On Track: Crew Hiring Trends

1 March 2019 By Lauren Beck

Looking for a new position? As the 2019 Med season approaches, several crew agencies from both sides of the Atlantic weigh in on recent placement trends.

“Every position is in high demand,” says Rupert Connor of Luxury Yacht Group. “After two hurricane-impacted winter seasons, we’ve had a lot more activity over this winter and therefore more crew are working than in spring 2017 and 2018. Therefore, there are fewer crew sitting on the dock waiting for the Med season to begin. Our January placements were at an all-time high level, which is indicative of a very strong summer.”

“We found last year a very competitive season with many more dual positions,” says Sharon Rose, crew manager at bluewater. It was a common development noted by all the crew agents, so make sure you’re highlighting your abilities, even those you might think have no bearing on your crew career. “Any crew that have any hidden talents should be mentioning them on their CVs to get them to the top of that pile. Even if you are a violinist, make sure you mention it on your CV,” says Rose. “You will be pleasantly surprised with what clients want on their charters.”

Joanne Cooper-Damgaard, a crew agent with bluewater, says that divemasters, dive instructors, qualified nurses, and EMTs with yachting experience are in demand. This is seconded by bluewater Placement Coordinator Terry Haas, who shared that PWC instructors were often desired. She also noted that carpentry was regularly requested, as are Y3 engineers. As Diane Leander of The Crew Network’s Fort Lauderdale office notes, “Licensed engineers are always highly sought after.”

“I was speaking with a captain the other day who noted he did not care if they have ‘I hate rich people’ tattooed on their forehead if they have a Y2 ticket,” says Ian Pelham of Preferred Crew in Fort Lauderdale.“Clearly he was exaggerating, but the point holds — engineers are in demand, now and always.” Pelham also stresses that engineers can only help themselves if they get additional training on the AVIT side. “Yes, that big eighty-meter yacht has a dedicated ETO, but that brand spanking new fifty meter has the highest tech available and no space on the yacht for an ETO — so the engineer who knows what they are doing with the AVIT has a real foot up.”  

Rose also says that larger vessels with spa facilities are always looking for qualified masseuses and beauticians, and that interior crew are in hot demand. Louise Cailbourdin from The Crew Network’s Antibes location shares that Silver Service is key for interior service crew, and they have also received “an increasing number of requests for steward/esses with massage skills.” The bottom line is: “The more skills you have, the better,” says Rose.

With more and larger new builds coming out of the yards, Rose points out that deck positions are in demand. “This means we have also seen an increase during the winter months while the yachts are in the shipyards,” she says. “There are some great opportunities coming up this summer season.” In her experience, interior courses are growing in popularity, and more deckhands seem to be taking the AEC course and are heading down the engineering route. In addition, “A lot more female deck crew [are] available; [there] seems to be a new trend of females on deck,” says Cooper-Damgaard. “I think it’s great — mix up the testosterone-heavy deck departments.”

Cailbourdin has noticed some of the same things. “In Europe, with the increasing number of new builds over eighty meters, we are continuing to see a trend towards the placement of deck and engine crew with unlimited licenses…” In her experience, crew with specialist skills — including security guard, ROV operation, fishing guide, and nurse — have been popular. “There is also a trend for new-build, exploration-style yachts, ideal for intrepid crew that enjoy off-the-beaten track cruising experiences,” she says. Of course, as Leander points out, each crew position is only enhanced by extra skills related to the job. For stewardesses, that means hospitality and service, etc., while carpentry skills, experience as a watersports instructor, and tender driving can only bolster the deck position. For heads of departments, organization and management course are essential.

“Really all positions are needed,” says Leander. “Clients want professional, career crew that show good longevity and excitement for the job.”