Hiring yacht crew: Finding fantastic crew for your superyacht
Last updated: 10/04/2017
As a superyacht captain, finding fantastic yacht crew (and holding onto them) is one of the continual tasks that never seems to get any easier.
Even the best crewmembers will have their own agenda for lifestyle and career progression on board, so recruiting those with that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ can be difficult - especially in departments that are often flooded with skill-short candidates.
This is where yacht crew agents can lend a hand – marine recruitment specialists based in the yachting hubs and hiring ports of the globe, and the gatekeepers to many crew hopefuls. But with so many yacht crew agencies out there, how do employers find a great one who can put them in touch with the right candidates? And how can change be stimulated in the recruitment system?
Finding yacht crew with a yacht crew agent
On-shore or online, yacht crew agents are often the first port of call for those seeking crew jobs in the superyacht industry. Giving what is essentially a professional word-of-mouth recommendation, a good crew agent should know their candidates (and employers) inside and out. But what qualities separate a good agent from a great agent?
In short, a great crew agent should be able to quickly and accurately search the worldwide crew network for quality crew. Within this role, they will work closely with employers to inform and educate them on the state of the current recruitment market, and create a successful hiring strategy. When hiring for skill-short departments or less reputable/desirable yachts, this may often mean fighting for the underdog - those crew with a can-do attitude, ahead of those more experienced crew, who are in demand; but less affordable and ultimately more likely to jump ship sooner.
Speaking recently to The Crew Report (Issue 80), Laurence Lewis of YPI Crew said, “The company culture at YPI Crew is built on the notion that successful yacht crew recruiters are not CV pushers, but that their value lies in their opinions, advice and ability to create efficient small shortlists of suitable, available and interested candidates”, effectively making the search for quality crew easier for busy captains.
She reasoned, “A recruiter without an opinion is useless, so I decided to tackle the topic; yes, we do see clients focusing on the wrong requirements when hiring crew, but the beauty is that any recruiter worth their salt will always champion the talented underdog, or give a true picture of the state of the employment market, working towards finding a realistic solution to that particular recruitment issue…
“At the end of the day, it’s the job of the recruiter to share their knowledge of the market with their client, to help refine the candidate profile and identify the best crew for the job. Recruiting is not a one-way conversation, it’s not a monologue; it’s a dialogue between two professionals, a captain and a recruiter who respect each other’s trade.”
Whichever agent you decide to go with, Superyacht Crew Agency (SYCA) advises that all should be fully compliant with the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006), and should have a copy of this certificate readily available in their office or on their website.
Adapting to a changing marine recruitment market - skill gaps and discrimination
If recruitment is becoming a long-term problem for captains and employers, could the problem in fact be closer to home as Laurence suggests? After all, those yachts that invest the time to nurture crew with on-board mentoring and training are arguably much less likely to focus on a lack of experience when hiring new crew, and dismiss so readily. This mentality of course also works to foster a great on-board working environment, helping to retain experienced crew on board.
Speaking freely about the flaws of crew recruitment with The Crew Report, Laurence argued, “Employers’ inflexibility with regards to their hiring criteria is an issue we face daily as recruiters… Perhaps a cultural fit, coupled with great attitude, can override the skill gap that can be tackled with on-board training or schooling?”
And what about the wider crew market? Laurence highlighted that skilled crew are occasionally overlooked by employers due to their nationalities, with ‘nationality-based discrimination’ placing a barrier to many exceptional individuals. In past years, this has often been the case for many Eastern-European and Filipino crew, as OnboardOnline addressed back in 2013. As well as issues of sexism, homophobia, religion, etc…
Hiring Filipino yacht crew
The hiring and employment of Filipino crew has a reputation of being notoriously costly and complex in the yachting industry. But for those captains seeking quality yacht crew, there are experienced and/or specialist agencies that are equipped to streamline and validate the hire of Filipino nationals.
Lisa Moran Jarque, president and general manager at Crew Asia, a respected Filipino manning agent said, “A good Filipino yacht crew agent must be accredited by the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency). This also means that the agent is MLC 2006 compliant. You should be able to ask to see the accreditation certificate and check the validity date.
“This is basic, but unfortunately it’s not always enough, as the Philippines can still be known as a ‘cowboy country’ – many are looking for opportunities abroad and some nationals take advantage of the situation. To minimise the sad stories, the procedures for hiring Filipinos are more involved than the procedures for hiring other nationalities: Embassies have more requirements for visa applicants, for example. They will not hand out visas to those who submit incomplete documentation. Equally, crew have to be bona fide, and joining a yacht that has suitable accommodation for them. Furthermore, all crew must have a POEA contract and all documentation must be checked and validated by the agent, making wait times a little longer.
“There is a reward though – Filipinos are a pleasure to work with, and they consider the job a career. There is longevity and professionalism when hiring Filipino crew.”
Tips for finding a reputable Filipino crew agent
To find a reputable Filipino yacht crew agent - or any reputable yacht crew agent, for that matter - and to find bona fide Filipino crew, Lisa said the following:
1. Do your research: Check the agent’s website – does it lean towards the commercial shipping industry or does it cater to yachting?
2. Ask for recommendations: Ask other Filipino yacht crew, ask management companies, captains and yacht agents. A good agent is transparent, firm and efficient. Lengthier hiring and deployment procedures may tempt shortcutting - a good agent refuses to do this.
3. Look at all costs: Agree on all costs before entering into a partnership.
4. Register your yacht with the POEA: This is simple and there are no costs to do so - either direct or indirect. It takes seven to 10 working days and requires a copy of the ship’s registry, P&I and MOA with the agent.
5. Be attentive to communication: How long does it take your agent to respond? How good is their English?
6. Look at the quality of the CVs: Are they well presented?
7. Arrange a face-to-face meeting: Or at least Skype to check their professionalism and get a greater feel for the company.
In the Philippines, you can only work with one crew agent at a time, so make it a good one!
Tips for recruiting great superyacht crew
With this in mind, what can employers do to facilitate the recruitment and longevity of great superyacht crew, reducing the need to hire so often? Laurence advised:
1. Align crew recruitment and hiring strategies: Before embarking on any recruitment drive, it’s important for captains to plan a consistent crew recruitment and hiring strategy, and to communicate this effectively with department heads and other parties that may be involved in the process. Preparation really is key, so it’s vital to take the due care and diligence in planning a full and fair interview, and setting aside the required time for all candidates.
2. Put your best foot forward: Interviews are as much a time for captains to get a feel for potential new employees as they are for candidates to warm to their potential employer, and the yacht they may soon be working on. Employers should therefore take the interview as an opportunity to present a positive representation of the yacht and its crew and really sell life on board. This may mean addressing any negative aspects of the working culture or challenges faced on board, as gossip often travels far.
2. Be prepared to move quickly: It’s worth remembering that candidates have been sent to you by your recruiter for a reason, and it’s therefore likely that each will have more interviews or opportunities lined up. Once you find a candidate (or candidates) that you like, you must make sure to move quickly in inviting to interview and/or offering the job, or be prepared to lose them!
3. The perfect candidate is subjective: Employers know from experience that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist, so it’s important to remember that more interviews will not necessarily mean better candidates. After all, the grass isn’t always greener, so those with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude may in fact fair better on board than one without the right cultural fit.
If high crew turnover is to blame for continual recruitment on your yacht, it’s a good idea to look for the reasons why before hiring: Are job descriptions misleading? Are stress levels higher than necessary on board? Are wages unfairly matched to similar positions on other yachts? If so, address these issues and take steps to correct them before interviewing for a replacement.