19 October 2020

Superyacht Employment Update

As the med season draws to a close and the Caribbean season begins, Mark Charman, CEO & Founder of Faststream Recruitment catches up with UKSA Director of Training and Operations, Chris Frisby. Now, four months on Mark reflects on the season departed and his predictions on the future.

This insight includes information on the following:

What impact has the pandemic had on the med season?

2020 has certainly not been business-as-usual. The pandemic continues to impact not only our everyday lives but also the activity and recruitment in Superyachts.

We have unfortunately seen some yacht charters being cancelled for the entire season whilst others have seen business pick up after the first lockdown in March and April. Yachts who have had the opportunity have worked hard to make the most of the shorter summer season in the med. We are seeing many yachts decide to ‘winter’ there and either refit/dry dock or lay up. Many owners are making the tough decision to simply stay in yard until Spring 2021.

Some yachts that had been planning to do a crossing for the winter, due to COVID-19, have decided not to and have moved to a skeleton crew. This has led to more experienced candidates being available.

Some crew members who have a secure job, who may previously have looked for a new opportunity as the seasons change, are now being more hesitant and are often bunkering down favouring stability during this time. Whilst we have seen others who have not let the pandemic affect their decision making. They have been positive and have sought new roles regardless and have been successful in doing so.

Yes absolutely. There has been an uptick in US/Caribbean/Indian Ocean markets for charter demand coming into the winter months. With this demand comes the need for a great crew. The pandemic has not changed the need for experienced staff.

The difference has been in ensuring the crew can join the yacht safely. We’ve seen some yacht owners less keen to accept applications from candidates who need to travel across continents. Some yachts are being more specific about the location of where a candidate is located. VISAs have become more difficult to get hold of especially for South Africans (Schengen Visa and B1 and B2 in particular) due to the Embassies being closed/on restricted hours. This has created long waiting lists and longer processing times.

Has there been much recruitment activity for shore-based positions?

Shore-based recruitment has been particularly strong this year. New technical and operational management positions in yacht management companies have been common. The increase in demand for refits, refurbs and dry docking for this autumn and winter has meant an increased need for these professionals.

Have ‘newbie’ Superyacht crew been able to find work?

Some of the traditional routes to market have been closed off to new candidates. ‘Dock walking’ has become less prevalent because of the COVID restrictions. Earlier in the year, it was difficult to travel because of local lockdowns. These restrictions have eased up, but we are still seeing changes again every day.

Some crew have decided to remain at home and look for alternative employment. Some have been successful at finding yacht opportunities but these tend to be those who have worked hard on their CVs, kept in touch with recruiters and been ready and willing to move at short notice.

Have recruitment processes had to change to reflect COVID-19 restrictions?

Ensuring that candidates and clients stay safe and well is of the utmost importance to what we do. We have been at the forefront of video interviewing for some time, and we have been able to continue using these techniques throughout the pandemic to ensure that communication has never diminished.

Traditionally, shore-based opportunities in the Superyacht industry have relied more heavily on face to face interviews. Whilst these have begun again, video technology has enabled the first and second interviews to be completed remotely before the final face to face interviews will occur. This has been beneficial to candidates and clients for both time-saving and cost-saving.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provision and COVID testing before final stage interviews and employment start dates are happening across the board.

How do you think the Superyacht industry will change in 2021?

The future is going to be impacted by when a vaccination is found and when it is available to the general population. Superyachts will still be needed, however, and so will the faithful crews who man them.

I think that for those who can afford it, Superyachts are viewed as a safe option for a holiday destination. Many will require a break from ‘home’ and will welcome a getaway on a luxurious yacht with their loved ones – this could set up both private and charter yachts up to have an incredibly busy season.

This year we have already seen an increase in the number of yachts looking for qualified medical personnel with experience of working at sea. This is due to a higher demand from yachts for these medical staff to be available onboard to increase the feeling of safety in light of COVID-19. These medical staff are not always employed solely for medical duties and are often employed in a dual role of stewardess and nurse. We see this set to continue in 2021.

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