wine. It was so satisfying to help captains and guests along the whole Italian coast.
“We organised tours in helicopters over the craters of Mount Etna, trekking excursions to the craters of the islands of Vulcano and Stromboli, tours of the Baroque towns of Eastern Sicily, soirées at the Greek-Roman amphitheatres in Syracuse and Taormina, visits to the most famous and refined Italian wineries, exclusive tours of natural and archaeological parks and the authorisations to cruise and anchor in marine reserves.”
It’s impossible for captains and crew to have high levels of knowledge of all the areas they may potentially visit on a trip or cruise. This is an area where agents can become particularly useful, impressing guests and taking a load off of the crew. It may even mean the guests are more willing to leave a generous tip at the end of the charter, after extra effort is made to ensure their trip’s success.
Yacht agents may not be necessary for all tasks a yacht and its crew may need to carry out, but it’s better to be safe than sorry
Bad experiences on yachts are only amplified by the expectations of seamless luxury on board. During any project, task, or request on board, unless you’re 100% sure that you can achieve the desired outcome yourself, a yacht agency really can help plug the holes, and ensure that owners, guests, and crew, have the best possible trip.