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The Bottom Line - Superyacht salaries 2014

17 June 2015


Stable was the word most heard when we polled crew placement agents across the globe on trends in crew pay for the fifth annual Dockwalk Crew Salary Survey. “We’ve seen crew salaries remaining relatively the same as last year, which is good that there is stability in the market,”says Angela Wilson, crew agent and marketing director of Elite Crew International.

If there is any upward movement in pay packets, it appears to be among the upper ranks. Anne-Marie Zwart, general manager of Y.CREW Antibes, reports, “Junior crew salaries seem to be remaining flat with almost no change, but senior crew, especially engineers, are now receiving higher salaries/packages.”

The fact that newbie crew salaries haven’t budged much in the past year may be due to the fierce competition for entry-level positions. “We have found that there are a lot more new crew entering the industry today,” says Zwart. “The combination of more new starters and the fact that experienced crew are opting to stay in their current positions for longer [makes it] increasingly tough to break in and get that first entry-level position.”

“Competition is always fierce for new crew job openings,” Blazy explains. “On the whole, the crew who come prepared, who have the finances to stick around at least for six weeks to network and day work, tend to be the ones who secure work. Good preparation before they arrive and determination once they get here tend to pay off.”

Download current rates of pay from the Dockwalk Superyacht salary scales 2014

Special Skills

One way to stand out in a crowd of dockwalkers is to have unique specialties or skills. “As a general rule, competition is fierce, so any additional skill or training the crew has will help them secure a job,” says Blazy.

“Massage and beauty skills and experience are…in strong demand this year. On the deck side, any additional course or experience can help to secure the position, for example kite-surfing, a powerboat license or personal training experience.”

Zwart has found that even non-marine experience can be helpful. “Experiences like being floor staff in a fine dining restaurant, housekeeper in five-star hotels, working in the kitchen at a well-renowned restaurant, hairdressing, massage, beauty therapy, nursing and the trades — building, electrical and plumbing — are all soughtafter skills that could lead well into a yachting career,” she says.

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On an Even Keel 

It’s an old truism in the yachting industry that sailors do it for love, while powerboat crew are in it for the money. Although, historically, this has translated into lower pay for sailing yacht crew, most placement agents now report that crew salaries for both sail and motor yachts are pretty much on par for parallel positions, at least aboard the larger vessels.

“Salaries on sailing yachts of fifty meters and above are generally on a par with similar-sized motoryachts,” Blazy reports.

“Our consultants…believe it all depends on the owner, captain and management company rather than whether the yacht is sailing or motor,” adds Terry Wilson. “There are, of course, cases where love of sail — heart over head — allows acceptance of [the] lower salaries offered sometimes. Whether the yacht is private or charter can also be a deciding factor on the salaries offered to crew.”

Jumping Ship

During the worldwide recession, the economic hard times produced a trend of crew staying in their jobs longer between switching to a new yacht. However, there are signs that trend finally may be shifting.

“Certainly there is a marked change from the recession days, which were unprecedented,” says Terry Wilson.

“At that time, it did give this one bonus — namely, decreased turnover. We are now finding [that] crew are quicker to jump ship when things aren’t going quite the way they want.

On the interior and on-deck sides, this is mainly in the junior positions. Considering the lack of senior interior and chef positions we have had [open] this season, we would say they are not moving around so much.”

Howarth agrees. “Yes, in our opinion crew are more confident of finding work. There is more movement and more crew ‘resigning’ pre-season (a trend not witnessed in the recession), as they are confident with their experience and skills [that] they will find work. Crew are willing to ‘wait’ for the right job, turning down jobs that don’t tick all their boxes, something which was less so in the recession.”

Perks vs. Pay

One of the ways owners and captains are retaining good crew is by offering highly competitive benefits as part of their compensation package.

“Some yachts are more mindful of the fact that experienced crew have employment options in today’s growing industry and in order to maintain longevity, will offer bonuses and other longevity incentives, such as additional vacation for each year of employment,” says Angela Wilson.

“Under MLC, 2006, crew have the right to medical insurance, repatriation, paid leave…to name but a few examples.” However, she adds, “Private yachts are not obliged to comply with the legislation; hence certain benefits can be less, for example fewer days holiday.”

To some crew, especially those on busy charter yachts who work nearly 24/7 during the season, additional leave is sometimes more valuable than a raise in pay.

“The standard for yacht-paid leave in general seems to have gone up to six weeks rather than four weeks,” says Terry Wilson. “MLC should have an impact on lower level terms and conditions.”

Angela Wilson agrees, saying, “We cater to the larger megayachts, so all of our yachts provide full benefits, including medical insurance, flights [and] vacation. Nearly all of the private yachts we work with offer a minimum of six weeks vacation.”

Continuing Education

“The most notable shift in recent years has been the number of yachts offering to invest in crew education programs, which is an extremely positive move forward,” says Zwart. “At Y.CREW, we firmly believe in education and further learning. Extra qualifications give you knowledge and confidence as well as more capabilities and skills. They show employers that you have the determination and dedication to follow things through, and demonstrate that you are committed to the industry long-term.”

Price also stressed the importance of education leave as a benefit. “More owners need to understand that they need to give the crew paid time to do this, as if they don’t, crew end up quitting to then go continue their education,” she says. “It is always worth it to invest in yourself and education of any kind.”

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