Superyacht crew training crucial to meet industry demand

Superyacht crew training in action, aboard Bali Hai.
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Globally there is high demand for professional superyacht crews, which is forecast to rise as the new builds gain pace. Aussies have built a reputation as reliable, skilled, personable and loyal crew members, at all levels. Donna Morris, from Australian Superyacht Crew Recruitment & Training shares her insider-insight about the opportunities in the industry and why accredited training is fundamental to the strength of the industry, and career development for crews.

Says Donna, who exhibited at Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in May and was inspired by the level of interest in careers onboard superyachts: 'I always tell my students, that there are few careers that will demand as much, challenge as much, pay as much, or provide as much satisfaction. Careers on superyachts and all they entail really capture the imagination of people. I had a lot of demand for brochures and information on courses during the boat show.'

* Are there a lot of vacancies in superyacht crewing?

Research statistics have revealed that there are currently 495 Superyachts over 30m in build all over the world. So if they were stood end to end there’d be over 23-km of yachts, (average 46.6m each), needing approx. 5,000 crew once launched! People leave the industry regularly, for various reasons: retirement, taking a sabbatical or holiday, deciding to become land-based again after their ‘tour of duty’ – particularly the women.

I think that there are loads of crew vacancies. Many potential crew may disagree, because they find it difficult to get a look-in, however I think that there is a shortage of 'the right crew'. The fact is that many try but do the minimum and do not adequately prepare themselves. This means smartening up their approach:
• learning about the industry from people that know!
• finding out the best ways to get work and how to go about it – getting useful tips from people who know!
• writing a CV that will get noticed and gain you an interview!
• practicing and preparing for performing at an interview, so that you appear a lot more polished that the last candidate!
• gaining some skills in the areas relevant to the area that you want to work in --> show that you have invested in yourself!

This all goes a long way to demonstrating to captains that you're 'the right stuff'.
Also, bringing additional skills to the yachting industry is also a plus, ie nursing, massage, beauty therapy or similar.

Donna Morris, now training superyacht crew, has an extensive background working aboard superyachts.
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* What is driving the need for more crew - more boats, growth of charter industry?

Yes, more boats and post-GFC confidence is increasing meaning that people are now happy to spend more on chartering. Facilities for yachting have improved worldwide. Asia is experiencing a huge growth in yachting. There are a new breed of Chinese and other Asian mega-rich. Then there's attrition of crew, meaning people retire and new crew are needed to fill their places.

* What countries are highest need?

At this point in time I’d have to say the USA seem to be very interested in hiring Australian crew for internationally flagged yachts.

Of course Asia’s needs are growing. It’s difficult to get accurate facts and figures but indications are that the Asian yacht market will continue to grow.

Europe will continue to have the need for quality crew as the industry is largest there. Europe accounts for some 60% of the Superyacht industry.

Locally in Australia we are still developing the industry and in the future there will be a lot more opportunity here as the number of resident yachts increases.

* Why are Australians known as great crew and Captains? Do Aussies have a certain manner, attitude, skill set?

Australians are perceived very well in the professional yachting industry worldwide and industry sources estimate that Australians now represent some 20% of the industry! The reason has a lot to do with our attitude: getting on with the job and being uncomplicated, affable and pleasant to work with.

Additionally our training is considered to be top notch too, provided the captain has Australian qualifications that are internationally recognised, ie Master 4 and above. Reciprocity of qualifications between Australian and the international industry (MCA/IMO) is another whole issue, which we are doing our best to shed light upon and hopefully AMSA and the MCA can enter into dialogue and grant each other reciprocal recognition of each other’s qualifications.

Currently Australia does not recognise the YachtMaster (MCA) as being sufficient for captaining yachts commercially in Australia and crew with these qualifications need to undergo lengthy process to have their sea-time on Superyachts counted towards their higher marine qualifications.

The issue that needs to be dealt with first is the different levels of marine qualifications within Australia. The various State Maritime Authorities who issue marine qualifications (Coxswain, Master 5, Master 4, etc) only provide a syllabus that is geared towards Australian coastal operations only.

