Every captain has to have a first command, and owners are often hesitant to give a new captain control of their yacht – for obvious reasons. In researching this topic for a piece on TheSuperyachtOwner.com, I found out that the recruitment industry is reporting increasing instances of first officers being promoted to captains.

Offering first officers the chance to temporarily act as captain is important, particularly in light of the current supply and demand issues the crew industry is facing, with approximately 400 superyachts expected to be delivered between 2015 and 2019.

“For people to move up to the higher echelons they need to be given a chance either by acting as relief captain for yard period or important crossings. If chief officers were not given a chance to step up, we would eventually be in a situation where we had a limited number of captains in the industry,” explains Liam Dobbin, managing director at Wilsonhalligan Large Yacht Recruitment.

Among a myriad of other things, captains need to be able to manouvre and operate the vessel safely, ensure the expected level of service is provided when owners and guests step aboard, manage and interview crew, deal with flag, audits, budgets and owner relations. If a first officer isn’t capable of this then it’s not a question worth asking; if they are, however, this first officer could be your next captain – particularly exciting for that owner if he or she already has a good relationship with the crewmember.

"If chief officers were not given a chance to step up, we would eventually be in a situation where we had a limited number of captains in the industry.”

“Some first officers we know would make excellent captains as they have all the right attributes and are near born to do it,” adds Dobbin. “People should be given a chance, with yacht managers, owners representatives and a good crew on hand to help. A new captain is not going it alone.”

Louise Cailbourdin, crewing manager at The Crew Network, points out that there are ways first officers can encourage hiring managers to consider them for a captain’s position. “There are ways that ambitious chief officers can influence a hiring manager’s decision favorably,” she explains. “They can request that ex-captains, owners or managers clearly make reference to the quality and duration of their drive-time responsibilities on any written reference. They could also take specialised ship-handling training at a specialist centre and request a reference from the instructor. Proactivity pays.”

With the influx of yachts leaving the shipyards over the coming years, it’s important that today’s first officers are maximising their drive time and captains are handing over appropriate levels of responsibility, to ensure they are prepared for that step up when it needs to happen.

In issue 71 of The Crew Report we asked first officers to put their questions to captains about the step up. View the article here.