Finding jobs at sea: Yacht crew positions and contracts
Last updated: 04/12/2017
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the operation and implementation of tasks aboard a superyacht is a full-time job for more than just one crew member. The superyacht industry therefore offers those looking for crew jobs in the sector a wide range of roles and experiences, catering to their skill strengths and preferences.
Whichever role you choose to pursue in the superyacht industry, it’s usually best to start by enrolling on a training course with a reputable crew training school, as this indicates a motivation and willingness to learn. It also gives you the much-needed base point for future promotions. A STCW 95/10 safety certificate is required for all crewmembers, while an IYT certificate will put first-timers a step ahead of the other applicants. Next, you should enrol with a yacht crew agent and hit the hiring ports to find that elusive yacht job. Find out more about the job search here in our guide to marine recruitment guide.
Mayte Bruguera of Barcelona Crew advised, “In recent years, we have seen a trend in maritime employment as a long-term profession; superyacht crew and their employers are more and more interested in training and development. Candidates must be more specialist in their competency, with a good level of spoken-English vital – even accents are becoming more important.”
Yacht crew positions and contract types
Depending on the size of the yacht, the most common crew positions on board a superyacht are:
- First/chief officer
- Chief/second engineer
- Electronic technical officer
- Chief steward/stewardess/purser
- Junior steward/stewardess
- Second chef/sous chef/crew cook/crew stew
Yacht crew contracts
Typically, crew contracts will be offered on a seasonal basis (3 to 6 months), a temporary basis (changeable periods), or a permanent basis of one year or more. Day work is also available – great for those seeking daily payment and on-board experience.
The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) sets out the interests of yacht crew welfare, providing minimum requirements for crew accommodation, welfare and employment. It demands that all crewmembers working aboard commercial charter yachts should be hired on the basis of a Seafarers Employment Agreement (SEA).
A crew contract should set out, in more detail, the name and contact details of the yacht’s owning company or agency, plus a description of the vessel. It should also include details of:
- Salary – How much you will be paid, and how
- Probationary period
- Annual leave or time off
- Summary of dismissal
- Venue of jurisdiction
- Drug policy – always zero tolerance at sea
- Special issues – confidentiality, tips and kickbacks
- Personal hygiene expectations
- Official MCA-approved contracts and agreements
A sample crew contract, crew confidentiality agreement and job descriptions can be found in this document from MGH Publishing.
In the unfortunate event that you are fired or dismissed, the MLC demands that a document (or reference) should be provided. This must not contain any statement to the quality of work given or salary taken. It must contain sufficient information to facilitate finding further work, or satisfy sea-service requirements for skills upgrading or promotion. An aggrieved owner cannot withhold it.
Superyacht job roles, responsibilities and crew salaries
Arguably the most well-known and respected job role aboard any yacht – large or small – is that of the captain. The captain has one primary duty on board - the safe manning and operation of the vessel, taking responsibility for, and advising crew in their everyday operations.
The main responsibilities of a superyacht captain include:
- Safe navigation and operation of the yacht
- Budget management and accounting
- Decision-making and crew management
- Managing the upkeep of the yacht
- Taking control of yacht repairs and refit projects
- Assuming the role of ‘host’ and entertaining when necessary
Depending on the size of the vessel and experience of the applicant, a captain can expect a salary of anywhere between £3,500 and £15,000 per month.
A first or chief engineer is in charge of the engineering department aboard, and is responsible for its safe and efficient operation. Reporting directly to the captain, he/she will manage the vessel’s engineers, electricians, electrical technical officers (ETO’s) and assistant engineers.
The main responsibilities of a first/chief officer include:
- The day-to-day management of mechanical and electrical operations aboard
- Team management and supervision
- The coordination of operations with shore-side engineers
- The trouble-shooting and repair of all systems and equipment on board
- The sourcing and purchasing of parts
- The docking, undocking and anchoring of the yacht
First or second officer
All superyachts generally have a first officer, but larger yachts may also have a second officer as well, therefore job roles may vary depending on the size of yacht. The first officer is second in command to the captain and manages all the deck crew, including the second officer, bosuns and deckhands.
