Training, certifications help bridge qualification gap for yacht crew

Jan 31, 2016 by Capt. Brian Luke

Nearly 10,000 yachts over 24m actively ply the world’s waterways. With such a large number, you would think it relatively simple to land a crew position on board a megayacht. Yet anyone having actively searched knows that finding one may be anything but simple.

Securing a position on board does not need to be the particular struggle that some seem to find.

One frequent reason some crew struggle to find a position onboard is a qualification or certification gap. This “gap” is not a missing qualification for licensing, but a qualification, skill or certification that a vessel itself may need to fill.

If a vessel operates under the ISPS code, for example, there is a requirement to have a certified Ship Security Officer (SSO), so potential crew may be filtered to meet this particular need.

In another instance, a highly qualified former commercial deck crew member looking for a yacht deckhand position was passed over for a particularly good job simply because it required qualified knowledge of teak work and varnishing.

Estimates show as many as 70,000 onboard jobs or positions currently exist in the megayacht industry. The 2015 data indicate more than 750 yachts on order from shipyards and builders around the globe. This represents an additional 6,000-8,000 crew positions, an optimistic future for our industry, both for new and seasoned crew.

With these numbers looking so good, how does one increase their chances of employment as a professional crew member on a yacht? The answer is, quite simply, through training and certification.

Crew need to fill that qualification or certification gap. Experience and networking are critical, but without certain training, qualifications and certifications, some crew will automatically exclude themselves from a number of opportunities for their experience level.

Let’s take a look at this from a statistical perspective. Each vessel requires interior, deck and engineering crew. Crew searching for a deck position would want access to all roughly 10,000 yachts cruising out there. In other words, they want employment access to 100 percent of the active megayachts around the globe. The more qualifications a potential crew member possesses, the closer they come to the 100 percent mark.

Each qualification they do not possess excludes them from some percentage of those opportunities. Having STCW Basic Safety Training (BST) as the sole qualification markedly reduces the percentage of yachts available to a potential crew member, since many of the yachts today demand more qualifications than the basics.STOCK-chart-binoculars-comp

A significant number of vessels will not even consider candidates who do not have a Powerboat Level II (PB-II) certificate or the Approved Engineering Course (AEC), for example. From a numbers perspective, if 6,000 of the total 10,000 yachts require a PB-II certificate for deckhands, candidates who do not possess one essentially have eliminated 60 percent of the employment options available to them. Crew want to optimize their chances for employment by having 100 percent access, not narrow them.

Deck officers, interior crew and engineers all fall into this qualification gap. For example, deck officers who do not hold an SSO certificate are eliminating a large percentage of yachts that may have potentially hired them. For interior crew, not possessing a silver service certificate or its equivalent may potentially eliminate thousands of yachts as potential employers.

Why limit yourself when training and certification is something you can control? Don’t wait for the vessel to pay for this training; many won’t anyway. By showing up to every interview as the highest qualified candidate significantly increases the chances of landing the position.

Yacht crew must invest in themselves. Do not limit the number of potential employers because of a qualification or certification gap. Have more than the minimum. Stand out as a candidate and significantly increase employability by having qualifications beyond those mandated by your current license or position.

Although it may cost a bit more up front, in the long run, qualified crew will be significantly ahead, both financially and in their career. Training, certifications and qualifications are the keys to keeping your career on course.

Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact him through