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Overcoming the hazards of the yachting industry

7 February 2020

The Times recently published an article about the lives of crew in the superyacht industry, highlighting that although crew enjoy large salaries, exotic destinations and long breaks in between seasons, they’re paying a heavy price to live up to the industry’s relentless demands with depression, sexual harassment and burnout being all too common. 

The article which was clearly written to shock and leans towards sensationalism, in places, does manage to highlight some of the harsh realities that many crew, unfortunately, still face. It also labels the industry as one of the few places where the super-rich still ‘get what they want without being subject to a single authority’. Whilst, this may make for good reading, it’s not entirely accurate and fails to capture the fact that the vast majority of crew, including both men and women, have been able to build happy and successful careers in the industry, despite its perceived reputation.

Below, we provide some further explanation on some of the key points raised in this article and provide solutions to those crew suffering from burnout or sexual harassment.

Is the industry ‘above all authorities’?

No. Although the article states that crew working on private vessels are essentially working on ‘billionaires’ own personal floating kingdoms’, it’s important to understand that all vessels are subject to the laws of the countries in which they are registered. On top of this, many vessels are regulated by the International Labour Convention (ILO) which enforces the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006. The use of an MLC-compliant employment contract is becoming more and more commonplace - even on private vessels - and is pushing the industry into an era where private vessels are being required to offer MLC compliant contracts in order to attract and retain more experienced and valuable crew.  

Whilst it is not easy for a seafarer to trigger legal proceedings if he/she has been wronged whilst working onboard, it’s worth noting that there are several organisations, including the PYA, which are dedicated to the welfare of yacht crew and can provide assistance to crew who need help. 

The PYA regularly attends meetings with regulatory bodies which create and enforce the standards to which the industry is regulated, so as a crew member, it’s important to align yourself with an organisation which is aware of the regulations and can help advise you in the event that something goes wrong.

Are there any options for crew who have experienced sexual harassment or assault? 

Whilst The Times reported that crew who have experienced sexual harassment feel helpless, they failed to mention that those who are working under the terms of MLC 2006 are entitled to protection from sexual harassment and have the right to decent conditions of work. For full details of the Maritime Labour Convention and how to make a complaint, visit the Seafarers’ Rights International website

If you are being harassed, REPORT IT, either to your HOD, captain or management company. It’s important to document all incidents and keep the evidence for possible future reference. If you’ve reported the incident but nothing has been done, there are a number of organisations which can help provide advice and support. The PYA is available to direct all members who are victims of sexual harassment to an appropriate support service.

What to do if you’re experiencing burnout or mental health issues

Whilst the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 requires that crew must not work for more than 14 hours out of every 24, it is widely recognised that some yachts do not comply, claiming that it is necessary to exceed these limits in order to provide the level of service expected by owners and guests.

One solution for crew is to track their hours using time-tracking apps like Workrest, which helps track each crew member’s hours of work and shows if they comply with MLC and ILO regulations.

Crew suffering from burn-out or other mental issues shouldn’t hesitate to contact organisations such as the PYA and ISWAN which can put them in touch with experienced professionals who can provide help.


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