Crew are famed for their high wages (particularly starting salaries) and now even more crew are jumping ship for a bigger and, arguably better, pay packet. As an industry hankering after longevity and demanding professionalism, would crew salary scales solve the problem? In issue 69, four superyacht captains explain why they do – and don’t – think so, and here, we bring you a preview.

Should the industry establish salary scales for crew wages?

Captain Dario Savino, Regina d’Italia

An average salary scale set up as a guideline for industry departments certainly could be interesting, but we would need to be careful not to make something inflexible and that could freeze the work market. In order to establish a salary scale there are many variables to take into consideration. As well as the salary, we must think about pension funds, social security, insurance, paid leave, rest days, repatriation expenses and income tax. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to compare the costs paid by owners, depending on the flag chosen, and the salary and the benefits to which a crewmember shall be entitled. Especially with the enforcement of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC), everyone – crew, owners and managers – should be aware that, in order to hire someone, income tax shall be paid, a pension funded and social security payments made on top of the salary.

Captain Todd Rapley

Should the industry establish salary scales for crew wages? Absolutely not, if they are based on current documents being presented by crew agencies and management companies. In fact, the industry needs to look seriously at itself and actually increase salaries based on the scope and hours of work we really do, as well as our standards and abilities, not just on-board positions and agencies’ distributed salary wish lists.

We should not be treating the serious qualified and professional career industry participants as Walmart workers when we expect and need Harrods standards. Although, I guess those who are complaining are on the Walmart wages because they provide the supermarket service and quality of work. As the saying goes, cream always rises to the top and you get what you pay for!

Captain Paul Bickley, Latitude

Often, when recruiting new crew, I offer a basic start salary and gauging the value of their skills I may then add these offers to secure the best candidate for the role. As a rule, I will negotiate the salaries after the crewmember has served approximately 12 months and a new package is offered. This may not necessarily result in an immediate rise, but an accumulation of an increase will be paid in the form of a bonus once a further 12 months has been served.

This approach is all very dependent upon the vessel’s funding, of course, but my owner does appreciate the same familiar faces on board and this continuity is also welcomed by our return charter clients. Yes, the budget needs to have flexibility and the captain the authority to judge the role value, but in the long term this loyalty will show signs of making financial sense.

Captain Mannie Avenia

Salaries: the never-ending story. I think the question to ask is: why do some yachts pay such high salaries to entry-level crew? They are taking a gamble and they do not know if it is going to be a good investment or not. So, why is it happening? It is beyond any logic.
I don’t think there are owners or management companies keen on paying way more than what is proper, so it is hard to comprehend why there are such starting wages, especially when it is customary to give crew a raise after a period of time anyway. So, why start so high?

Find the full article and extended comments in issue 69 of The Crew Report - out 24 June, 2014.