Industry » Legal & Finance » Crew Management: Behind the Scenes with Sarnia Yachts

Crew Management: Behind the Scenes with Sarnia Yachts

“Let our crew take care of yours” is the motto of Sarnia Yachts’ crew management department. Led by Louise Holloway, the division is one of Sarnia’s three core pillars – comprising Ownership, Management and Crew – and has been one of the busiest areas of the 50-year business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Crew Management team is based across Sarnia Yachts’ Guernsey and Southampton offices. “Our job is to take care of the employment and payroll for crew on our fleet of yachts,” says Louise, Director of Yacht Management Services. “From the onboarding process to day-to-day support, we’re there for every step of a crew member’s journey.”

Depending on the owner’s needs and the size of their yacht, the team offers a spectrum of services for crew on board private and commercial yachts including social security, contract review and drafting, new employee screening, and qualification monitoring. In addition, they offer a full range of management services, from recruiting, training and onboarding new crew, to leave tracking and travel. Louise’s team also supports the captain with any employment and payroll day-to-day issues, which could be anything from onboard disputes to regulation changes – an area they had to be on top of particularly during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

The crew management team have over 60 years of collective experience within the industry, many of which spent on the water, which means they have a deep understanding of life on board and inside knowledge that enables them to effectively advise their captains, crew and clients. “Coming from a background working on yachts, we understand the culture, which I think is paramount,” says Louise, who worked on board yachts for more than 10 years before joining Sarnia. “We understand that yachting doesn’t stop at 5.30pm on a Friday – it carries on. We are there for emergencies as well.”

“I think what makes us unique is the determination we have to take care of our crew,” she adds. “We understand that the crew are away from their homes and they might be on a boat for months at a time so we might be the only people they speak to outside the yacht. It’s all about creating and maintaining good relationships and making sure that we have regular contact with all of our captains.”

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The pandemic was, and remains, a challenge for many industries, but yachting faced particular challenges with rules and regulations changing almost daily in different territories. But such events also highlighted Sarnia’s excellent problem-solving capabilities.

“Over the past two years, Covid has presented many challenges in yachting, from questions over vaccination policies and employment queries to delays in recruitment and crew travel,” says Louise. “In the early days of Covid, arranging for crew to travel was very difficult. It was vital for us to stay up to date with the latest travel restrictions and entry requirements to make this as smooth as possible for all parties. In addition to government regulations, the airlines had their own restrictions and it felt like a ‘little win’ every time we managed to get someone where they needed to go. As time has gone on and our experience and knowledge of different situations has grown, these little wins are starting to become the norm.”

One example was a captain who had an urgent enquiry regarding Covid regulations for seafarers entering Spain – he’d received several conflicting responses and couldn’t find a concrete answer online. Using advice from local contacts based in Spain, Sarnia was able to deliver him a comprehensive and definitive response which enabled him to decide whether to proceed with his original schedule or look for an alternative destination.

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As global travel restrictions begin to relax and the next yachting season gets underway, a key function of Sarnia’s crew management division will be advising crew starting their first season in a post-pandemic world and helping experienced crew and captains to adjust to the new order. “All of our fleet have Covid management systems in place, covering everything from sanitation measures to quarantine and testing requirements, and this is really well communicated but it’s something that new crews in particular will need support with,” says Louise.

The Crew Management team has also learnt from the pandemic and continues to find ways to enhance its support services. “I have spent time thinking about how we can streamline our internal processes and systems to optimise our time while providing clients with readily available live data – some of these refinements will be in place in the not-too-distant future,” Louise adds. “Some of our clients have been with Sarnia for many years and as we continue to develop and evolve they embrace the change. I’m looking forward to the future.”

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