Captain Maria Grazia Franco began her career in the maritime industry on a cruise ship based out of Cairns, Australia. Now captain on board 49.9m motoryacht Mariu, her wider-industry experience gives her a slightly different perspective of the industry. In a preview to issue 73 of The Crew Report, Captain Franco discusses why the superyacht industry should embrace other maritime sectors, rather than act as a separate entity.

M/Y Mariu

Coming from a background in diving, Captain Franco began working offshore when she accepted a dive instructor and deckhand position on board an Australian cruise ship. “Compared with other sectors of the merchant navy, working on cruise ships is similar to yachting because of the customer service aspect,” she says. “We were a small boutique cruise ship so customer relations were very important, and because I was the only instructor on board I was quite busy with the guests in this respect.”

While she acknowledges there are many differences between yachting and the rest of the maritime world, Captain Franco points out this does not mean the superyacht industry should isolate itself. With yachts continuing to increase in size, she believes closer ties between industry sectors actually prove beneficial. “Larger yachts have brought in different people at officer level,” she explains. “Because of increasing sizes a lot of professionals are coming in from the merchant industry for their tickets if nothing else. This has introduced the exchanging of crewmembers from the different industries, which brings in different levels of knowledge. Yachties don’t necessarily know everything and neither do the merchant guys, so it is a good exchange of ideas. I worked on a very large yacht where we had that exchange and it was very valuable.”

Captain Maria Grazia Franco

In this scenario, Captain Franco recommends that the superyacht industry could learn one thing in particular from the commercial world. In terms of her career, Captain Franco admits that she has found it challenging as woman climbing the ranks on board superyachts. “At the beginning it was really quick because I already had a lot of experience,” she remembers. “Although every time I walked into an agency in Antibes they would ask if I was looking for a stewardess job. That was the typical misconception they would go straight for. A lot of my friends who worked on deck on the cruise ship had to surrender to interior positions when they entered yachting because they were female and couldn’t find jobs on deck. I have been lucky in that sense.”

However progression became harder the further along the career ladder she went. “At chief officer level it became really difficult,” she recalls. “Whether it was the captain or the owner, I think some people were intimidated by my experience. But this is typical of the yachting industry – not the maritime industry. Because the rest of the maritime industry comprises big companies, these companies have to offer equal opportunities and they cannot afford to discriminate. The yachting industry is definitely more discriminating in this way. Where this discrimination is coming from I don’t know, but I think it’s at a different level. Certainly with large yachts, those 50m upwards, it can often be to do with the nationality of the owners, who don’t normally put women in positions of power or for cultural reasons would not want a female captain.”

Find the full interview in the upcoming issue 73 of The Crew Report - download here.

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