Following a successful career as a Chief Officer on board charter yachts, Daniel Binns joined Aqua Marine six months ago. Today, Daniel talks about his time onboard these successful charter yachts and why he chose to make the transition to a shoreside position. He now spends a lot of time on the road, auditing yachts, meeting clients, and attending industry shows.
1.What is your current job role and where are you based?
My title is Senior Manager, Designated Person Ashore, and Company Security Officer for Aqua Marine. I am also involved with day-to-day vessel operations, supporting the crew management department and providing input into business growth and development. Aqua Marine is a boutique yacht management company with offices in Jersey and Malta, specialising in yacht registration, crew contracts, payroll, ISM, ISPS & MLC compliance, budget and accounting services, and project management.
Although working remotely from home in Chester, England, I regularly spend time in both our Jersey and Malta offices together with regular visits to our fleet of yachts and yacht shows throughout Europe. Overseas travel, a perk of the trade for those who enjoy traveling, is certainly healthy for an ex-yachtie!
2. How long were you onboard Superyachts? What were your job roles during that time? What yachts did you work on?
I first joined the industry in 2009. I got my break by harassing a Captain (now a good friend) at the Blue Lady bar in Antibes. I was working as a glass collector, and he finally agreed to give me the chance I needed! Employed as a deckie on a busy 42-meter charter yacht based in the South of France was a dream come true. After my first year, I was promoted to Bosun and soon after first mate. It was challenging and a steep learning curve but a great experience with bridge watchkeeping, audits and surveys, radio communication operations, and maneuvering the vessel on and off the dock. Those first 3.5 years were vital to my career development.
In 2013 I moved onto another busy 52-meter charter yacht as 2nd Officer. It was here I got a taste for larger yachts and became involved with ISM and ISPS Code compliance. Maritime Law soon became a real interest. In 2015 I gained my Chief Mate CoC and was promoted to Chief Officer which made my mum very proud! The responsibilities intensified and my outlook changed from focussing on my personal development to becoming a strong leader with the primary objective of creating an actively safe culture onboard whilst tailoring the deck team to exceed the owner’s expectations.
In March 2019 I received a job offer as rotational Chief Officer on an extremely busy dual-season 75-meter charter yacht. This better suited my home life as I had recently relocated from the South of France back to the UK with my gorgeous partner. During the two years, I had an incredible time working with two excellent Captains and many superb crew. Our yacht literally did not stop with back-to-back charters in both the Med and Caribbean, straight into Atlantic crossings and intense shipyard periods. It’s exhausting thinking back to it!
3. What drove you to take the leap and leave your yachting career to join Aqua Marine – A multi-service company that provides yacht and safety management, operations, crew solutions, and Maritime Insurance?
As I was spending more time in the UK during my rotational leave, it seemed a good time to consider the move into a shoreside role. Rotation was fantastic but I found myself constantly clock watching and counting down the days both onboard and at home. My main factor for wanting to make the jump from yachting and move back to the UK full time was to spend more time with family. After over a decade away from the UK, I was beginning to crave routine. Having missed a lot of family birthdays and weddings it was time to become more involved and dare I say it, starting my own family was becoming more of a reality! I was also missing the small things in life, spending summer weekends in the camper van, heading into the Welsh hills on my mountain bike, and going to see my gran with a box of chocs, all became very appealing! When the opportunity to work with Aqua Marine first presented itself in November 2021 I was delighted, the timing worked.
4. From working on yachts for 12 years, what skills have you gained which have helped transition to your new job position as Aqua Marine’s Senior Manager and DPA?
Working closely with several extremely knowledgeable and experienced Captains has provided a good understanding of the highest level of shipboard management required on large super yachts. Working closely with several management companies, yacht managers and DPAs has given me an appreciation of what is really involved and what is expected of these positions from a shipboard perspective. I believe that having the experience and insight as to how yacht management companies and senior crew work best together (or not!) has been critical during introductions with the yachts under Aqua Marine management, it’s a bit of a case of the ‘devil you know!’
There are many valuable skills that I brought with me but the most important would be, being confident to work within a team and rely on others. No one is an island. Building a team around you, who can trust each other is a vital life skill and certainly one that is essential in this industry.
5. Are there any similarities between being a Chief Officer and a Senior Manager at Aqua Marine?
Absolutely, as a chief officer you must have a diverse skill set; expertise in navigation, competence in ship manoeuvring, good leadership skills, knowledge of maritime law and compliance, onboard safety and security officer duties, and project management during refits, to name a few. The position with Aqua Marine also requires many aspects of similar expertise, all of which have been transferable. Holding a chief officer role for 8 years certainly set me up well for my current position and I know when to push and when to pull back.
6. As someone who has worked on board and with various management and marine service companies, did you always know that you would join a boutique Superyacht service company if you went down the yacht management route? If so, why and what are the main benefits of independent companies?
Since I had started to consider working shore side there was certainly more of a pull towards the smaller boutique-style management companies. I have worked with several management companies, all of which have been large corporate organisations. I had a lot of respect for the yacht managers as they were generally happy to offer assistance and support when required, however, there were times I found that communication was lacking. I always felt that having a personable yet professional relationship with a small key team would be more effective. The key benefit of a smaller boutique management company is that the communication is flawless. All aspects of yacht operations and management are dealt with using a small but dedicated team of highly experienced managers who are reactive, responsive, approachable, and genuinely nice people!
7. What do you like best about your new role on land?
The team that I work with in the Jersey and Malta offices are amazing, Aqua Marine has been welcoming. I can’t speak highly enough of this tight-knit group that works unbelievably hard. Building new professional relationships within the industry, periodic visits to the fleet, and continuing to grow with the company are all positives that come with the job! Having every weekend off is also a bonus!
It has been quite a transition, I’m still getting used to the idea of not going back to sea. I miss the high-energy working environment that is found on yachts and of course miss all the amazing people that I met during my 12 years in the industry but so far so good with ‘normal’ life!
8. Did you have an exit plan before leaving yachting six months ago?
As I started to consider the move shore side I was certain that I would want to continue working within the industry, as it’s what I’ve come to love and have spent my entire adult career pursuing. There was no exit strategy as such, the opportunity to work with Aqua Marine came as a real surprise and progressed quickly. Luckily they had heard of me and I knew them. After a few conversations with the Directors and taking some time to seriously consider the huge change, it soon became clear this was the perfect role for the work/life balance I had been missing.
9. Lastly, have you any advice for crew looking to leave the industry and go down a similar route?
I have a few suggestions that helped me:
- Have some focus on the direction you want to be heading in. Do some research, trust what you enjoy, explore what is available and be confident and showcase the transferable skills you have developed. Contact industry recruitment companies such as QuayCrew, who have a department that specialises in opportunities for ex yachties. Considering some of these will make the process far less daunting!
- Enjoy some downtime before starting your next venture, even if it is just a week or two!
- Maintain good relationships with all Captains, colleagues, and management personnel you have crossed paths with. Some will almost certainly help you out down the line.
- Be patient, if you have worked on yachts for a long period it takes some getting used to being back in a ‘normal’ job! But you will get there.