Lighthouse careers

…….what do you think?

An interesting topic, hot when speaking to crew right now so thought I would pop some thoughts down on paper to increase some debate and gain some debate as to what really the best idea is when it comes to crew leave Packages especially ROTATION!

In 2016 a crew recruitment company launched a salary checker, allowing crew to anonymously enter their salaries/rank to be reviewed alongside each other. Over 6000 crew entered their details.

347 Captains contributed their salaries. Of those, 287 (82%) were working on motor yachts, and 60 (18%) on sailing yachts. Overall, only 33% of Captains that entered their details were on rotation. There were no sailing yacht Captains on rotation at this time. If you look at the current stats you can see just how much rotation has become the norm with majority of vessels over 50m having rotation throughout the key HOD’s at least

What started on the largest vessels, rotation has now trickled to some of the smallest yachts in the industry, including sailing vessels. And not just for the HODs, but also for junior level position. A recent survey in 2022 by another recruitment company found that across all yacht sizes, 15% of junior deckhands had a 3:1 rotation or better, and surprisingly, this increases to 23% of stewardesses.

A separate candidate poll showed that more leave is now the priority for 41% of crew, encouraging more yachts to take notice and improve packages. We know that good downtime is key to keeping good crew healthy and happy. Obviously, it is more expensive to have two crew instead of one in a single position, but there are many benefits and savings to be found, especially if you consider not have to recruit and retrain new crew every season.

Family life is a huge factor to consider when it comes to rotation. For crew with family ashore, rotation allows for a more balanced lifestyle. Having read a recent article, a quote from a Captain  reads – “My owners were generous with time at home, but being the only captain, I was constantly on my phone or computer even on holiday, which is unfair to my wife and daughter who already get so little time with me.” Being part of a rotation allows you to really enjoy your downtime, knowing that the vessel is being operated to the highest standard still, with no ball being dropped.

What I have noticed since joining the recruitment side of the industry, is that crew with longevity onboard vessels are becoming harder and harder to find. Each crew member is looking for the best package, and often would take a reduced salary for more leave. Crew turnover is at an all-time high, and while I agree that rotation for the HODs is extremely beneficial, I do not agree that it should filter throughout the whole crew. I believe you must earn the right to rotation, and it should not be given to the most junior positions.

I spoke with a Captain on a 56m yacht, who works on a time for time rotation. He believes “rotation is a tough conversation. Even if you are single season, if you offer rotation you are going to get crew that stick around. Crew will get bored of single season and will leave to find a busier package, perhaps a heavy charter. With rotation you also attract the best of the best, higher calibre crew. If you want the best HODs now they all want rotation. Same as if you want longevity this is about the only way to do it for Captains and officers, majority of who are at the stage of life where they have a family and want to spend more time with them.” I did want to mention here that if a recent 1st officer role we had in had been rotation the pool of candidates would have been a much better one for the vessel as majority wouldn’t even look at a non rotational position it actually put a limit on who we could present to you.

This is just one side of the story. With rotational senior crew also comes the difference in management styles. It can be extremely hard for the crew to adjust every 8-10 weeks to a new way of working. It can affect the atmosphere onboard, and eventually leak through and damage the guest experience. Both parties must be fully committed to their roles and responsibilities onboard, and finding people with like minded management styles can prove tough but it is do-able when looking at the full profile of the HOD, vessel and owners– core values, work ethic, background etc

I know of crew that do not want rotation at all and are focused on their career progression and financial savings. I also think there are huge benefits when crew step up and cover more senior positions when the HODs are on leave, allowing crew to gain more experience and grow within their roles. But then the question arises, when do the more junior crew have their time off? If for example a Captain were to have time off in the down season/yard, could all the crew shift up a position, Co-relief Captain etc then the cost would be on a junior salary for example

Expectations from crew are changing as the industry continues to grow. Sweeping statements of “rotation is fantastic” will not work in this instance as this industry is owner/guest specific. The itinerary and programme are a huge consideration, and I think it is right that single season vessels, in most cases, do not warrant rotation for their crew, however not keeping up with the dual season vessels will mean a different and smaller calibre of candidate when trying to fill those roles, plus how quickly will they jump ship for the converted rotational role will come in to play. Our society is changing, our collective perception of work and what happiness and fulfilment entails has evolved at both employer and employee level, and COVID-19 has further accelerated this process.

In summary I am a big believer in HOD’s having rotation across all vessel types, I think finding that balance of a home and “normal” life whilst treating yachting as a career is something to retain good crew with any program.  However the rotational roles for junior crew I think should be something that is happening on very busy vessels where little to no time can be guaranteed off regardless of their size.  We do work in an industry where we work longer hours than most so being able to have that time to not burn out is essential, but we must also remember we are being paid well and so not all normal times and laws can apply.

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