Nick Saul, chief executive officer of Bachmann HR Marine, described how the industry was soon to face what he called an “imminent crew shortage”, with the primary concern not so much a loss of numbers, but a loss of quality. “The maritime industry has been for a while suffering shortages of quality marine crew,” he said. “With fewer and fewer countries, such as the UK, investing resources in marine training, as crew migrate from commercial shipping, ferries and cruise ships into yachts, shortages have been noticeable for a few years, especially in the engineering sector. Inevitably, we will see the same happening in yachting with wage levels for engineers rising and a requirement to search further afield for the best crew.”
The Crew Network is one recruitment agency which actively searches further afield and uses the commercial sector to fill available positions via its Monaco-based sister company V Hospitality, which provides The Crew Network with candidates from the luxury cruise-line sector. And whilst this is an answer to any numerical issues, the transition from the commercial to yachting sector is not always a smooth one, and one complaint that has arisen repeatedly when the industry discusses the quality of today’s superyacht crew. “Very few of those people with commercial tickets actually have yachting experience,” Captain Malcolm Jacotine told SuperyachtNews.com. “While they have the qualifications, it’s not the same. It does take a shift in mindset, even from a cruise ship to a yacht, in terms of what yachting is about … Some of the people from the commercial industry just don’t get it, and it’s very difficult for them to adapt.”
This once again highlights the problem: if the superyacht industry utilises the commercial sector, numbers are not and will never be a problem, but owners are not after numbers; they are after quality – and it is exactly this that others in the recruitment sector have noticed. “[I’m] not sure about a shortage of crew. [In] deck and interior, sadly many are not experienced enough or don’t have the right experience,” elaborated Paul Rutterford, recruitment manager at Viking Crew Management.
A result of this shortage of quality crew is arguably already showing itself in the industry’s escalating introduction of rotation into crew contracts. After all, the desire for qualified and professional superyacht crew stronger today than ever before, those who fulfill this criteria are in a stronger position to demand rotation as part of their contract. “Big ticketed chief and second engineers are in shorter supply than ticketed captains, and are therefore in a position to request rotation-only roles, which they do,” said Louise Calibourdin, crewing manager at The Crew Network.
What was of particular note when speaking with the recruitment sector, however, was their collective emphasis on crew numbers, not crew quality – confirmation of the problem at hand. Consequently, a common shift of focus from quantity to quality is needed and if achieved will have a catalytic impact upon training and course quality and high standards within the industry. Moreover, this shift of focus will cement the industry in the best possible position should the prediction of this quality crew shortage become tangible.