Question. Now that the report into the sinking of the Yogi has been published, can you explain your feelings?
Answer: It is difficult to really express precisely how I feel. I am relieved that an independent body of marine experts without, in my opinion any agenda or vested financial interest in why Yogi sank have published their findings. I cannot say I am happy or sad because the fact remains that a beautiful yacht that encapsulated the physical and intellectual labour of many people, sits some 500m below the waves, it doesn't make me happy that the very public sinking is there on You Tube to be viewed time and time again. However, it is clear, as we at the shipyard have always felt and known, that Proteksan Turquoise acted within the law, that the shipyard did everything that was expected of it and that there was no failings on our part.
Indeed, in April 2012 three Turkish Court appointed experts concluded that Yogi did not sink due to any design or engineering fault or any construction defect, the court appointed experts independently and without the knowledge of BEAmer arrived at similar conclusions, in part, to those reached by the French investigators.
Question: Before we discuss the French report, how is it we don't know about the Turkish Courts expert inquiry into the sinking?
Answer: We felt that if we announced the Turkish report before BEAmer had published their findings, it might be received by a sceptical world as being pro-Turkish, given that we had requested the Turkish courts to investigate the sinking. We also didn't want the Turkish report in any way to taint the official French investigation, but the fact is the yacht sits at the bottom of the ocean, the only real evidence we have is firstly, the video clip on You Tube, secondly what was said by the crew and those witnessing the sinking onboard the surrounding vessels and finally the certified documentary paper trail of the French flag and the Classification Society.
What has been troubling over the past year is just how many different versions of the sinking have emanated and how those have evolved and changed. Some of the stories cross over and others only surfaced several months after the sinking, when logically the story of the sinking should have been consistent.
I have not read all the versions of the sinking but I think we have the call to my former partner Hayati Kamhi and the yacht's project manager, Nedim Sukas wherein one version of the sinking was given which was reported by the press; (2) the testimony of each of the crew to the Hellenic Coastguard; (3) the Rapport de Mer of the captain and the senior officers to the French Ambassador in Athens on 20 February 2012; (4) the crew's interviews with BEAmer; (5) the owner's insurance claim; As you can see there are many possible variations and versions of the truth and no two versions seem to be identical.
In my mind, I look to the original testimony of the crew given on the morning of the sinking and I look to the independent report of the French investigators. I find it quite interesting that one of the recommendations of the French investigators is that yachts over 500 tons carry the same voyage data recorders that commercial ships carry, in that way you have absolute certainty as to the position of the ship, its speed, what alarms worked and did not work, how the rudder worked and so on. The data on the voyage data recorder is independent, tamper-proof and verifiable.
Question: Are you saying that the crew, in giving their testimonies, were not independent, not verifiable and not tamper-proof?
Answer: No. Absolutely not. I'm not saying that at all, but the French investigators who ordinarily investigate commercial shipping accidents and having never investigated a yacht sinking of this kind, I think they were unhappy to discover that the only source of evidence for what actually happened on the night the yacht sank was what the crew had said to them several months after the event and those statements were not capable, at least not easily capable, of being cross-checked, especially when the log book was lost and that yachts do not have either voyage or voice data recorders.
Question: Do you have any knowledge about the insurance claim or what is happening in Greece?
Answer: As to the insurance claim I do not want to comment because that is a something for the owners and the insurers to sort out if, it hasn't already been settled. As to Greece, I understand there is an ongoing investigation. Our lawyers were again recently contacted by the Hellenic Coastguard.
Question: The report clearly does not criticise your shipyard or its build practices but falls short on saying where the fault lies. What are you own personal thoughts on the sinking of the yacht?
Answer: My own personal thoughts are not really relevant because again I have a vested interested. What I would say is that the vessel was built with state of the art knowledge and state of the art Class and Flag rules were applied and certified as applied. She was in class, she was built to the French version of the Large Yacht Code, namely Division 242 and when she originally left the yard on delivery and subsequently when she left the yard after the warranty work, all the work had been signed off and all of the work requested to be undertaken at the shipyard was completed and signed off by the Captain. Everything that needed testing by us was tested.
