Crew Concerns: Crew Welfare on Board

4 January 2019 By Laura Dunn
Photo: Mark O'Connell

Those in the yachting industry know that it’s not all blue sky and sunshine when it comes to the crew lifestyle. But what are the real issues crew face on board? The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) partnered up with MHG Insurance Brokers to conduct a survey for seafarers on superyachts to investigate welfare issues in the industry.

While the report, which issued its results in December 2018, showcased the sunny sides of superyacht life, it wasn’t shy about tackling the negatives too. Below are some of the results based on responses from 402 superyacht crew who participated in a 50-question survey:

  • 82 percent had experienced low crew morale “sometimes,” “often,” or “always.”
  • 77 percent of women and 55 percent of men had experienced problems with onboard leadership “sometimes,” “often,” or “always.”
  • 67 percent “usually” or “always” felt rested in port.
  • 79 percent were on permanent contracts.
  • 51 percent were satisfied with their leave entitlement.
  • 57 percent of women and 39 percent of men suffered from social isolation or loneliness “sometimes,” “often,” or “always” while working on board.

Mark Bononi, director, Yacht Division at MHG Insurance Brokers, says the company had dealt with a range of issues affecting superyacht crew from the welfare perspective and they wanted to dig deeper, especially relating to crew mental health. “Partnering with ISWAN meant MHG could make use of ISWAN’s existing expertise in welfare-related research and crucially, in supporting seafarers via its helpline, SeafarerHelp, as well as ISWAN’S other services and resources,” says Bononi.

Although Bononi says most of the responses were unsurprising, a few rarities did surface, such as crew who responded with having unmet religious or spiritual needs. Nearly half of responders felt this way.

Bononi says it’s hard to single out just one statistic since the project covered a broad range of welfare topics. “That was intentional — we wanted to gauge [the] yacht crew’s own perceptions of areas for improvement across the board rather than overly drill down into any one area,” he says. He also points out that the research revealed areas for improvement.

The report made recommendations for improvement, including the following:
• To improve recruits’ knowledge of what to expect on board before they go to sea
• To improve support for seafarers who are coming out of the superyacht sector
• To raise awareness of what wellbeing support there is for seafarers; widen distribution of welfare materials and information to include yacht crew
• Increase in the availability of rotational posts, which would make a concession to family life
• Enable more time for rest and relaxation

Bononi recommends focusing “on findings that yield realistic opportunities for change. For example, the project showed the need to better prepare crew entering the sector in terms of expectations and practical guidance in knowing what to look and ask for in a contract (including the contract itself!).” He added that it also highlighted the need for better support for transitioning out of the sector and for better use of support structures and services already well used by other types of seafarers.

Explaining that it is in everyone’s interest in the superyacht industry to pay attention to crew health and wellbeing, Bononi says, “The wider seafarer welfare sector has been slow to attend to the welfare of yacht crew specifically, so there’s a real opportunity here to increase the numbers of seafarers better supported in their working lives.”

Yachting and yachts may be far from the typical workplace, but how employees are treated matters here as much as it does anywhere.

To read the full report, visit: