By Lucy Chabot Reed
Nearly two-thirds of the more than 100 captains who responded to this week’s Triton Survey indicated they have not cut salaries in the wake of COVID-19 concerns. But about half acknowledge that they have cut positions.
One of the biggest expenses onboard a crewed yacht is the cost of crew. We asked captains this week if the owner had made cost cutting moves on crew salaries.
The largest group -- 36.8% of our 106 captains -- reported they have had no cuts in salaries, are fully crewed and await the cruising season start.
The next largest group -- 26.4% -- found other ways to trim the onboard budget.
“We eliminated positions and thinned usage until/if things return to normal,” said the captain of a strictly private yacht 80-100 feet. “We have continued to operate mostly in a commuter sense but cut back on the number of guests while adhering to local orders.”
Just 20.8% were instructed by the owner to specifically cut salaries, and the remaining 16% of captains took it upon themselves to cut salaries in an effort to cut costs.
Of the 36.8% of captains who have had to cut back on crew employment expenses, we wondered Does that mean cutting back on individual salaries or cutting positions?
Nearly 50% said they cut positions.
“The chef was the first to go; highly paid and not required,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet with a good mix of charter and private use. “Next was the engineer then the mate. Our busiest Med charter season yet got cancelled. Two-month shipyard period coming up. Boat is being listed for sale.”
About 18.4% cut salaries, and the remainder did both.
“75% of crew laid off and captain on a reduced salary (30% drop),” said the captain of a predominantly charter yacht 80-100 feet.
The largest group said payroll expenses were cut 20%, 25% and up to 40%.
“Twenty-five percent pay cut to all his managers in his company, that includes the captain but not the other crew,” said the captain of a private yacht of 120-140 feet.
About a third cut their payroll in half since the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel. About 16% have cut as much as 80% of payroll expenses.
“Engineer is off on unpaid leave, replaced with half-price relief; first officer is off for classes; captain is on paid medical leave; we are short two crew right now,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet that operates with a good mix of charter and private use. “That’s a 50% reduction in payroll in the past 60 days.”
Many of these captains had advice for other captains going through this same situation.
“We all have to work with what we've got, so don't dwell on any setbacks. Just keep plugging along.”
“If you have a job in the industry right now, keep it. Now’s not the time to be moving around.”
“It’s truely time for yacht owners to understand that crew salaries are a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of damage that can come from an undercrewed yacht, from storm season to mold issues from lack of maintenance and use, and possible theft from unwatched vessels.”
“To be professional and respectful of the yacht owner, it is considered ‘best practices’ to keep unnecessary expenses at a minimum at all times, but especially so in these unusual times when the boat is spending extended time in the out-of-service mode.”
“Use the time wisely.”
“We asked for a raise during this time and received it. Your worth has not diminished so if it’s time, then push forward. Even more now than ever, you must find ways to cover and fight disease. We added UV to each A/C unit and changed out each room to include ion-cleaning units to kill 99:9 percent of pathogens. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the flu or something worse, always push to increase and make things better onboard and in your life daily.”
“It's times like this you see the true colors of your owner/boss.”
“Have patience. Hopefully, the good will survive and the weak will be pushed from the industry.”
“It’s time captains to bring their standards back up where they need to be. This is a good opportunity to do so. Get back to being professional to yacht crew versus the hoards of ‘Below Deck’ type of programs that have become so prevalent in recent years.”
“Suck it up. Myself and millions of others went through this when oil dropped a few years ago. Oh yeah, again in ’08. Oh yeah, and years before that. Save more than you spend when you make money until you can live for two years without a job.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below. If you run a yacht and would like to be invited to take our surveys, drop Lucy an email.