Captains’ opinions are sought after by nearly everyone in the superyacht industry. It’s their opinions that drive so much industry activity, from which shipyards owners choose for a build to a yacht’s cruising itinerary. For so many, captains are the select few, the Holy Grail of yachting. But their role in the industry is changing, so how this will affect the industry’s perception of this always-sought-after figure?

There have been numerous reports of a bottle neck of captains: more captains than there are captain positions. Do the figures support this? Absolutely. If we look to the gold ticketing standard of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) as an example, the past three consecutive years have seen more MCA Master of Yachts 500gt and 3,000gt Certificates of Competency (CoCs) issued than Red Ensign-flagged superyachts, on which these tickets are valid, launched. Data supplied by the MCA and SuperyachtIntelligence suggests that, approximately, in 2013 there were 103 more deliveries than tickets; in 2014 12 more deliveries; and in 2015 30 more deliveries.

This in turn is affecting the relief business – relief captains are no longer needed if the first officer can step in.

Strong foundations to support the statements of so many, the figures could mean a change for the sought-after captain. Because the market is now a recruiter’s market (although Debbie Blazy, director of Camper & Nicholsons’ crew placement division, believes this has always been the case – this year, she says, we’re just seeing it even more), having a job is likely to become a higher priority than the salary, as recruitment agents report captains willingly taking a cut in salary merely to guarantee themselves a job.

One notable effect that has been highlighted by crew and recruitment agents alike is the seeming over-qualification of crew. With so many Master tickets, some will have to take first officer roles; first officers will have to taken second officer roles, and so on. And, yet again, the issue pertaining to salary cuts arises once more. “Chief-officer tickets are stuck in second-officer roles, and even a lot of the chief-officer jobs this year have gone to those with their Master 3,000gt for the same price as they’d get for having just their chief mate’s ticket, because they know they’re available as a built-in relief captain,” explains Liam Dobbin, managing director at wilsonhalligan Yacht Recruitment. Dobbin believes this in turn is affecting the relief business – relief captains are no longer needed if the first officer can step in.

There are myriad reasons why the industry is experiencing a bottle neck of captains, all of which are looked at in detail in issue 80 of The Crew Report (out in November and available at GSF). However, the industry is only beginning to see the knock-on effects of this and how it impacts today’s captains, who have such a prominent role, from a buyer and influencer to an HR manager and recruiter, in today’s superyacht industry.

Captains will be given the opportunity to air their ideas and concerns at the upcoming Global Superyacht Forum (GSF). Captains will be given the floor, answering questions from industry professionals and sharing their views on a range of topics. GSF is taking place from 14 to 16 November, 2016, in Amsterdam. For more information on attending, click here.


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