Through surveying a number captains’ comments on the subject, it is evident that there is some truth in the concerns being voiced. Remarks from a Bulgarian superyacht captain not only highlighted the issue, but deemed that it has the ability to affect the overall quality of the industry. “I know numerous cases of less experienced, less certified and less qualified mates taking a position for which I just got the door slammed in my face,” he told me. “Regretfully, crew quality suffers because of factors such as nationality.”
To find the root of the problem, it is necessary to ask from where this discrimination originates. Speaking to Captain Stève Pondart, a French captain who proactively approached The Crew Report to discuss the issue, he quickly identified that the problem stemmed from the recruitment agencies. “We constantly hear that captains, managers, owners or crew agencies want professional crew but they do not show any evidence of professionalism themselves,” Captain Pondart explained. “They select crew based on their nationality and not their competency.” In an industry that is striving constantly toward professionalism, it follows suit that hiring processes should meet the same standards. So if crew are met with such double standards, it is understandable that the frustration exists.
While some captains hold the recruitment agencies responsible, others assign fault to their boat-based colleagues. “The discrimination roots mainly from captains and senior officers who normally shortlist and hire the rest of the team on board,” explained the Bulgarian captain. But because of this, he believes a solution is on the horizon. “If ‘non-mother-tongue’ crew leak into managerial roles, it may snowball and redraw the whole crew picture into a very colourful one. This may even influence the agency staff, as those are often ex-senior crew.”
"We constantly hear that captains, managers, owners or crew agencies want professional crew but they do not show any evidence of professionalism themselves."
Recruitment agencies were approached for this article, to provide the views of those who have to deal with any owner nationality requests, but interestingly most preferred not to comment. Philip Demler, managing partner of Demler Crew, however, manifested his thoughts on the topic and postulated that financial and logistical constraints often play the decisive role in recruitment. “Occasionally some captains and owners do express preferences with regards to the nationality of candidates,” Demler explained. “This can be driven by a problematic visa or insurance situations with some nationalities, or the existing mix of nationalities and the chemistry on board, but it is almost never an exclusive criteria and it shouldn’t be, as what matters is the person and not the passport.”
With the spectrum of nations from which potential crew emerge ever expanding, it is in the interest of future crew quality that we break down any discriminatory barriers. A change of mindset from a few owners, captains and recruitment agencies will effectively filter through the industry to ensure that every crewmember is on an equal footing, judged only by their level of professionalism, ability and experience.
Find the full article in issue 66 of The Crew Report.