The main responsibilities of a first officer include:
- Ensuring the safety of the yacht and individuals on board
- Overseeing all deck operations and management
- Supervision and preparation of water toys
- The management of adminstrative and safety procedures on board
- Bridge watches and the navigational passage planning of the yacht
Additionally, a second officer may hold navigational responsibilities, keeping charts and publications up to date. It may also involve monitoring radio equipment and bridge watches. The second officer may be the designated safety or medical officer.
First officers can generally expect a salary of between £2,750 and £4,000 per month, whereas a second officer may expect between £2,250 and £3,000 per month.
Bosun or mate
The bosun, sometimes known as the leading hand or senior deckhand, is likely to be experienced, working his/her way up the career ladder. The bosun is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the yacht and is in charge of supervising the deckhands.
The bosun is responsible for:
- Organising deck operations, including storage, the use and maintenance of tenders, toys and equipment, deck maintenance and supplies
- Bridge watches and overseeing security
- Overseeing the passerelle, and the safety of guests as they embark and disembark
- Outstanding guest service and an eye for detail
In return, a bosun may expect a salary of between £2,500 and £4,000 per month.
A deckhand is an entry-level position for most crew jobs on board a superyacht. Primarily, he/she will maintain the exterior of the yacht, keeping it in pristine condition.
Deckhand responsibilities include:
- Cleaning, painting and varnishing
- Polishing and finishing
- Line handling
- Driving and supervising guests using tenders and toys
- Guest service and cleaning
As an entry-level position, a deckhand may expect a salary of between £1,250 and £2,000 per month.
Chief steward or stewardess
A chief steward/ess is likely to have progressed to this role through learned experience aboard a superyacht. They are in charge of the operation of the yacht interior and its staff, reporting directly to the captain. Attention-to-detail and outstanding yet discreet guest service are vital to this role.
The main responsibilities of a chief steward/ess include:
- Food service – including silver service
- Drink service and bar tending
- The oversight of accommodation cleaning and preparation
- Cabin preparation
- Flower arranging
- Obtaining local currency
- Arranging trips, transport and events for the owner and guests
- General yacht operations
As a chief steward/ess, you could expect to earn a salary of between £1,750 and £5,000 per month.
The food is the one thing that a guest will always remember about his/her trip aboard a superyacht. As expected, the chef plays an incredibly important role on board, sourcing, purchasing, transporting, preparing and presenting food on the table.
Depending on the size of the yacht, a chef may work alone, or may manage a sous chef and/or crew cook, while at all times keeping the galley in pristine condition. He/she must be able to prepare a wide range of dishes, from the basic to the exotic, sometimes with scarce supplies.
The main responsibilities of a yacht chef include:
- Devising interesting and delicious menus, meeting the demands of dietary requirements and the event in hand
- Sourcing and purchasing food items and ingredients
- Arranging the transportation of food stuffs to the yacht
- The preparation, cooking and presentation of meals for guests (and sometimes crew)
- Cleaning and maintaining the galley
The expected salary of a yacht chef can range from between £1,750 to upwards of £5,000 per month, depending on the size of yacht and experience of the individual.
A purser is a senior crew member who manages several areas of a superyacht, ranging from crew recruitment and financial matters, to interior management and provisioning.
Pursers are typically found on larger yachts, as the role can otherwise contain a large amount of crossover with the roles of the chief stewardess. When required though, the purser becomes the chief of finances and keeping the accounts and financial affairs of the yacht in order.
Responsibilities of a purser include:
- The management of all financial matters on board including accounting and bookkeeping
- HR, payroll and general crew management such as keeping crew certifications up to date
- Management of the yacht’s interior including inventory tasks
- Provisioning the vessel with food, beverages, cleaning supplies, uniforms etc.
- Working with heads of departments to ensure smooth, efficient management of financial matters and purchasing and provisioning logistics
- Coordinating any contracts and deliveries to the superyacht
- Planning events and arranging owner and guest trips, as well as managing pre-arrival tasks such as transport options and venue checks
- General administration
As Julie Perry explains in The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess, the purser is an ‘executive clerical assistant for the captain and each of the department heads’, and so they carry a huge amount of responsibility on board.