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Superyacht Stewardess

The Social Systems On Board a Superyacht

A Super yacht is a unique environment whereby the crew live, work and play together for months on end. The services that the crew provide range from safety and vessel operations to luxury hospitality services.

The Social Systems On Board a Superyacht

The Superyacht crew typically consists of a young international mix of nationalities. There is a formal professional hierarchy during working times with strict rules and regulations, which the crew must adhere to.

During downtime or when there are no guests on board the formal hierarchy is flattened and crew interact on somewhat of an equal basis.

English is the official maritime language, therefore, it is spoken and written on-board. Financially, the crew are well compensated for their positions on board and the owners of superyachts are typically situated in the top one per cent of wealth in the world.

Superyacht Crew Hierachy

The Formal Structure

The captain has complete autonomy over his crew. He is in a position whereby he settles disputes, controls rewards such as time off or extra time ashore, and has the power to dismiss crew members.

As stated above, the captain is governed by international maritime laws, however, there is no one who governs the captain on a daily basis. This is an area that can be subjected to personal and professional abuse, should the captain wish to gain from his position.

The limits to individual freedoms, refer to the crew’s lack of job control. Whilst they are obliged to carry out their professional duties, they may have conflicting ethical issues, related to operational decisions, the abuse of power, money or position.

Furthermore, the standing orders are thorough in the operational procedures on board, dress code, drugs and alcohol, with the protection of the environment, and the safety of the vessel and of the people on board, however, it is very limited with its health and wellbeing.

It is important to point out here that there is no mention of the crew emotional wellbeing.  There is no mention of a policy or a procedure dealing with abuse, bullying or harassment. It simply refers to the laws under the flag state.

This means that if a crew member has a problem with or no support from the captain, then that must seek help from the flag state. In many cases crew members will lose their jobs, should they complain or ask for assistance.

The Informal Structure on board a superyacht

The Informal Structure

The informal social structure occurs during downtime, when there are no guests on board or when the yacht is not moving. The informal behaviours focus on “how people in the organisation relate to each other” (4). Given that Superyacht crew work and play together, the boundaries between the formal and informal structures are very delicately intertwined.

There are three types of interaction that interplay with the social structure, these are understandable communications, the exercise of power and the sanctioning of one another (6). For the crew of many yachts, this can be seen with the kinship that they form with one another and the language patterns that they use,(an important consideration considering many crew do not have English as their first language).

The routines which the crew performs either during work hours or during downtime, reinforce the social structure.

It is suggested that people are motivated to perform the routine in order to obtain ontological security, which offers comfort, order… and tension reduction (6). For the superyacht crew daily routines, offer job security and reassurance that their physical safety is guarded.

The social systems onboard superyachts can change regularly when a new crew member joins. The crew access the social norms to guide their behaviour, conform to the cultural norms and values of the yacht.

However, this can be a little challenging for many crew members at first, as it blurs their own cultural boundaries and traditional norms.

Lastly, superyacht crew tend to form an artificial family or kinship with each other. They are reliant on each other and the balancing of power (in this case their rank) is decentralised.

Furthermore, they celebrate birthdays, support and do good deeds for each other. This is beneficial for the crew as it promotes a family feeling on board which supports personal well being.

Superyacht Crew Hierarchy

Superyacht Crew Hierarchy

Working on a superyacht is truly a unique experience, and I can honestly say that I have not worked in such a unique industry before or since leaving the yachting industry.

The Organisational Structure:

onboard a superyacht can best be described as being top-down and strongly hierarchical (as shown below) based upon a military model. Where positions, job duties and lines of authority are set, however, a superyacht is not the military, nor is it merchant shipping or large-scale commercial shipping like cruise liners.

Obviously, the larger yachts will have more crew with the same title and job description. Another area that may cause a little confusion is in the galley. Most yachts run with a chef or cook on a smaller yacht and only the larger super/mega yachts run with a team of chefs.

The following diagram represents clearly the formal structure by which superyachts operate. It also shows a clear separation of authority and duties of their hierarchical rank.

A Superyacht runs this way for a few reasons:

  • An authoritative chain of command is implemented for safety reasons, with the Captain is the master of the vessel… the king of the castle so to speak, with the Chief Engineer and Chief Officer following closely behind with the safety of the crew and vessel in their hands.
  • The middle managers follow in line to execute the commanding orders.
  • Followed by the lower ranks to carry out the orders.

This diagram broadly represents the chain of command on board a superyacht (please keep in mind that this example is a general summary and yachts will differ in organizational structure.). The horizontal specialization of the crew is again quite obvious, with each department specializing in their relevant departments:

Superyacht Crew Hierarchy

  • Engineering: Safety and smooth operational running of the vessel and hotel services.

  • Deck: Passage delivery, Safety, Outside housekeeping/maintenance, guest outdoor activities.

  • Interior: Guest wellbeing, guest control in an emergency, housekeeping, hotel management, activity planner, accounting and guest liaison.

  • Galley: Guest food preparation, crew food preparation, galley and store stock control, hygiene and maintenance.

Super Yacht Crew Hierarchy

 

 

 

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