Question: In retrospect, is there any action you or your shipyard could have taken to prevent the loss of Yogi?
Answer: In retrospect, I wish we were more forceful in our suggesting to the captain not to sail on that fateful evening. We knew that a storm was coming in and we suggested that the yacht did not sail until the following day, but the captain was determined to leave and as the records show, determined to leave and sail into those force 8 winds at top speed, which to this day I cannot understand.
Question: Did the shipyard receive any cancellation of orders following the sinking? Are you able to tell us what contracts were lost?
Answer: Cancellation of orders? No, but people who were building with us and are still building with us asked us some very searching questions as did existing owners of our yachts. No one terminated a yacht construction and no one terminated negotiations with us on the basis of the sinking of Yogi.
Question: How did the sinking affect the morale of the workforce in the shipyard?
Answer: As I have said before, each yacht is seen by us as our child and to see a child pass away is an experience a parent never wants to go through and to say that the morale of the workforce was not affected would be a lie. They were deeply affected. The Proteksan Turquoise craftsmen, shipwrights and indeed all the designers and support staff are proud people, proud of the work that they do on each individual aspect of a yacht whether its seen or unseen and they are proud of the success that all of their efforts have brought not just to the shipyard but to Turkish yacht building. We cannot live our lives forever mourning and the yachts that we have subsequently built and are building are benefitting from a re-invigorated pride to show the world that we build some of the best yachts in the world.
Question: Were you forced to make cutbacks in expenditure or workforce at the shipyard as a direct result of the sinking?
Answer: Cutbacks? Yes we have made some cutbacks. Is it as a direct result of the sinking or the economic climate? It is difficult to say. It would be easy to blame the sinking of Yogi but the fact is other yards have also made cutbacks who have not faced our tragedy.
Question: How supportive were colleagues in other shipyards during the crisis? Is there anyone you would like to single out for specific praise?
Answer: I have to say that aside from a few initial chauvinistic snipes posted on some internet message boards, the overwhelming majority of our colleagues not just amongst fellow shipyards but amongst captains, crew, yacht managers and yacht brokers has been hugely supportive. It would be singularly unfair to "give an award" to the biggest fan but in these times of crisis what has been heart-warming is that even our fiercest competitors have been absolutely solid in their support of us.
Question: What do you plan to do to restore the good image the shipyard hard before the sinking?
Answer: In reality, I don't think our image really has been damaged. However, we have deliberately not sought to be insensitive and pretend nothing has happened. We could have been quite aggressive after the Turkish experts report. But we didn't. We just wanted to get on with building yachts and yachts for people to be proud of and confident of. We will allow our yachts to speak for our reputation.
Question: What sort of feedback have you had from your customers concerning the sinking?
Answer: As I said earlier, immediately following the sinking we dealt with enquiries from our owners and we met with as many as we could and I believe that they were all reassured that there was nothing to concern them or their yachts.
Question: What do you think the super yacht industry can learn from this tragedy?
Answer: Save for an exceptional weather event no single event causes a sinking. BEAmer had no axe to grind and we as an industry should look at their recommendations seriously. I know that some of their comments are directed specifically at the French flag BUT all flags should be discussing the merits of BEAmer's recommendations.
However, I do believe the sinking of Yogi was a wake-up call to the whole industry to remind everyone in the industry that we build ships that can and should be able operate in harsh conditions and everyone associated with yachts must be trained and competent not only to meet those harsh conditions but to be prepared for those harsh conditions. Whether it is regular ISM drills, regular reviews of the class status of the vessel or a serious reconsideration of how yachts are to be used and who should crew them. Equally we should take a step back and remember that these are not toys but ocean going vessels with a responsibility to keep those on board safe but equally, if we are to be taken seriously by the wider maritime community, we must be serious about our obligations to that wider maritime community.