Special Agents


Superyacht owners are predictably unpredictable. Hastily invited extra guests, eleventh hour changes to the cruising itinerary and outlandish requests for bizarre items and services can all test the mental capacity of even the most seasoned captain. Enter the Yacht Agent. These white knights soak up the stress and responsibility and impart local knowledge whilst clutching little black books laden with trusted contacts. In short, the industry wouldn’t be the same without them.

Assisting with everything from pilotage to provisions, customs to couriers, massages to maintenance, transfers to tours, chandlery to concierge, there’s a Yacht Agent in every port and only a fool would eschew their services.
“It is essential to cooperate with a professional agent who is up to date with the current national rules and legislation regarding VAT, customs, immigration and general navigation,” says Christiane Thomsen, MD of Lunautica with offices in France, Spain and Germany. “Within Europe there are important differences in legal requirements and it is the agent’s duty to guarantee that their clients are complying. Once a captain has appointed the agent of his choice, this agent becomes legally liable for customs and immigration and they guarantee that any fees and dues will be paid. Particularly for captains of yachts over 3000 gross tonnage, it is realistically impossible for them to communicate with the national authorities in person. There is a vast amount of paperwork to complete that is thoroughly checked by officials and any mistakes may lead to expensive fines.”

Indeed, it is paperwork that is the most mentioned subject. Katerina Papageorgopoulou from 1998 established Kronos Yacht Agency on the Greek island of Rhodes says, “Some suggest that the paperwork, the formalities of entry and exit, is easy – but it is not. An agent must know the laws very well and must advise and protect the boat by issuing the right papers in order to cruise Greek waters legally. Of course we have our way with the authorities so that makes our job more efficient.”
Some countries make things a little more difficult than others. Spain for example has made things tricky in the past for non-EU owned and ‘tax haven’ flagged vessels, particularly when it comes to charter, but the authorities are gradually making the welcome much warmer.


“The first thing to keep in mind is that, by Spanish Maritime Law, all yachts over 24 metres are considered to be ‘ships’ rather than ‘yachts’ and as such need a local ship agent in Spanish waters,” says Krisjanis Lamberts from Iberian Yacht Solutions. “Of course this requirement is applied more formally in some ports and areas and less formally in other ones. So, even if by the owner’s preference the captain has to follow a ‘DIY’ policy, it’s highly recommended at least to get in touch with an agent prior to arrival so as not to run into unexpected last minute difficulties.”
Viviana Masullo from 1980-established ALL Services in the Liguria region concurs that the DIY option isn’t always available in Italy either, “The paperwork depends on the registry of the yacht. If a yacht is private, then in Italy there is less paperwork to do and the captain, if he should so wish, can go to the capitanerie of his first port of entry and do the paperwork by himself – or herself. However, if the yacht is commercially registered then in Italy they are obliged to use a registered ships agent for all the paperwork. At ALL Services we plan ahead so that each port is notified of their arrival in time to avoid any fines for not following rules. We do all the paperwork necessary for arrivals and departures including ISPS security arrangements and immigration where necessary, with input from the Captain and the yacht.”

There are plenty more details yachtsmen should be aware of in Spain, and beyond. “They must make sure that paperwork is in order and the rules of temporary importation allowing VAT relief have been followed correctly. Last season almost all foreign-flagged yachts in the Balearics were controlled by local coast guards,” says Krisjanis. “Captains also have to keep in mind that it’s absolutely forbidden to drop the anchor and anchor chain on posidonia seagrass in Spain – fines are in operation.”

Spanish compatriots Dockside Services, based in Palma de Mallorca, also go out of their way to promote marine ecology and keeping the environment safe and clean. Aside from a full Yacht Agency menu, they represent ecological cleaning brand EcoPiñera which lessens environmental impact without compromising on effectiveness.

“The other scenario where a visiting yacht won’t survive without a local agent in Spain is berth reservations in Ibiza,” continues Krisjanis. “This fantastic island, together with neighbouring Formentera, has in the last few years become one of the trendiest and in-demand superyacht destination in the Mediterranean. We are proud to say that, until now, we have managed to get berths for all of our clients, however captains have to be prepared and have patience, as the berth confirmation might come in late afternoon on the day for which berth has been requested. Our best advice is to always try to book your berth at least two days before arrival if possible.”

While some countries seem to lay out a series of hoops for yachtsmen to jump through, others virtually roll out the red carpet. Montenegro is known for its tax and cruising benefits (7% VAT on marine related services, 0% VAT on charters, and foreign vessels can remain in Montenegrin waters with no restrictions on time) helped by its ‘outside EU’ position, unlike neighbouring Croatia that became part of the EU in 2013.

The team at Allegra Montenegro are keen to play on these important benefits, “The unique thing for our area is duty-free bunkering, as we are the only country in our surroundings that can arrange fuel without tax. Duty free fuel is available for all yachts and right after refuelling is finished we have to do exit paperwork so that yacht can leave Montenegrin waters.”
Andrija from Simmor Marine suggests that “part of an agent’s job is to also pre-empt any possible issues, for example, to be very much on top of weather situations.

A beautifully planned day can turn sour if the weather turns bad, so being up to speed with meteorological conditions is essential”.


[Modula id=’1′]Often Yacht Agents can attribute their instinctive intuition as to what a visiting superyacht will desire to a long successful career within the nautical industry prior to taking a sidestep into agency. Above mentioned Christiane worked for shipbuilders Lürssen for seven years before setting up Lunautica in 1996, while Krisjanis from Iberian Yacht Solutions worked his way up from amateur race crew to luxury yacht captain before opening his agency in 2015.

