The Crew Report: Under the new Sovren Group umbrella, what is Dovaston Crew’s plans for the future?
Helen Warren: We are just going to bring it back up to the standard that it was at. It’s been ticking along quietly, getting quieter, but there’s a lot more competition out there so we need to bring it back to the forefront and make it the proud name that it once was before. That’s our plan: to make it fully functioning, back to a proper competitive company.
TCR: The Sovren Group is largely based in Barcelona, so will Dovaston Crew, previously [and still] based in Palma, be recruiting from Barcelona?
HW: We have a Dovaston Crew representative in Barcelona, one in Malta and obviously we have representatives in the South of France, in Antibes. And we are looking at [more] possibilities. We think we have somebody fantastic in the Fort Lauderdale area. So we’re keeping what was there and making it bigger.
TCR: You have been based in Palma, the home of Dovaston Crew, since 2001. How have you seen the crew side of Palma change over the years?
HW: When I first started everybody just thought Antibes was the epitome. It was the centre of yachting and there was always very much two sectors: you with either a Palma or an Antibes crewmember, and Palma being the lesser thought of. I would say that the issue with Matriculation [Tax] has had a little bit of a breakdown on that, but hey, the crew are great. They come to the island, the island’s lovely and it’s a home for many people. I think maybe the crew industry stay closer because it’s an island.
TCR: You have a background as a chief stewardess and purser, both at sea and on new builds. What do you feel your experience will bring to Dovaston Crew?
HW: It’s nice to be able to put a crewmember’s perspective into an office-based company. A lot of the time [crew] are talking to people who haven’t worked on a boat before and to me it just seems ludicrous. We do have some girls in the office that have proved that statement wrong, however. So perhaps it’s not all about being on a boat, but I think you need the networking abilities as well to be able to find the work that is available, and you have to read people well.
"That’s our plan: to make it fully functioning, back to a proper competitive company."
TCR: Dovaston Crew is now under the umbrella of the Sovren Group, as is Barcelona-based training provider the Nautical Academy. Is Dovaston Crew being strengthened by the Group’s harmonising of training and recruitment?
HW: You can’t officially sell training with crew placement. We do not enforce or make the requirement that if you want to get a job with us [you have to do take our training courses]. Of course we can work with them and if crew need career advice as far as training then we will find out where they want to go, and if they want to do it in Palma, the Nautical Academy are starting to spread into [the area] and [are using] existing companies here – we don’t want to tread on anybody, we just want to enhance what’s already here. But if crewmembers are in the Barcelona area then we suggest the Nautical Academy.
TCR: What would you say the biggest problem being faced by the recruitment sector at the moment?
HW: There are a few elements. There is the problem that unfortunately there are some, perhaps non-European, training academies that are possibly giving out the wrong ideas to crew wanting to come into the business. Even sending people over and saying, “Don’t worry about your VISA, you’ll be fine; you’ll get a job immediately.” I’ve only been in this business with Dovaston Crew for three months now, so there are other elements, but you just see that there is a bit of misinformation going on.