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Making or breaking a charter

We speak with Caroline Antlett of Northrop & Johnson about what attracts long-term repeat clients…

As a charter manager and broker for Northrop & Johnson Caroline Antlett has learnt that there is an art to setting up an experience which will have clients coming back for more. According to Antlett, the secret ingredient to any charter experience is a good group of crew members. Reliable crew can be the reason for a Charter Broker gaining a repeat long-term client, or they can be the reason for countless working hours of troubleshooting and headaches. Antlett offers her insight into what she thinks would make the recruitment and training sector more optimal from the perspective of someone working in the charter and brokerage sector.

“I know that one of the most important factors in whether the guests have a great charter is their experience with the crew. Antlett explains, “Even if absolutely everything goes wrong with horrendous weather, COVID complications and all the rest of it, the guests can still walk away from the boat having had a fantastic week if they have a crew who knows how to handle all situations. Likewise, you can have the perfect yacht that the client said they really wanted, but if the crew are not interested, if they're tired and it's the end of the season or they just simply don't gel with the guests, it can all go disastrously wrong really easily. So, the crew really are so important.” 

Working on a superyacht at any level is such an esoteric discipline and varies so much depending on each vessel, it can be hard to pinpoint what the actual job role of a typical stewardess or deckhand actually requires. For Antlett there are certain skill sets which are particularly attractive from a charter point of view, “In terms of green deckhands, it's very good to know that there are a pair of hands on board that are good at putting together videos, flying drones, and taking photos. If they can put something good together at the end of the week for the clients, they absolutely love it, or maybe experience being a kitesurfing instructor is going to be really handy. It's about trying to find that little something that sets you apart from the crowd.”

Antlett continues, “We all know that the stereotype of yachting is that the pretty young smiling girls get a job as a green stewardess easily. However the industry is evolving and more and more we see that additional skills are what is needed to get green crew hired for the right reasons. Things like classic silver service, flower arranging, being a yoga instructor, being a nutritionist, it's all really great knowledge and experience to have on a yacht.”
Of course, not all crew want to work on charter yachts. While the fast-paced nature of the work, the interaction with multiple guests, and of course, the tips, make it desirable to some, that may not always be the case for less experienced crew. For some, working on a charter vessel can feel like extra work. The result is that Charter Brokers like Antlett naturally promote those yachts which have crew with strong reputations above their competitor yachts.

Antlett highlighted the fact that all Charter Brokers communicate with one another especially before proposing yachts to clients, “When I am proposing yachts to clients, I never propose a yacht unless I have had references from other brokers. I always call up my connections and I ask, ‘How was your charter? How is the communication with the captain? How are the crew? How is the chef?’ So yes, the condition of the yacht is very important, but if we know a really good captain has moved from one yacht to another, then we are more inclined to propose that yacht because you can almost be sure that the guests will have a good time.”

As it stands, the current recruitment gateway isn’t in the best shape. On one hand the industry is more mature and professional and so it is seeking better educated and well-trained recruits, but at the same time stakeholders have a responsibility to make sure green crew aren’t being conned and scammed to pay more money on training. The latter is something Antlett vehemently protests as she believes there are far too many pop-up courses selling a dream of guaranteed work travelling the world in luxury. 

Antlett believes that educating owners is a fair starting point for shaking up the recruitment gateway. “I think you need to start with the money because it's all very well telling the captains that they should start these apprenticeship programmes, but they have to financially answer to the manager and to the owner. So, we certainly can’t put all the pressure and moral responsibility on the captain. If we help as an industry to put the message out there that says that owners, captains, and managers, all need to play a part in taking this somewhere where it's not just all about cutting the costs.”

The lack of human capital in the industry as well as the state of the recruitment gateway are enormous topics of discussion that any stakeholder from any sector of the market can relate to. If you would like to offer your thoughts or express your opinion feel free to comment below…

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Northrop and Johnson (Brokerage)

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