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Opinion: Wage Pressures in the Engine Room

Steve Wright 140

There seems to be some evidence that initial 2016 pay rates offered in commercial yachting are somewhat below the standard rates for the wider shipping industry.

I have noticed a drop this year in pay rates for engineering officers across the board in the private yachting sector. I wonder: might it be that engineers from Eastern Europe (the former Eastern Bloc) are more attractive to employers because they are more inclined to accept engineering positions with lower pay rates or, put slightly differently, with lower conditions of service. 

As a long term professional with considerable experience in private yachting, there appears to be a clear shift in employer interest, seemingly in the maintenance of standards. This brings with it the real risk that everyone employed in our sector will face a drop in pay rates due to the influx of individuals willing to accept lower wages.

In particular, those entering the labour market today face the realities of global economic stratification exemplified by the release of the Panama Papers; a clear illustration of the financial greed or certain individuals.

This, of course, is not news to you or anyone else in yachting; the characteristics and inward looking attitude of the yachting sector is the worst kept secret in the maritime industry. But should we just shrug our shoulders and press on? I would like to point out a number of issues that will, in effect, cripple the current private maritime market if they are not kept in check.  

These are:

1. Individuals seeking financial gains due to cross market skills recognition.

2. Management companies using employment tactics that benefit themselves in the short term. No names mentioned but we know who they are. 

3. Unscrupulous yacht owners and managers who accept high crew turnover as a consequence of demands for conditions of service that are blatantly non-compliant with IMO (eg. SOLAS) and MLC 2006 regulations. Currently this is not recorded to allow for a meaningful audit, so these data are not available, which itself is surely in conflict within the IMO mandates, MLC 2006 and all the other regulations developed over the years to improve the lot of the professional seafarer.

Cheaper wages does not lead to better service for the boss or guests, or to better working conditions for crews. A ship is only as good as its crew, so owners and managers need to see the bigger picture. At the end of the day it’s not just about the money; it’s about self respect. 

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