Survey of superyacht crew to investigate welfare issues specific to the sector, backed up by in-depth interviews and diary studies

A new research report looking into the welfare needs of superyacht crew was presented in London earlier this week. The supporters of the report include Inmarsat, MHG Insurance Brokers, Nautilus International, the seafarers union, and ISWAN (International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network).

Inmarsat and MHG partnered to conduct a survey of superyacht crew to investigate welfare issues specific to the sector, backed up by in-depth interviews and diary studies. Based on responses from 402 superyacht crew responding to the 50-question survey, the report finds:

-        82% had experienced low crew morale ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘always’

-        77% of women, and 55% of men, had experienced problems with on-board leadership ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘always’

-        67% ‘usually’ or ‘always’ felt rested in port

-        79% were on permanent contracts

-        51% were satisfied with their leave entitlement

-        57% of women and 39% of men suffered from social isolation or loneliness ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘always’ while working on board.

ISWAN is primarily associated with commercial shipping seafarers and this research is its first entry into the superyacht sector. At the London seminar attended by some 50 people, the attractions of being a superyacht crew or officer were highlighted.

Quotes from survey participants were included such as

- ”Yachting delivers beautiful adventures to remote parts of the world…at a fraction of a cost that any other occupation can offer.”

- It is also a hard life physically: ”…you work bloody long hours without a day off in weeks during charters.”

”I know a lot of yachts look after their crew but a lot don’t.”

The report makes a number of recommendations for improvements which included:

-        Improving recruits’ knowledge of what to expect on board before they go to sea

-        Improved support for seafarers who are coming out of the superyacht sector

-        Raising awareness of what support for wellbeing is out there for seafarers, and widening distribution of welfare materials and information to include yacht crew

-        An increase in the availability of rotational posts, which would make a concession to family life

-        Enabling more time for rest and relaxation

Dr Olivia Swift, who conducted the research for ISWAN, presented the results to delegates and a panel then addressed three key discussion points stemming from the report: gender, religion and leadership. The panel members were: Andrew Wright – Secretary General at The Mission to Seafarers; Karen Passman, Founder of Impact Crew, Peter Dudzinski – Director, Underwriting Services at MHG Insurance Brokers, Nicola Morgan – Director, Recruitment Manager & Shore Based Positions at wilsonhalligan, Danny McGowan – Strategic Organiser at Nautilus International and Richard Le Quesne – Financial Director & Honorary Treasurer at the Professional Yachting Association

Commenting on the report, MHG Insurance Brokers’ Chairman and CEO Andrew Dudzinski said: ‘How can we expect to recruit and retain loyal crew tomorrow if we don’t understand their welfare concerns today?’

The research was described by seminar delegates as ‘long overdue’ (Dùghall MacLachlainn, a superyacht captain), at the ‘forefront of development of crew welfare’ (yacht recruitment agency Wilson Halligan), and ‘a step in the right direction for the future of superyachting in a modern world’ (Sara Ballinger, Crew-Glue).

ISWAN’s Executive Director, Roger Harris, commented: “The research highlights some real concerns of crew working on superyachts that need to be addressed by the sector. We are grateful to MHG Insurance Brokers for funding the research and to The Mission to Seafarers for supporting it.’

Andrew Wright, Secretary General at The Mission to Seafarers, said: ‘I was absolutely delighted to attend the superyacht seminar. The findings of the study confirm my own experience of the industry and were properly thought-provoking. This is an area of need which has been insufficiently on the radar of most maritime welfare organisations.”

He added: “At The Mission to Seafarers we are determined to take forward current discussions. Working with partners, we are looking to develop appropriate kinds of support, focused on identified areas of need and using our particular skills and experience.’