Therefore these are not necessarily recognised by foreign Regulators such as the British MCA as they are not endorsed by AMSA as an internationally recognised STCW qualification. Obviously, if the national entity, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), can amend the Master Class 4 to include the modules needed for international operations, then this would mean many Australian masters can work overseas on a Superyacht without having to undertake expensive requalification in the UK.

AMSA are considering introducing a simplified streamlined progression of qualifications enabling someone to start their commercial qualifications and progress up through the levels from Master 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 (foreign-going unlimited). The aim should be that these qualifications are recognised nationally, and also internationally!! AMSA’s concept of 'Tinnie to Tanker' and 'Single National jurisdiction' programmes have been designed to streamline this qualification process, and I understand that they are currently in the process of implementing it.
When this occurs perhaps Aussie crew would not have to make the choice: 'Where will my career be - in Australia or overseas? as they currently do, due to the difficulties of having their qualifications recognised.

* Why is training essential?

It’s pretty obvious that Superyachts are serious vessels that contain complicated and professional equipment, akin to other commercial vessels and therefore need the levels of training that other professional mariners require. Added to that, we are talking about ownership which is in the top 0.1% of the world’s wealthiest.

They can pick and choose who they want and they are looking for 'the best of the best'. So, in order to be competitive for roles on yachts it’s highly necessary for the prospective yacht crew member to equip themselves with relevant training to set themselves apart from their competitors. Captains and owners are seeking a higher calibre of crew these days, as so if you can bring extra skills into play you will stand out. Examples are: massage, hairdressing, sports instructing, Diving Instructors or Divemasters, Personal trainers, Carpenters, Plumbers, Painters, Nursing or other medical experience.

Superyacht crew training 2
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* What about accreditation - is there a national and global standard?

I believe that accreditation is hugely necessary because then you have a benchmark for relevancy of courses. How else can the student be sure that a training provider’s course ticks all the right boxes? When we started our Interior Crew training we felt that it was necessary to give our students confidence that their certification would mean something in the industry and have international recognition.

So we asked the PYA (Professional Yachtsmen’s Association, head-quartered in Antibes France) to visit us in Sydney to evaluate our course. There were a lot of hoops to jump through but in the end our efforts to create a relevant course were rewarded by being awarded full accreditation. I believe that ours is the only Interior Crew course delivered in Australia that meets their exacting criteria.

I am currently on the panel that the PYA have set up to define the elements that should be present in a ‘foundation’ Interior Crew course and it is very rewarding (professionally) to be in the company of some of the biggest names in the industry to assist in creating this essential benchmark.

There is no 'national standard' yet for Interior Crew, but once a course has gained the tick of approval internationally, then it follows that the course would also be relevant domestically.

Of course on the deck qualifications side of things, there has always been strict rules and guidelines for progress through the levels from deckhand through to captain. The only problem is the lack of reciprocity nationally and internationally.

* What do your courses equip people to handle? Give us an outline.

Our Superyacht Crew Induction Course is designed to give a good overview of the professional yachting industry to the students. Potential crew need to be clued up prior to approaching the industry or they may be wasting their time and be unsuccessful in their attempts to become employed as yacht crew.

Unless they’ve been educated, there is no way that anyone can know quite how unique and different this industry is from other marine, or even the cruise ships. The level of service and care goes way beyond a price point! It’s completely bespoke and crew needs to know how to deal with this demographic of guest. There are many things that crew need to be aware of: how to write a ‘yachting style CV’, what to expect in an interview, how it usually goes working onboard – all the points of difference, protocols, etiquette, maritime equipment and jargon, the MCA, the PYA, the IMO, MARPOL, how all the various support agencies assist yachts, Confidentiality, Security, etc. etc. etc. I have attached a course description. They get to 'interview yacht captains' and tour around a superyacht at the marina – as this helps to give them a picture of what it’s like to live and work aboard 24/7/365.

