[1] We should of course caution at the outset that we are not providing medical advice, and you should follow the recommendations of the relevant authorities and medical professionals regarding your own health and that of your employees, colleagues, guests and friends.


The superyacht world, as with other areas of business and life, faces an unprecedented challenge with ongoing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infection 

What is different with COVID-19 as compared with other recent outbreaks, such as the Zika virus in 2016, is the rate of transmission, the ease with which it appears to spread from person to person, and the lack of current treatment or any means of inoculation. With cases reported across almost the entire world, COVID-19 has now been characterised by the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’) as a pandemic.

So what does this mean for the various stakeholders in the superyacht community and how can we all do our part to stay afloat?[1] 

What if you are the owner of a yacht?

It is likely that your enjoyment of your yacht will (if it hasn’t already) be affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Your yacht manager will take care of the intricacies of running the yacht this season, but be prepared for destinations to be removed from the itinerary as localised outbreaks flare up, and countries continue to limit travel to or from certain regions.

More importantly, however, you have crew for whom you are responsible and if you want to retain their service, and loyalty, how you operate the yacht during this pandemic will be key.

Under the Maritime Labour Convention (“MLC”), you are obliged to take reasonable precautions to prevent, among other things, diseases onboard. During this current outbreak, we are seeing Flag authorities turning to the guidance of the WHO and the IMO for how best to limit the spread of COVID-19. We have included some useful links below where you can access this (constantly changing) advice.

As a yacht owner or manager it is important that you implement simple measures onboard to discharge your duty to your crew.

Here are just a few matters to consider in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Under the MLC, you owe a duty to each crew member to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe and healthy work environment – this includes taking measures to limit the spread of disease;
  • There is an increasing likelihood that you could have your yacht placed under quarantine, or that individual crew members will need to be put in isolation onboard – are you ready for these eventualities?
  • Are your crew adequately covered under your crew medical insurance?
  • If you charter your yacht commercially, are you more exposed under the charter agreement than you maybe realise? If you charter under MYBA Charter Agreement terms the chances are that you are;

Keep an eye on our website for updates as we deal with these points and more in greater detail over the coming days.

What if you are the captain of a superyacht?

As the captain, many of the above factors will also be relevant to you. But what happens if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 among your crew?

You should give due consideration to:

  • The yacht’s capacity, capability and resources to treat unwell crew members;
  • Local government advice in relation to use of protective face masks, among other measures to maintain a safe environment for crew;
  • The possibility that you may have to make last minute changes to itinerary – how will you communicate this to the owner or charterers?
  • What arrangements are in place if you are forced to quarantine the yacht for a period of time – could you do so with reduced crew numbers to reduce the risk of the virus spreading onboard? If so, make sure you keep in regular contact with your Flag State;
  • What contingencies do you have in place if other port restrictions are imposed either where you are, or where you plan to go?

We will be posting more detailed updates on our website next week to help guide you through these novel issues.

And what if you have the holiday of a lifetime booked as a charter guest?

Chartering a yacht is an enjoyable experience, but what happens if you and your guests are quarantined on board or if the charter is cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Here is a short list of things to check before you go:

  • Does your charter agreement clearly state the consequences of your trip being affected by issues such as epidemic, pandemic and quarantine? If you have chartered under the standard MYBA Charter Agreement the chances are that it does not, so what are your rights?
  • What are your rights if your trip is delayed or cancelled as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • What are your obligations if your own trip is impacted by the virus – if redelivery of the yacht is delayed because it has been placed in quarantine you may not be able to rely on the Owner being responsible for all related costs.
  • If you are still in the process of arranging your trip, take the opportunity to scrutinise the force majeure clause. Make sure you are protected and, if you are not, seek amendment to the provision before signing;
  • Travel and health insurance is a given for most travellers, but does your policy provide you with adequate cover if you fall ill, or your trip is otherwise affected, due to COVID-19?

See our website for more detailed guidance on how you can keep your trip of a lifetime on track, and in budget.

Concluding remarks

Nobody wants their plans to be affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, but we are already seeing the immediate impact of the virus on the operation and management of our clients’ yachts.

Having clarity on your rights, obligations and duties, whether you are an owner, captain or charterer is vital to ensure that the impact on the industry is kept to the minimum, with issues that we already know will arise resolved as quickly as possible.

Keep up to speed with the latest advice from the WHO, the IMO and your local Governmental health department, in order to ensure that you are aware of the daily changes to hygiene best practice and potential travel issues – we have included some useful links below to get you started.

And finally, find another 20-second-song because “happy birthday” is going to grow old very quickly!

Dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak is no plain sailing but ensuring that you have the correct measures in place will reduce your risk and hopefully keep that summer holiday on track.

Check back for further updates from our superyacht team at Bargate Murray next week.  And stay heathy and safe!

Bargate Murray

Useful resources

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/

UK Government guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19

Ministry of Health COVID-19 news in Italy: http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/nuovocoronavirus/archivioNotizieNuovoCoronavirus.jsp

UK Ship Register: https://www.ukshipregister.co.uk/news/

Cayman Islands Shipping Registry: https://www.cishipping.com/welcome-maci

Government of the Virgin Islands: http://www.bvi.gov.vg/news

IMO: http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx

Further information

For further information or advice, please email: yachtgroup@bargatemurray.com

Content updated as at 13 March 2020