Owner of Alpha Marine Group, Nikos Politis, was a former captain on transatlantic vessels and superyachts and discovered a dearth of decent yacht agents in the Greek market He opened his first office more than 20 years ago and is now well known in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean and counts Hollywood celebrities, fashion designers and international athletes amongst his client list – Valentino and the Qatari Royal Family are regular Alpha Marine Group customers.

Captain Raki Dragovic was in the merchant navy followed by ten years on megayachts before founding DRM Maritime Services, based in Montenegro, in 2006. His team knows all Montenegrin coast and ports thoroughly and is in permanent contact with all the local authorities.

Raki says, once he has collected all necessary documents from the arriving yacht, it takes approximately 20 minutes for ‘clearance’. Swift work indeed.

For these marine veterans the day-to-day business of berth booking and bunkering is child’s play. Alpha Marine Group’s Nikos explains, “The most common requests, on a daily basis, are port booking, and clearance formalities. We maintain a trustworthy, long-term cooperation with authorities and marinas and have a reliable relationship with them which ensures no delays, 24/7 service and open communication. In this fashion, we are able to cater to our special clients’ needs in every way, at any time.”

Andrija Simic of Simmor Marine in Croatia is another industry veteran who after 11 years on board, set up the agency with the specific vision of being the Captain’s right hand man. Andrija says “Berth reservations are one of the biggest challenges throughout the season. The demand is 10 times bigger than the space we have in the old cities and marinas, so an excellent relationship with the Port Authorities is key”.

Naturally, it is the preposterous and capricious last minute demands that have Yacht Agents reaching for the smart phone and the Nurofen in equal measure. Tabloid newspapers often print tall stories of Parisian macarons being flown to Antigua by private jet, cow’s milk being delivered ‘straight from the teat’, frantic searches for ‘only black’ toilet paper or 500 identical white roses, and litters of puppies for the children to play with. Are people really that, dare we say, obnoxious?


[Modula id=’2′]Paola Musumeci of Elite Yacht Service in Sicily has certainly handled some odd scenarios over the years. “We have had to source two square metres of real grass to set dockside for the arrival of the onboard dog and provide a professional tennis player at every location on the cruise itinerary, ready to play in case the main guest was in the mood for a match. My team have delivered 100 coat hangers in one hour and 100 red roses all open and cut to an exact 4cm in length. I was also asked to go to the airport to meet a person just landed from London who had to hand over luggage full of toys for baby’s second birthday. And once I had a yacht sailing for two weeks between Syracuse and Taormina and the owner wanted every single day, at 7am, a list of English magazines delivered, paper versions not digital, no matter if they were close to the port or in sea. Things like this add ten years to my life for the stress of one day but this is our job, it’s absolutely crazy but fantastic.”

“Clients hate limitations, and so do we,” says Christiane. “The impossible task is a welcome challenge for us and we measure our success in making the impossible possible. A live concert onboard or a birthday party complete with fireworks? No problem. Sheet music of a famous Jimmy Hendrix song for a jam session on board delivered by helicopter with two hours’ notice? Again, no problem. From urgent spare parts to a table in a fully booked VIP restaurant, our multinational team has a 100 per cent success rate.”

Katerina has so many off-the-wall requests now that she struggles to remember them all individually. “I can tell you that we have organised a wedding on a boat,” she says. “The young couple fell in love and decided to get married in a day – we arranged it all in few hours. Clients have asked for special cars and bikes, once we flew Harley Davidsons and big jeeps across from Athens. Perhaps the most strange requests are for their pets, puppies who need special food, or clothes, even a guard to take care of it, take it on walks. With us they always get what they ask for but the captain doesn’t need to know how I did it or which problems I solved. The result is what matters, that the job is done and the guests on board are satisfied.”

Andrija from Simmor Marine thinks back to one occasion when he remembers a client telling him that he thought his family and himself did not really appreciate the life they had and wanted to taste something different! So, we decided to organise a visit to the Mine in Labin, and to this day we still can’t understand why they agreed to open the mine that had been closed since 1950, but they did. The owner spent over two hours in the mine and when they arrived back on board they were covered in dust and very silent. So, to cheer them up after they emerged to dinner after cleaning up, we had arranged for some members of the Philharmonic Orchestra to be playing on the stern. It was an emotional day we called from Hell to Paradise.”


[Modula id=’3′]The team at Allegra Montenegro has had its fair share of strange requests from large amounts of cash through to Japanese whisky, exotic car import to Arabian beer, but as they have been operating in Montenegro for so long, their clients receive everything they request without too much trouble.

Krisjanis is, however, keen to play down the tabloid tittle tattle, “Although it sounds nice to tell stories about some crazy requests on behalf of the clients, I believe that one of the most appreciated agent capabilities is the flexibility in day-to-day operations: to adjust and find the right solutions for last minute requests or changes in the plans. We, agents together with the crew, always have to keep in mind that our mission is to make owner and guests happy by enjoying their stay on board. So if they want to stay on anchor longer, have fresh seafood in the late evening and another bottle of champagne in the middle of the night, it’s our job to deliver.”

Meanwhile, Katerina reminds us that the agent isn’t only there for the luxuries and indulgences, but also for the emergencies and bad situations, which happens a lot when you’re at sea. “Many times captains have called me during the night because the weather was bad and they have to move somewhere safer or because someone needs to go to the hospital. The worst for me was four years ago when they called me at three in the morning from a boat in the middle of the sea to say one of the crew had decompression sickness from diving. Immediately I organised a helicopter and the hospital in Athens and the crew member’s life was saved at the last minute. It was so terrifying but the relief of saving a life completely compensates for a night without sleep.”