Our Interior Crew Course and our Chefs cross-training Course both encompass this Induction training, which occupies the first 1½ days of the course. After that the Stewards learn the finer points of housekeeping, laundry and floristry, whilst the Chefs have their specific cross-training with a highly experienced Superyacht Chef who gives them the benefit of their organisation, experience and wisdom to assist them in starting out their career on yachts. It’s assumed of course that the Chef student is already experienced at cooking fine-dining style cuisine!

The Chefs and Stewards then come back together on the last two 'service' days where they learn about how meal service rolls out on yachts and how it’s completely different to restaurants and other catering/hospitality that they may have done previously. They learn all the various service style and focus on Silver Service (Russian and French), as well as the extra’s such as Caviar service, Cheese, Cigars, Bar/Cocktails, Espresso Coffee and Wine service and knowledge. The last three subjects are also covered further in that the students attend external half-day courses that specialise in these areas, so that their learning experience is as authentic as possible. Our external trainers are all experts in their fields.

The wine component of the training (which includes tasting and appreciation) is not only extremely popular but is also essential when Stewards are serving wine at the level that is common on Superyachts. Our guest wine expert Nigel Burton of Burton Premium Wines kindly shares his extensive knowledge and passion for French and Italian wines, and makes useful comparisons and illustrations relevant for students. Our aim is to begin the student’s desire to learn more about wine, as it’s such a huge subject and highly necessary for Stewards to develop their competence and knowledge in order to further their careers. We also recommend that our students further their wine education in Europe with the various wine courses available in France, given by the 'Vins Sans Frontieres', a provisioning company in France, for which I developed a firm regard, during my international career on yachts.

Specific training for Interior Crew is relatively new and many veterans of the industry feel, as I do, that it is well overdue that minimum entry level standards are in place to ensure that professionalism within the hospitality side of the industry is maintained and further developed.

* What kind of range of income can people anticipate?

The income that one can expect on Superyachts is largely determined by your experience, seniority, skill-set, qualifications and personal attributes. Those that start out on the interior of the yacht can expect somewhere between US$2500- $4500 per month net. If the yacht is a charter yacht they can also receive tips which may range from US$500-$5000 depending on the length of the Charter and the satisfaction level of the guests. This is extremely motivating. Seniority makes a huge difference. Chief Stews at the top of their game can earn in excess of US$10,000/month net salary. Euros might be the preferred currency at this point in time though!

It’s much the same for deck crew in terms of starting salary and progression.

However some serious money can be made by talented (and favoured) Chefs, as the really good ones tend to be highly rewarded by grateful owners! Also, due to supply and demand being on the side of Engineers, and in particular Electronic Technical Officers, some phenomenal salaries and employment conditions are on offer. It is common for a rota system of 2 months on, 2 months off to be offered, to entice these highly skilled crew to work on Superyachts.

* What are the other benefits of the job?
The benefits of the job are many:
Expense free living – all food, uniform and medical are supplied – even toiletries and wine/beer.
Travel to exotic, beautiful and interesting places
A different experience (on the job) every day
Interesting guests
Excellent crew – who become life-long friends
The opportunity to find out what you’re made of – there are few jobs that require you to 'pull a rabbit out of a hat' every other day!
Great money + tips!
A chance to live a completely different life and see things you’d normally never see.

Any drawbacks?

I suppose there are always 'cons' that accompany the 'pros' of any job or way of life. It really depends on what’s important to you I suppose. Many would say that the lack of privacy is the biggest drawback, but if it doesn’t worry you to share a cabin in someone else, then it’s not a problem!

Space restrictions may also be a complaint amongst crew. Again, it’s how you view something as to whether you let is bug you!

The biggest thing for me was my isolation from family and friends by virtue of distance. Sometimes you just can’t get to that wedding or important event (anniversaries, parties, graduations, etc.) Sometimes Skype will have to suffice! How lucky are we that Skype, Facebook and the internet generally is part of our lives, as it’s particularly important for anyone working at sea to have access to information, and loved ones.

For detailed information about careers in superyacht crewing and upcoming training courses, visit www.superyachtcrew.com.au or Tel: (02) 9818 2024.