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The Importance of an Open Door Policy to Keep Crew Safe & Healthy

When it comes to working on a yacht, the lines of employment and friendship are often blurred. Afterall, most yacht crews spend more time with each other and the owners than they do with their own families. Sometimes the relationship between an owner and a crew member can form a bond that can never be broken and the same can happen among crew members. These bonds can last a lifetime. 

However, there are times when being stuck on a yacht can be an absolute nightmare leaving a crew member with no one to speak to and nowhere to go. Things can get even worse for both male and female crew members if someone’s advances are unwanted.

Being away from family for months at a time can be difficult to cope with, especially for someone who has just entered the yachting workforce. Add in fatigue and a crew member might find it difficult to cope and complete normal tasks.

First and foremost, captains and owners are tasked with providing a safe and seaworthy vessel for their crews and this extends to maintaining a vessel free of unsolicited advances as well as access to mental health support if ever this is needed.

Sometimes, all it takes is an ‘open door policy’ with a senior crew member or captain paying extra attention, letting the team know that they are available to talk anytime.  Captains want their crews to be happy and healthy so they can carry out their work as required, so opening the bridge to crew for an hour a day can be a good idea. If ever an individual needs additional support, a professional with experience in these situations can be brought in to help.  Even while traveling abroad or when the yacht is miles from land, help can be provided online via video conferencing. 

Most yachts are required to provide health insurance for their crews and usually this extends to mental health, so if ever the need arises, crew can be given access to a trusted professional to support them in difficult times.

Dealing with accusations of unwanted advances requires a different approach and avenues of reporting should be in place and known to all crew members, both male and female, from the start of their employment.  Whenever a case of unwanted attention arises, the captain or their next in line should be informed immediately, and the matter should be handled with the utmost confidentiality. The owner of the yacht and the crew/yacht management company should also be informed so that each party can take the necessary steps to investigate and protect both the yacht and the crew members concerned. 

While these situations can be difficult to foresee, some due diligence steps can be taken to try to limit this type of exposure.  For example, prior to employing a new crew member it is prudent to use a reputable company to conduct background checks. Another precaution would be to do some research on the social media groups frequented by yacht crew.  If the potential new crew member has a bad reputation, it is highly likely that other crew will be prepared to respond via a private message to provide further details. 

Finally, a crew member’s resume should not just be placed in the file. The individual tasked with hiring new crew members should contact the references provided to verify that they are accurate and true.  

There’s no doubting that working as a crew member on a yacht is a tough job. Being away at sea for six to nine months a year can be taxing for anyone and, while it does have its perks, the day to day on a yacht is not always as glamorous as it seems to those outside the industry. 

Captains and owners have a duty to keep their crews safe and healthy and offering open communication and support is vital to a safe and seaworthy operation. 

* This article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Please contact an attorney to discuss the specifics of your circumstance.

Nicholas J. Zeher is an attorney in the Litigation and Yacht Law Departments of Robert Allen Law, an international boutique law firm with a dynamic practice in the yachting industry. For more information about Nicholas and Robert Allen Law, please visit the website.


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