A survey of 220 captains and senior crew has shed a light on what candidates would expect from working on a new build superyacht project and which yards need to work on improving their appeal.
With the build boom expected to continue into 2023, there’s been a significant rise in the number of new build roles available, and recruitment agency Quay Crew wanted to uncover what crew appetite there is for such placements and whether crew expectations align with the current packages on offer.
In collaboration with project management software provider Pinpoint Works, the findings reveal salary and benefit expectations, length of time crew would be prepared to work full time on land, and which boat builders are most highly regarded and lowly rated.
98 per cent of crew would consider working on a new build project
Dutch and German yards most respected by crew; Italian yards least popular
Only 1 in 5 consider project management an essential skill
Crew would expect a 13 per cent average uplift in pay for a full-time yard-based role
One third of crew would expect to join a project 12 months or more before launch
Over half of crew would expect more than 60 days leave
44 per cent would expect to be able to travel home at least once a month
Almost 4 in 5 crew would expect reasonable living expenses to be covered, with three quarters requiring accommodation
Lack of leave and tax implications most discouraging factors of new build role
Tim Clarke, Director and Co-founder of Quay Crew, commented: “The good news is that the crew surveyed are largely interested in working on a new build project and more than two-thirds already have previous experience.
“Despite this, there are some discrepancies between the skills crew think they would need versus those that are considered essential by some builders. I suspect this is because they have been recruited to the project too late and therefore have little knowledge of the earlier stages of a build, which is the biggest challenge in new build recruitment at the moment.”
Background knowledge and operational experience were rated the top essential skills by crew, but as Clarke points out, project management and foresight are crucial in the earlier stages.
Clarke claims that recruiting crew or a new build consultancy as early as possible to a project is paramount to reducing risk, improving performance and enhancing the overall owner experience. Positively, the survey reveals that across all departments, crew are willing to join projects earlier than currently is the norm.
James Stockdale, founder of Pinpoint Works, added: “Having key crew members involved from the early stages is essential to increase the chances of a successful build, a productive warranty period, and most importantly, a safe and enjoyable first season for the owner. Anyone who has been a crew member on a new build will probably agree that operating the yacht to meet the owner’s expectations during the first season is tough.
“If crew are employed late, the attrition rate is usually high, and costs will escalate due to the loss of knowledge and experience.”
The data provided by the survey has been broken down by role, with captains and chief engineers most willing to join a project 12 months or more in advance, and few respondents selecting less than three months.
Captains have the lowest expectations when it comes to a full time salary versus a rotational salary, wanting a 6.7 per cent average increase in pay compared to 20.7 per cent uplift for chief engineers and 14.6 per cent for chief officers.
Although interior crew are least likely to work full time on land for a longer period, they expect the least regular commuting home benefits, with most saying every three months or less.
Remote working, which can often be done in the earlier stages of a build, is not actually a consideration for two in five crew, but the same number of respondents would also expect all travel costs to fly home regularly to be covered.
When it comes to the most appealing aspects of a new build project, three quarters of crew want the chance to understand the design and operation of a vessel while just one fifth are attracted by working traditional 9-5 hours.
For over half of all crew, the lack of leave and tax implications of working ashore are the most discouraging factors.
Tim Clarke said: “The tax implications of working ashore is one of the biggest perceived cons of working on a new build. Comments which came up repeatedly were that some crew felt the yacht should factor in the additional tax bill in salaries, and we know some boats are prepared to do that.
“The lack of leave in comparison to rotation is clearly a downside too, but as the survey shows, crew are largely willing to take a full-time role provided there are provisions made for regular travel home and/or working remotely.”
The good, bad and ugly in boat building
The survey also asked crew which of some 16 well-known yards they would consider accepting a role from and the responses drew a clear line between Dutch and German builders versus Italian yards.
Over 96 per cent of all crew would take a new build role with Lurssen and Feadship, but less than 33 per cent would consider jobs with the various Italian yards.
On how builders can improve their appeal, James Stockdale explained: “The most obvious suggestion would be to improve the quality of their product. A shipyard that doesn’t have an excellent reputation has probably had some bad builds in the past, which were sub-standard and could have resulted in a dispute between the shipyard and crew/owner. The news of these bad experiences in our small industry will spread quickly.
“A shipyard should be able to communicate openly with the crew and owner and do their very best to deliver the product that the owner has signed for, as well as be proactive in resolving any issues that may arise during the warranty period.
“We encourage shipyards to embrace the crew and to establish good team morale from the start, where crew and shipyard are encouraged to work together and support each other instead of fighting one another.”
Positively, Clarke says that overall crew expectations are largely aligned with what is currently on offer from new build packages, suggesting that recruiting crew should not be too challenging.
However, he warns: “The key is to provide some level of flexibility to attract the best candidates and act fast. And if you are not a yard that is highly regarded in the industry, then developing an attractive package is even more important.”