Crews-in into 2022


When one door closes, another door opens. International sanctions caused many in the industry to fear for the livelihoods of crew on Russian vessels. However, the highly qualified and experienced crew from these yachts are now available for employment throughout the industrty, along with the highest registration of available crew in years. In terms of crew recruitment, industry experts predict smooth sailing into the summer season and beyond for 2022.


The strength of the crew market is illustrated in the data from YPI Crew’s annual salary report. The superyacht crew recruitment agency reported 2021 as a return to a stable, regulated industry, a greater number of registrations, increased placements, and improved gender diversity. This year, these numbers have only improved.


In the UK, new legislation will ensure that seafarers who regularly visit UK ports receive wages equivalent to that of the UK National Minimum Wage. Operators who fail to comply with the new legislation will be banned from UK waters.


The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Paul Scully said: “Ensuring that seafarers working on ships which regularly call at UK ports are paid an equivalent to the minimum wage will be a boost for thousands of hard-working staff, while shielding them from any future exploitative actions by rogue businesses.” While this is most applicable to ferries, notably European operator P&O Ferries, superyacht operators are not exempt.


YPI Crew conducted its annual salary survey for the last year. This covers the salaries of all positions on board; from captains of yachts over 100m (328ft) earning more than €18,000 ($18,700) a month, to junior deckhands on sub 30m (98ft) yachts taking away a monthly salary of €2,800 ($2,900).


Spa managers and laundry masters alike can earn around €4,000 ($4,100) a month on the biggest yachts. Salaries will naturally vary depending on qualification, experience, and yacht size. Regarding crew salaries, Laurence Lewis, president of YPI Crew told SYI last year saw a return to stability after a tough 2020. “In 2021, the salary market self-regulated naturally without making any waves,” she said.


Compared with previous years, the industry is seeing increased numbers of crew finding employment on yachts. “So far in 2022 at the end of April, we have witnessed a 49% increase in the number of crew placed compared with end of April 2021,” said Lewis. “March and April [this year] were very strong months despite the limitations brought on by sanctions and a 39% increase compared with 2019, pre-Covid. All departments have fared extremely well. The crew market is buoyant.”


The report also addresses the smaller number of junior level hospitality, service and galley staff entering the market due to Covid travel restrictions. Because of this, there has been tension on salaries in these departments throughout 2021. To combat this, increasing salaries and scheduled leave have become an important part of the negotiation process.


Despite the setbacks caused by travel restrictions last year, the crew recruitment sector is now experiencing considerable growth, with more crew registering their availability. “We are witnessing an unprecedented number of crew registration, up 58 % in March 2022 compared with March 2021,” said Lewis. “Gender diversity remains a challenge. Yet in 2022, we have seen a much higher number of young, female deckhand registering.”  


“These numbers contradict the notion of crew shortage which is often banded about. What there is, however, at times, is a discrepancy between the jobs and conditions on offer and the candidates’ expectations, much the same as the world seems to be witnessing in shore-based roles,” she said.


Lewis also believes there is potential of utilising an untapped pool of crew from the EU. “EU countries, whose citizens are mostly able to travel around the world with ease, are totally underrepresented in yachting.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, fears reverberated around the industry as financial sanctions were applied to wealthy Russians, many of whom controlled ownership of at least one yacht. The actual impact of sanctions on crew has been minimal, says Lewis. “Those who have lost their positions would not settle for a lesser salary elsewhere. They are often highly skilled and in-demand on other yachts.”


The president of YPI Crew continued to highlight that there is no shortage of highly skilled chief engineers, head chefs, pursers, or chief stewards, who the company place on rotational jobs. Chief engineers can earn over €15,000 a month on yachts 80m and above. Head chefs, pursers and chief stewards could earn around €8,000 per month on the largest vessels.


Notably, some aggravators are still caused by surplus crew and lack of available positions. “There is some tension with deck officers as many are staying put and not moving,” say Lewis. On the other end of the spectrum, some tensions are caused a positions scarcity. “Stewards at intermediate level are under a lot of pressure as fewer junior stews entered the market in 2020 because of covid.”


This year however, there is hope that the next generation of crew will alleviate those pressures. “In 2022, we are witnessing a large influx of junior crew both for the deck and steward department, which is good news.” Junior crew typically earn €2,500 a month increasing by €250 each season.


According to Lewis, personnel have adapted to the current climate and actively sought out new ways to train and join crews. “We have also noticed an important uptake of the Guidelines for Unified Excellence in Service Training [GUEST] programme.” New entrants have also improved their employability by studying in remote learning online training courses.


Increasing numbers of registrations, competitive salaries, and more placements than recent years can only mean positive things for crew personnel and operators this year. “A new generation is entering the industry, which can only be good news,” says Lewis. “Unlike 2020 when the job market collapsed worldwide in April, the job market in 2022 is highly active.”