In the door (or rather on the yacht) and looking to move up the ranks and secure a promotion, longevity is often cited as the key asset for career development. But Blazy at Camper and Nicholsons says that longevity in itself is not a valid reason for promotion; ‘Each individual should prove that they have gained the necessary skills, maturity, and in certain cases certificates, to earn the right to step upwards in terms of responsibility and salary’. Don’t rush through the ranks advises Dobbin, experience in a previous role often pays dividends when taking the next step upwards. This advice is echoed by Lewis at YPI who sees crew looking to move too quickly upwards without the necessary real experience and graft. Delamare added “This depends on the position however we believe key elements include dedicated, motivated crew who are loyal and fully invested in their work. A team player who will go the extra mile not just for him/herself but the rest of the crew. Crew who will continuously keep learning, invest in training, show initiative and most importantly are ready to move up in rank.”
Dobbin says, “We are seeing more people doing a Purser course or ETO course, sometimes too early in their career to be considered for that role, but it’s often good for the future. Many new to the industry are signing up to entry package courses with training establishments which is upping the bar for an entry level candidate however; this is commonly weighed against prior experience”.
“It is getting hard to find good senior crew with longevity and good solid qualifications and I am not sure why”, notes Weston and Lewis agrees that there is always room for improvement in the general calibre of candidates. Plenty of crew are registered at recruitment agencies and there are plenty of yachts looking for crew, but the challenge is putting them together. Says Lewis, “There is always a shortage of talent. If we send a client a CV it is because we feel that person really deserves an interview. And yachts shouldn’t hang around waiting for a unicorn, unicorns don’t exist.”
Dobbin notes a shortage of Chief Stewardess’ for large yachts. ‘We often see large yachts of 90m+ struggling to find housekeepers or experienced. He has reason to note that crew tend to prefer to work on yachts under 80m where work is more multi-skilled and varied and yachts can get into ports. Delamare explains what HRcrew have found so far this year “It varies across departments and also yacht size ranges, however, for the larger yachts we have experienced a shortage of experienced senior and chief stewardesses. “ But continues to explain “We are experiencing an increase of entry level candidates with many courses completed as well as many very well qualified and experienced commercial/Passenger/Cruise ship candidates looking to make a transition to private yachting for the larger 100m+ yacht division.”
Dobbin and Blazy both point to a shortage of positions for yacht Captains, which Dobbin suggests might be the result of more people obtaining certificates or moving from commercial shipping. ‘Commonly’, he says, ‘Captains look to increase yacht size and the pyramid of yachts gets smaller towards the top so those looking to move from a 50m to 70m is difficult as there are less 70m yachts than 50m’. Says Blazy, ‘It has been a tough winter for many of the captains out there’. She sees several reasons for the surplus of captains: firstly the winter season has been a quieter one that in previous years. The hurricanes knocked the wind out of the cruising plans for many of the habitual Caribbean cruises and charters last winter so we saw a large number of yachts staying in the Med and or going to the yard instead. This created an atmosphere of uncertainty which had captains and crew staying put instead of putting feelers out for new positions. She explains, ‘The normal domino effect just hasn’t happened this year. The yachting industry is also growing up with a lot of younger guys moving up through the ranks and ready to take on their first captain’s role,or move up to a bigger yacht. The older guys are not quite ready to hang up the stripes so we have a bottle-neck situation with not enough work out there for all of them. Perhaps when we can convince more owners to accept rotations for the captains this will free up more positions and create a better balance’.
Captains aside, the pool of qualified crew for deck or interior could be fuller, a fact that Blazy hopes will be remedied once the Caribbean season closes and crew start to look for new prospects in the Mediterranean. But for now, there is an imbalance in supply and demand.
Who is to say if this lack of qualified crew is in any way related to the introduction of the new French Social Charges regulations which have been the subject of discussion for the last year. Is this what is driving qualified crew away? Dobbin is sceptical that this is the reason since he says the government haven’t yet to decide how the regulations will be enforced. Simmonds, however, believes that some candidates may be less inclined to apply for or be put forward for positions where the hiring yacht will be based in France for a significant amount of time, ie. more than 181 days of the year.
Weston at Crew Pacific anticipates (and possibly hopes) the new regulations will bring more yachts to the Pacific and Australia which will only increase Crew Pacific’s recruitment sector. Blazy says, ‘I think the bottom line is that no-one really knows how it will affect recruitment. We should be very clear on this point: it affects not only the French nationals, but specifically all crew who are French resident. Crew of any nationality who work on yachts that spend more than 90 days in France will also be affected by the law. In reality, those who are already employed do not appear to be losing their jobs, however we are hearing rumours of crew who are being pushed aside for positions because of their French residency. As a recruitment agency, we have not dealt with that first hand so far, however the rumour appears to be verified by more and more examples. As in any period of change there is a lot of uncertainty and rumour and fear, mixed in with some sadness that the result may be that the yachts and crew leave France for more welcoming countries’.
The superyacht industry has weathered a variety of storms over the years such as the Sardinian luxury yacht tax and the more recent Spanish matriculation tax. There will always be something to rock the superyacht industry but it is too buoyant to sink. Lewis at YPI assures us all that the industry is doing well and it needs new talent and new people to avoid a shortage of crew in years to come: ‘Already, 2018 has started at a fast pace, so here’s to a great season for all’, she says.