Over the past few months I’ve had multiple crewmembers voice their respective opinions that the pay packets for those working on board today’s superyachts are not as attractive as they used to be – one argument I hear particularly in the context of recruiting crew from the commercial sector, and one particularly apt this time of year, when many crew will have been hoping for a Christmas bonus.
Ten years ago, a superyacht crewmember’s pay packet was more than enough to make up for the long hours and sacrifice of family and friends at home. Now, the argument goes, crew salaries are stagnating, and the disparity between crew salaries and land-based equivalents is smaller. Where other salaries rise with inflation and annual pay increases, those crewmembers behind this argument are firm in their belief that they no longer see these benefits. The result: more crew are asking, is it really worth it?
One might argue that even without an annual pay increase, the average monthly salaries of just over €10,300 for captains, over €7,600 for chief engineers and over €5,400 for pursers (figures from The Crew Report’s Superyacht Golden Ticket survey), to take the heads of departments as an example, are still pretty good.
Credit: Jonathan Zaugh
These crewmembers aren’t wrong, though. According to Rupert Connor, owner of Luxury Yacht Group, which conducts monthly salary surveys, there hasn’t been a notable increase year on year. From 2012 to 2015, Connor’s salary figures show a 2.5 per cent increase in captains’ salaries, 2.4 per cent for chief engineers and 1.6 per cent for deckhands. To say there is no increase would be, it seems, incorrect, but to say there has been little increase over the past three years is, seemingly, accurate, and something Connor, too, believes. “I don't see owners wishing to push salaries up,” he explains. “There is good supply of crew at the moment so market conditions would indicate little need for crew pricing to rise.”
“There is good supply of crew at the moment so market conditions would indicate little need for crew pricing to rise.” - Rupert Connor, owner, Luxury Yacht Group
The question at this time of year is also whether a pay rise is really necessary. “This is the time of year when I get annoying emails from crew asking for bonuses for Christmas,” admits Connor. “Now, if you were a yacht owner who hadn't used his yacht for the past year, spending over $3 million in the shipyard and your service staff who have been paid to do nothing special during the yard - in any other industry the whole service crew would have been laid off during an extended yard period - how do they not look in the mirror and see that the request is going to be poorly received?”
A recent survey undertaken for an ex-crewmember’s thesis showed that more crewmembers (36.4 per cent) placed value on a good-working crew than their own salary (21.8 per cent). Perhaps it’s simply that those crewmembers feeling the frustration from this salary plateau are really feeling the frustration of being on the wrong boat, and should they find a job with a crew they value, these salary frustrations might suddenly drop down the priority list.