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By Conor Feasey

Chief Engineers in sufficient supply

Chief Engineers are enjoying a robust employment market with salaries and rotations moving further in line with expectations…

There is a steady year-on-year increase in average salaries and a sharp rise in time-for-time rotations for Chief Engineers according to Quay Crew’s Chief Engineer Salary Report. The survey encompassed over 100 Chief Engineers, both seasoned professionals and those newly appointed, onboard yachts ranging from 40- to 100- metres. The research explored yacht size, usage, professional experience, and certification, unearthing key findings that shed light on Chief Engineer pay and compensation.

“The findings in this survey give an indicative overview of Chief Engineer salaries and packages, with a decent amount of responses across most yacht size brackets,” Alice Hay, Engineering Consultant, Quay Crew tells SuperyachtNews. “The reality, however, is that there will always be anomalies, both good and bad, that can skew the figures. For example, the highest salary recorded of €20,000 is onboard a 70-79m yacht, but there are also a few that sit under €9,500. Two respondents also claim to have EOOW Unlimited only, which may only be possible as a Sole Engineer on a small yacht.”

A significant revelation from the study was the current average salary for Chief Engineers – a figure standing at €11,479 a month. The survey also found that a staggering 9 in 10 Chief Engineers adhere to a time-for-time rotation schedule. The average salary reported in 2022 was €9,955 and 77% time for time rotation so there has been a positive increase in both metrics.

The average monthly salaries generally rise in correlation with yacht size, experiencing a notable increase from 50-59m to 60m-plus. However, salaries are slightly dipped between the 60-69m and 70-79m categories. Notably, full-time roles become scarce in the 60m-plus range.

Salaries exhibit an 8% increase on private-only yachts, surpassing expectations and resulting in a significant uplift of €900 per month. Despite three-quarters of Chief Engineers receiving pay raises, the remaining 25% either haven't received one yet or have never had one, with half attributing this to not being on board long enough.

The study suggests that the 40-49m size bracket is most generous with pay rise activity, although this observation is slightly limited by a small sample size. Interestingly, the 90-99m size bracket boasts the most experienced Chief Engineers onboard, averaging 11.25 years of experience, while those on 100m-plus yachts have the lowest average experience at 6.1 years. The Chief Engineers responding to the survey are evenly distributed across both size brackets.

Surprisingly, only 13% of Chief Engineers reported receiving an annual pay rise as part of their contractual agreement. However, a further 42% disclosed experiencing a yearly increase, suggesting a varied approach to salary adjustments within the Chief Engineer segment. Over a third of Chief Engineers either reported not receiving a pay rise or remained uncertain about the prospect on their current yacht. 

Looking at the qualifications, the survey discovered that 2 in 5 respondents hold the Chief Engineer Unlimited ticket. Additionally, 26% possessed the newer Smaller Vessel tickets. Interestingly, there is a notable presence of Chief Engineer Unlimited with 9 years of experience on 50-59m yachts. This contradicts expectations of finding such engineers on larger yachts demanding higher salaries. For Hay, this was the most surprising finding from the entire survey. “With significant amounts of experience, you’d expect to find these engineers on the larger yachts demanding a higher salary,” she says.

“From our experience, the average Chief Engineer salaries we see across 40m to 80m yachts sit between €8,500 and €11,000 per month. The average in this report is probably indicative of the good longevity of some of the respondents,” Hay adds. “We are seeing salaries for new build projects and 90m-plus yachts increasing, with some very generous packages of up to €16,000 to attract the best Chief Engineers.”

With competition for the most experienced engineers high in the new build sector, yachts already in the fleet will need to improve their offerings in order to stay ahead of the curve. “New build salaries are often higher because they’re full-time initially, although we are seeing a trend in them remaining above average once operational too. To compete, the obvious answer is to up their packages,” says Tim Clarke, Managing Director, Quay Crew.

“Making the working environment as good as possible will certainly help with retaining engineers too, but it doesn’t massively help with hiring. It’s very hard to demonstrate a yacht has a good working environment in an interview situation vs the salary is €12,000 a month.”

It is widely known that the industry is currently experiencing issues surrounding securing and retaining quality and experienced talent. Encouragingly though, there are no signs of the Chief Engineer talent pool shrinking. “I would actually say there is a solid level of Chief Engineers available,” says Hay. “I’d go as far as saying there are more Chief Engineers than jobs at the moment. I’ve even had CEs from 70-80m yachts consider positions on 55-60m yachts in the last few months.”

This segment of the employment market is experiencing some issues, however. “I think that most of the great opportunities don’t end up being advertised to the wider audience. The juicy roles are often filled via the Chief Engineers own personal network. Whilst there are some positives to this approach there are definitely negatives too,” says Clarke

Regardless, Clarke and Hay affirm that Chief Engineers are still in sufficient supply, with no signs of the talent pool significantly diminishing any time soon. Moreover, salaries and rotation times are rising in tandem with crew’s expectations. Paired with the increase in competition from new builds, Chief Engineers are likely to continue enjoying the robustness of their employment market and the need for their expertise and experience for the foreseeable future.

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Chief Engineers in sufficient supply

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