As we enter 2014 the hot topic seems to have turned to crew salaries – an discussion ever more significant against the rising number of crew we are beginning to see. In 2013 an estimated 1,400 new crewmembers joined the pool, according to Joey Meen, training and certification director at the Professional Yachting Association, and this number is expected to rise in 2014. After all, with superyachts continuing to be launched, the need for new crew to man these assets will only increase further.

The issue of crew salaries and focus on climbing the pay scale is ever-present in the industry and finds itself cemented on both ends of the crew spectrum, with problems surrounding the salaries of both captains and low-level crew alike.

Neil Cheston, director of yacht sales and charter at Y.CO, elaborates on the problems occurring surrounding today’s senior and long-term crew, and the problematic expectation that crew will get a pay rise every year, which, in some cases, has been the catalyst for an owner leaving the industry altogether. “It’s a tradition that you get a pay rise every year, and they go up five per cent every year, so if you have had your crew for ten years because you love them and they are now part of the family, you look around and think you are paying them twice the going rate. I’m not exaggerating when I say there have been some owners who, rather than face the awkward situation of going up to a captain who has been in the family for ten years and watched the kids grow up, and taught them to sail and windsurf, and tell them they are going to have to get a new captain who costs less, have actually sold their yachts. They can’t face it,” explains Cheston.

Moving to the lower-level crew, the past few years has seen a culture of jumping ship, as a result of expected high salaries, all with the hope of a better pay cheque. Moreover, the larger yachts with bigger budgets are able to cater to this more often, and are in a better position to offer higher wages to a plethora new crew needed to do the very basics on board, and the smaller superyachts are suffering as a result.

"I’m not exaggerating when I say there have been some owners who, rather than face the awkward situation of going up to a captain who has been in the family for ten years … have actually sold their yachts. They can’t face it."

In a debate on, Simon Harvey, owner and founder of Neurons 2 people skills (N2), explains one of the problems with this new culture of jumping ship for the next pay cheque. “Crew that are willing to abandon a good position for a few quid in today’s economy are walking a slippery plank. If the position you have now is not paying you what you feel is fair, ask for a raise or, better, prove you are worth more through your work. Jumping ship for better salaries only lasts so long, and pay alone does not guarantee job satisfaction or job security,” says Harvey.

Is it time to adjust our industry’s culture in this respect? Should the industry be working towards salary standards as a way of improving crew longevity and bringing the job at hand back to the fore, rather than the pay cheque? would be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please either comment below or join our debate on salary standards.

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