Comments raised at the 2013 Global Superyacht Forum raised the question of whether the industry is not far off a shortage of crew – a troublesome proposition in the context of recent questions regarding crew quality alongside rising crew numbers.

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.”

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.

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.

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Whilst crew numbers remain high, crew quality is on the decline. Credit: Dick Holthuis

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