Starting from April each year, a rush of crew members descend on the South of France and Italy in search of a new position onboard, many of whom now face extended unemployment as yachting activity slows to a halt in the Mediterranean, with many trips already cancelled in the Caribbean. As the effects of COVID-19 continue to take on a new shape each day, experts predict that a shortened summer cruising season, if at all, is likely what yachts have to look forward to. For an educated view on how this will affect yacht crew jobs, especially candidates currently looking for a new position, we checked in with Deborah Blazy, Crew Placement Director at Camper & Nicholsons in Antibes.
Are yachts still hiring new crew at this time and how have travel restrictions affected this process?
The current pandemic has greatly affected the global economy at a speed that few could have predicted. It is a complicated time with much uncertainty for businesses and families around the world. This has certainly had an immediate knock-on effect on the yachting industry. At best, owners are wondering how to weather the next few weeks. At worst, they are cancelling their summer season completely and moving to a skeleton crew. Others are biding their time to see if there will be a rapid end in sight and whether perhaps the charter season can be saved.
The reality for crew is that many positions have been put on hold while yachts monitor the spread of the virus and subsequent travel restrictions. This is seen in most cases as a temporary measure, with captains assuring us that they will open those positions again once the situation is clearer. Of the yachts who are still hiring, most will only consider those based in close vicinity to the yacht and certainly in the same country, as it is so difficult to fly candidates in. In line with international health recommendations, we are advising that candidates undertake shore-based isolation for a 14-day period and wherever possible are tested prior to joining the yacht.
Are yachts able to operate with a smaller crew if needed, and is this the case on any of your vessels?
Given the current reduced workload on many yachts, yes, it is possible to operate with a smaller crew. The safe manning must, however, always be adhered to. Further issues occur when rotational crew are due to switch over, with travel restrictions leading to difficulties in repatriation. We have also witnessed new hires being asked to join the yacht once the pandemic is over; their job security is assured however the start date is postponed, which in turn is very comforting news.
What advice do you have for aspiring crew who were planning to travel the Mediterranean from next month in the hope to land their first position, and is there a way you could still be actively searching for a position without being able to travel at the moment?
Until travel restrictions and isolation measures are lifted, we do not recommend anyone leaving their current location. We should all be closely following the WHO recommendations and staying at home in order to help beat the pandemic and to have normal activities resume as soon as possible.
There is, however, a lot crew can do remotely:
– Make sure you have completed your online registration with all the reputable agencies and make contact with them to advise of your search criteria. We are currently offering Skype interviews throughout this period as we are unable to meet candidates in person.
– This is the ideal time to review and improve your CV to ensure that you can present yourself in the best way possible as soon as the jobs start to come through again.
– There are many online yachting-related courses, so while you have more time on your hands, why not consider expanding your existing skills? Any additional knowledge may set you apart from the competition once the hiring kicks in again.
Are yacht crew protected against unforeseen events such as this pandemic in terms of job security?
This is a situation that none of us has experienced before and as far as I know, there is nothing stated in existing SEAs that mention such events. All commercially registered vessels will be covered by the MLC regulations that provide standard severance in the event of loss of employment and of course repatriation when possible. At this time, our management team is dealing with each situation on a case-by-case basis.
Do you foresee a void in crew positions which would have to be rapidly filled once travel restrictions are lifted and yachting activity picks up again? If so, how are you preparing for this?
This will all depend on the length of the pandemic and the lockdown period. We are all hoping for a rapid return to normal and if this is the case, we do not foresee a void but rather a late start, with the hub of the recruiting season being shifted towards June and beyond. The charter window will hopefully only suffer a delay with all cruising concentrated towards the middle and end of the summer.
What is certain is that those who love the sea and who love their yachts will be keen to get back on board as soon as this is over. In the meantime, we are in continual contact with our crew throughout the world and encouraging them to update us regularly so that when the jobs come rushing in, we are totally prepared with the right candidates already lined up.
Courtesy of Superyacht Times and written by Charl van Rooy