The boat show season provides a hub of activity for the recruitment agencies, with swarms of new crew walking into offices with fresh-off-the-shelf CVs and existing crew looking to add to existing CVs. It is fitting that in this issue we speak to Laurence Lewis, director of recruitment at YPI Crew, who finally provides the answer to today’s shortage of engineers.

Rotation is the hot topic of 2013 for crew, as we see in this issue. How and why have expectations of rotation changed?

When we started YPI Crew in 2002 the word ‘rotation’ in yachting did not exist as such. I would say it really started around 2006 and this was just on the engineering side. At this point yachts, certainly over 50m, started to introduce the idea of rotation, and nowadays it’s very much a fait accompli on the engineering side. These days, yachts over 60m that don’t offer rotation for their engineers are finding it difficult to recruit engineers. And this isn’t something that is pushed by recruitment agencies – we are the middle person and we have to go with the trend, and a movement towards rotational positions is one of the biggest trends we’ve seen in the past few years.

Are yachts offering rotation to other departments or is it really just an option for engineers?

It’s very much on the engineering side. There are some engineers out there who tell us, “That’s fine, if you can’t find me a rotational position I’m happy to temp until I find a rotational position,” so there’s a clear unwillingness to accept anything other than a permanent, rotational position.

It is, however, also happening at officer level on the large yachts of about 70m or 80m. But at captain level it’s still not the done thing. There’s reluctance, as some captains don’t want to lose their full-time job; others would love a rotation but the owners don’t really follow, so it’s a little bit more complex an issue at captain level.

What are we doing as an industry to steer engineers to this rotational focus?

The market is driven by supply and demand, and engineers are in short supply. Many large yachts need engineers that have come from the commercial world, and those engineers are very much used to rotation. Yes, they’re very happy to embrace the yachting industry for all of its advantages, but they don’t want to lose the benefits they had acquired in the commercial world.

In Australia we’re seeing something very interesting happening. Regardless of what they say in the news, Australia still has a booming mining and offshore industry which is enticing maritime engineers back to Australia. They are offering excellent financial packages with good rotation, for instance one month on and one off. So Australians who have reached the stage of their career whereby they have a family are actually quite tempted to go back to Australia. It’s possibly not so exciting as the yachting industry, but at this time of their life their priorities have changed and being close to their families and being on rotation is high on their agenda.

This pressure of losing engineers is real. It’s worrying because we are losing some superyacht engineers to this type of industry but, more worrying, what’s the percentage of people that aren’t coming to our industry at all because they’re going straight to offshore?

Is there anything the superyacht industry can do to entice them to come directly to us?

I suppose it will always remain a niche market, and as such will always have niche market problems. This being the case, a lot of people still don’t even know this industry exists.

Find the full Future forecast for recruitment in issue 65 of The Crew Report.