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CRISIS MANAGEMENT The day after How is the marina industry going to handle going back to business after this scary, almost science-fiction COVID-19 medical and social experience? Oscar Siches shares his thoughts Most of us live in countries that have already started to ease strong confinement measures, and an educated guess that many people will be able to use their boats with minimal restrictions by mid-June is not at all daring. Most governments forget about the singularities of marine recreational activities and place the whole group of users under “maritime” or “transport” or, at best, “fishing”. This confirms the need for us to create a strong relationship with the state administration. If we inform them it will help ensure the continuity of our sport without big hiccups. Many associations big and small are issuing guidelines for yacht harbour behaviour on and after the re-opening of facilities. Invariably, 80% of the papers enumerate procedures for personal cleaning, social distancing, mask wearing, glove availability, i.e. information that everybody has listened to over the past weeks, when TV and social media saturated us to exhaustion with such messages. There’s no merit in repeating all of this information. Some organisations went a step further and created a protocol for the use of the facilities. They organised way-in and way-out paths, time slots for bathroom and shower use, circulation on piers and pontoons and right of way in gangways; procedures that are easy to understand and follow. Booking offices helped by sending out crew/passenger lists and ETAs ahead of schedule, and outlining procedures for check-in and check-out for charter boats, all of which helped to reduce the risk of catching the disease. And one very important thing has not changed. Once you embark on a boat and cast off, the oceans are yours, and the limits are the ones you set between the boat and the universe. There is, however, another very important thing, which I feel is missing in all the ‘guidance’: the human element. The people who have received an extra blow by losing family or friends, losing their jobs, their income, the stability they’ve gained after years of doing their best in life. People like this are also part of the marina industry. They are self-employed mechanics, sail repair craftsmen, electricians, metal workers, chefs and waiters in marina restaurants. With the recent relaxation of isolation rules and partial opening of many marinas and yacht harbours, the guidelines for user behaviour developed by various associations in many countries and especially those put forward by the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) are being put into practice. But there is scant attention given to the small service companies trying to keep their employees but facing very low demand as users are encouraged to go directly to their boats, and when coming back, to move boat-to-car nonstop. We should not view them as new pariahs and lock them away in an emotional safe where everything unpleasant or inconvenient is stored until it fades away. They are part of the industry. They are less lucky than us (of course we are suffering too) but they should not be forgotten or abandoned. The nautical industry in general and the yacht harbour/marina industry in particular share something very specific: we are bound by the sea, its freedom and its dangers. A marine engine technician will share tacitly with a dockhand or a yacht owner more feeling of belonging to things nautical than a vacuum-cleaner assembler will share with a home owner, or a factory car wheel fitter to a car dealer. That’s why I cannot understand that we are leaving people of our own to be left on their own during and after these extremely demanding times. Such behaviour does not belong to the nautical spirit. Of course, a human being’s instinctive reaction is to save him/herself first, followed by taking care of closest members (family). Thereafter, The Port of Palma, especially during the popular Palma Boat Show, has long been a vibrant meeting place throughout the year for boats and visitors enjoying a quality waterfront experience. www.marinaworld.com - May/June 2020 25