Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Yacht Crew Recruiting Industry Impacted by Covid-19

Overnight, many professional yacht crew, lost part or all of their income.

The super yacht crew recruitment market was hit fast and violently by the Covid-19 pandemic, with plans to hire crew delayed or cancelled altogether.

Overnight, many professional yacht crew, lost part or all of their income. Even if still working, many from superyacht Captains down through to the junior ranks, had to accept salary cuts and slashed leave and leave rotations schedules.

Laurence Lewis, a director of YPI Yacht Crew

Laurence Lewis, a director of YPI Crew now part of the giant shipping Schulte Group recalls: “The impact was brutal because the industry was hit at the beginning of the Mediterranean recruitment season; March, April and May are the busiest months for crew recruiters and so, when we registered an 80% drop in turnover in April 2020 compared to April 2019, we knew it was going to be a tough ride.”

The segments which recorded the biggest drop in new job requests were the engineering and deck officer markets, with a respective drop of 32 % and 28 %. 

Those departments benefit hugely from rotation working and, with some of those officers losing their rotations, the need to hire was subsequently reduced.

The busiest departments in terms of job orders were interior, followed by Engineering (despite a drop in demand, it remained an active department) and on-deck crew.

Parallel to the drop in job orders, there was an overall industry wide 13% surge in crew registrations between 2019 and 2020, with July 2020 peaking with an additional 62 % increase compared to July 2019 – clearly another Covid-19 effect.

Yacht Crew Recruiting Industry Impacted by Covid-19

Recruiters used this time as an opportunity to build closer relationships with clients and candidates and, as the season progressed, captains prepared their yachts for a short, intensive cruising season, 

Laurence Lewis explained that resilience, commitment and a strong team-spirited ethos has allowed YPI Crew to pull through the dark days, ending up registering the best months of July, August and September ever in its 18 years history.

In 2020, after a vigorous first few months during which the recruitment specialist was on the path to beat its 2019 records, the number of job orders started dropping from week 14 onwards. YPI Crew ended the year with 21 % fewer jobs compared to 2019.  All in all, the firm’s turnover only dropped by 18 % in 2020.

Parallel to the drop in job orders, there was an overall industry wide 13% surge in Yacht crew registrations between 2019 and 2020

Despite the surplus of available crew the drop of job the industry did not record a drop in salaries at point of hiring.  International travel restrictions, for which South Africa is a good example, and difficulties in obtaining visas, for the USA in particular, somehow kept the recruitment market tense.

Predictions for 2021

Looking forward, Laurence Lewis says she is, ”Quietly confident that the year ahead will allow yachts to enjoy a longer Mediterranean season again, especially as vaccines are deployed around the world; the yacht crew job market should recover and certainly, early signs are promising.”

It will be interesting to see if in 2021 a further move towards crew rotation will take place, as more owners realise that with Covid-19 they can spend more time onboard their yachts and actually work on board as if at the office if necessary.

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