When speaking to captains and managers, they often lament the high amount of crew turnover, which is particularly prevalent in the junior ranks. What are the motivating factors for crew to leave a yacht, and what methods are captains employing to encourage longevity?
“We should understand that there are two very different reasons for the movement of crew,” argues Captain Boris Sore, M/Y Pida. “Firstly, your crew should move up [through the ranks], otherwise they are not ambitious or skilled enough, both of which are bad. Their living habits change, as well as their perspective, and they may want to look for another boat location. The second scenario is when your crew leave to be on a similar boat, and this is the one we should worry about.”
In the modern world, it’s not uncommon to have multiple careers throughout one’s life. In fact, research undertaken by LinkedIn found that over a fifth of people have worked in four different roles by the time they reach 24. This mentality, coupled with easy access to job information online, means that more and more crew are jumping ship with increased regularity. “Today, everybody is on the web at all times and even getting push notifications for jobs. It was never like this before; dockwalking was the closest thing you could do. Agencies were in only one place, whereas now you have them anywhere, and they’re all on the Internet. You have some owners paying more and others paying less, and crew find out very quickly when there is a ‘better’ boat to work on,” remarks Captain Sore.
In addition to the time and effort it takes for yachts to replace crew, it also costs a significant amount of money. “Crew turnover is one of the biggest, financially unmeasured problems in yachting,” argues Captain Michael Schueler, M/Y Rasselas. “The belief of many of my fellow captains who I talk to is that each time a lower-rank crew member leaves, it costs the yacht owner up to €5,000, even €10,000. With officers, it can easily get up to €20,000 in flights, paperwork, specific boat training, safety drills, uniforms, ‘lost’ inventories, mistakes and breakage.”
Each time a lower-rank crew member leaves, it costs the yacht owner up to €5,000, even €10,000. With officers, it can easily get up to €20,000 in flights, paperwork, specific boat training, safety drills, uniforms, ‘lost’ inventories, mistakes and breakage
What methods can yachts implement to help retain crew for more prolonged periods? Captain Dario Savino, M/Y Regina D’ Italia, believes that offering incentives is the way forward. “There are ways to decrease crew turnover, such as a longevity bonus, periodical salary increases or charter tips, all of which can be used to motivate lower-rank crew to stay longer, as well as giving the crew the freedom to plan and develop a proper sea career,” he says.
Savino suggests that crew often leave yachts when they are burnt out or exhausted from the role. To attempt to combat this, yachts could offer greater flexibility. “Another idea is the possibility to adopt a rotation (like on a merchant ship) with three or four months on and one-off, which could be easily achieved by employing full-time extra deckhands and stewardesses. This would allow people to have a private life, even if working at sea,” he continues.
Captain Schueler advises captains and senior crew to concentrate on the individual, rather than attempting to tackle it as a systemic problem in yachting. “Instead of looking at this problem from this bigger perspective, what if we simplified it to the most basic form by looking for the solution in each individual? As a captain, ask yourself, “What can I do to improve myself to make yachting better for my crew, captain, shoreside support, or owner?” You can only really control yourself, but imagine what yachting would be like if we all did it?”
Crewmembers moving between yachts is to be expected in yachting, just as people move on from roles ashore. However, in order to encourage longevity in each role, any issues on board that are causing crew on board to leave should be understood and addressed.
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