What they don’t teach you: How to get a payout that matches your value

Jan 24, 2023 by Tia Taylor

Becoming a savvy SEA negotiator can make all the difference in getting a payout that matches your value.

Recently, on a bright Florida day, I was talking with a crew member who said, “See, this is why I like talking to management and finance people. On board, we only have a view of the industry from our boats and a few of our friends on other yachts. Management gets to know what is happening on tons of boats at the same time. I feel like there are things that I should know, but might be missing.” 

And that crew member was immensely correct!  

Of course, the first smart step toward quality industry information is to read the Triton. After that, it’s best to figure out what information you don’t know. That is clearly easier said than done— but luckily, you have me. I can easily assure you that many new crew members are not being given financial knowledge, particularly in relation to acquiring a good Seafarer Employment Agreement, or SEA contract.  

Each vessel is unique in how its financial program is run for the owner, captain, and especially, crew. Some programs stick to the bare minimum of maritime compliance, while others go above and beyond to retain the best quality crew with high-incentive contracts. For example, most compliant yachts are required to repatriate you, but that doesn’t guarantee that you will have a plane ride home. Some vessels will try to find the least expensive non-flight route, while others will make sure you have a nonstop flight with a business upgrade. It just depends on the vessel and what you have in your contract.  

The best way to help yourself is by first fully reading your SEA contract. Yes, all of it! — and preferably before signing. Make sure to ask the captain any questions you have so that you completely understand what you are agreeing to. Also, know that more than just your salary is negotiable. Respectfully asking about negotiating options is a great way to increase your payout to match your hard work, without touching the salary. Top things that can be discussed include asking for additional days of paid leave, the potential for a rotation, special training paid by the vessel, contractual bonuses, contractual raises, higher flight allowance, flying business or first class, being paid in a different currency … the list goes on and on.  

When you are ready to review your SEA contract, just remember these few things: 

  • If you aren’t negotiating, you are leaving money on the table. 
  • If you have already signed your contract, that’s OK. The next time you have a conversation with your captain about pay, make sure to mention the other areas as well. 
  • If your captain agrees to pay increases or other allowances, make sure they are added to your contract with an addendum — not just a verbal agreement. 
  • The worst thing the captain can say is no. At that point, you can decide if it’s time to look for a new vessel. 
  • All of your negotiating should fall in line with your quality of work. If you know you are a great crew member, then a great program will work to keep you. 

Tia Taylor is a yacht accounts managers and business owner. She provides consultation and training in financial literacy for crew at luxurylearningsolutions.com

Click here for more information on mastering your CV and here to learn more about RYA’s crash courses. Read how Chief Officer Wesley Walton broke into the industry here and learn about creating relationships with crew agents here.