Crew salaries are on the rise due to crew shortages as a result of the pandemic, say top recruiters.
As COVID-19 made travel and work difficult over the past 18 months, many boats struggled to fill gaps on board after some crew on downtime were caught at home on lockdown, or were unable to get paperwork processed for necessary visas and passports. And with travel restrictions in play, getting crew to and from boats was challenging too — some even left the industry to pursue careers on land — which has resulted in an international crew shortage and, with it, an increase in crew compensation.
Worldwide, agents are predicting that crew wages are sure to rise in the near future due to the shortage in staff and the law of supply and demand. In fact, several agents already have reported seeing a rise. “Because of the increase in demand, we have seen big increases in salaries in just the past few months,” Marcy Williams, director of crew services, Northrop & Johnson in Fort Lauderdale, says.
“Salaries have gone up in the last year,” says Linda Turner, director of crew placement at Crewfinders International Inc. in Fort Lauderdale. “The job market is short on qualified people right now [who are] willing to expose themselves to the virus and having the skills needed for yachting. The owners have gone back to boating and a lot of new boats are also crewing up. Salaries have gone up, probably based on supply and demand. Not to mention the cost of living has increased.”
Julie Walker, customer manager at Meridian, agrees. “…Crew can pretty much demand what they want, because the other yacht needs him/her,” she says. “What I see happening [is] stews getting way above $450 per day. With these needs, the salary is shifting the whole salary-position scale.” As she notes, this may affect owners on smaller yachts. “Small yacht owners are getting discouraged with this salary increase; they cannot compete and offer the above salary to a stew,” she says. “Hence, [there are] no crew to fill really nice small yacht[s].”
Sandra Murphy of Meridian has also noted the increased rates for freelance stews, with some commanding $500 as a day rate.
“Crew salaries are somewhat elevated currently,” says Jill Maderia of Denison. “Many boats have offered higher salaries or additional benefits for those with experience. However, occasionally we have seen green crew with perhaps daywork only and requesting higher rates. You have to kindly let them know they will get there at some point in their career, however, remain humble and everyone has to start somewhere, right?”
But before you get too excited, not all agencies have seen large spikes and some think it will begin to even out again. “Like every bubble, it has to pop, and the supply will start to increase as the borders open up,” says Jo Damgaard of Meridian. The Crew Network hasn’t seen a general increase, and doesn’t believe they will. However, “U.S. crew is a different market. Because there are too many U.S.-flagged boats and not enough crew, their salaries/daily rates increased significantly.”
“After some initial knee-jerk reactions in March/April 2020 when some yachts canceled their rotations and dropped some salaries, we note that salaries have come back to their previous level,” Don McKee, director & founder, YOA Ltd. in New Zealand, says. “Most of the salaries offered in 2021 are good market-rate level.”
And according to our 2021 Dockwalk Salary Survey, crew salaries were still on par with those of previous years, according to many of the placement agents interviewed.
“I expect there to be a significant change by the end of 2021 and early 2022,” says Lucy Medd of Burgess. Next year’s Dockwalk Salary Survey will show if their predictions are correct. To see the numbers from this year, check out the 2021 data.