As superyachts increase in size, their engine rooms increase in complexity, and with this comes the need for commercially qualified engineers. As an industry we have begun to look towards the commercial sector for our engineers, but with them comes the expectation of rotation – something still relatively unheard of for the majority of superyacht crew. In a preview to issue 71, Joe Hodgson of J4Crew, superyacht engineer turned recruitment agent, looks at the advantages and disadvantages of rotation in the engine room.

Twenty years ago I was very lucky to have started in yachting within a fleet of 65m and 80m yachts. Looking back, it would have been a large enough organisation to offer rotation for the senior crew, but I don’t think we realised it could have been an option in yachting; the culture was different then and the subject just never came up. I do remember the captain was really progressive and was pushing for 10 weeks’ leave and three flights, which did materialise some years later. As a crew we were just glad to be working within an amazing industry with life-changing opportunities.

My next job was on a 50m as chief engineer, with 10 crew (including four couples). Though we had a blast and everyone got on very well, it can still be lonely if you’re not in a couple, with extended cruising meaning not getting home very often. For myself, being married with two young boys, I had to find a different way of working within the industry. With rotation not an option, and not being part of an on-board couple, I decided to work as a freelance engineer. Precarious as it was (and still is), it was well paid enough to give me a good quality of life while still doing the job I loved. This freelance work then evolved into becoming a crew agent; now, from the years spent talking daily with crew and captains, I see the issues of working within a rotational regime from both sides.

Yes, it’s expensive for the vessel, with more salaries and more flights, but the stability and continuity must be of benefit.

I do find that rotation is highly prized by crew – usually engineers and senior deck crew. They are looking for a work-life balance, still needing a good package because the work can be demanding and you are still away for six months of the year. If the package is right, the vessel will get to choose from a large selection of interested and qualified candidates to fit their programme, and crew tend to stay much longer. I have friends I’ve placed on rotation who are still with the same programme nine years later with no intention of moving on. Yes, it’s expensive for the vessel, with more salaries and more flights, but the stability and continuity must be of benefit.

More often, new crew coming into the industry are looking for rotation or, if from a commercial background, are expecting it, but opportunities for rotation are still not the norm within yachting. I recommend that young crew should bite the bullet and commit for two or three years; your CV will speak for itself down the line and you’ll benefit from a well-earned, solid yacht background that will help when you’re then looking for that rotational job. Crew often wait at home for months for the right job to come along, while captains on budget-constrained vessels are struggling to fulfil their licence requirements, eventually accepting a job they don’t particularly want and then still looking while in their new post.

There is nothing more attractive to a captain than a crewmember who can commit to a full year, multiple seasons and the rough and the smooth, allowing that captain to concentrate on the operations and not having to worry about replacing the crewmember mid-season or before originally agreed.

In issue 71 of The Crew Report Hodgson puts the topic of rotation to a number of superyacht engineers to see what they had to say on this increasingly prevalent topic within the superyacht industry. Click here to download issue 71.

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