Working on a superyacht is truly a wonderful experience, and I can honestly say that I have not worked in such a unique industry before or since leaving the yachting industry. The following article explains the Superyacht Crew Hierarchy in detail along with what a superyacht actually is.
What is a superyacht?
The word yacht comes from the Dutch word ‘jacht’, which means to hunt. Originally the yacht was a light and fast vessel that was used by the Dutch Navy to pursue pirates. After 1650, this developed into a luxury vessel for VIPs and was used by the Dutch Navy until 1843.
Yachts for civilians were known as ‘play yachts’. Until the 1990’s most yachts were usually under 40 metres. Over the years they have slowly become larger. Currently, the largest yacht to date is 163 metres, with a 180 metre ‘new build’ under construction at the world-renowned German shipbuilding company ‘Lurssen’.
Luxury, indulgence, elegant, expensive, bling, sumptuous, rare. The world of luxury yachting has taken off exponentially in the new Millennium. It seems the rich and famous are no longer satisfied with a mere luxury superyacht, and towards the end of the last century, the term ‘mega and ‘Giga’ yacht had come into use.
This has resulted in an increase in the demand for highly skilled crew. The years of backpacker dominated docks have been replaced by the bachelor holding hotel managers and commercially qualified professional seamen.
There is no absolute definition of this subject, so this is what I found on Wikipedia:
“The term luxury yacht, superyacht, large yacht and mega yacht, refers to the expensive privately owned yachts, which are professionally crewed.”
Who owns these superyachts?
Well, it’s no surprise that superyachts are owned by wealthy people. The superyacht industry knows no boundaries and the yacht owners come from all corners of the globe. The yacht owners are people from varying backgrounds. It is true that some owners are movie stars and celebrities.
The majority of the owners are wealthy business people, who prefer to stay away from the paparazzi and who prefer to have their identity kept secret. The yachts are used for various reasons.
Some are completely privately owned, others are for charter only, and the rest operate between these two positions. Charter prices also range from tens of thousands, through to hundreds of thousands.
The Organisational Structure
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 the 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.
As superyacht stewardesses, we see the damage caused to our oceans and waterways by plastic daily. Moreover, its no surprise to know that plastic pollution is a global problem that threatens aquatic life.
Therefore, it is necessary for everyone to take small steps to reduce plastic use as well as take good care of their environment.
This article is written for the superyacht stewardess but can be applied to all walks of life. Further, it aims to highlight some steps to follow to reduce plastic use and pollution.
These straws are a massive problem in ocean contamination; they are also among the most picked up trash on beaches.
To stop straw use is straightforward: As a consumer, simply do not order a straw, and as a superyacht stewardess do not offer a plastic straw. If you guests asks for one, offer a bamboo straw instead.
Make use of a reusable tumbler or a no-go mug when you order coffee. As a consumer, take your own insulated coffee cup along to your favourite coffee shop. The use of insulated tumblers will also keep your beverages hot or cold a lot much longer.
Moreover, You also need to know that paper coffee cups are mostly coated with plastic resin, so you need you to avoid these as well and go for reusable containers.
Avoid dry-cleaning in reusable bags.
Avoid making use of the dry-cleaners’ one-time-use plastic bags and nasty coat hangers. Instead, provide your dry cleaner with your own coat hangers and reusable bags.
Avoid chewing gum.
How would have thought that chewing gum was so bad for the environment! However, according to Planet experts, it is.
The gum was initially made from natural materials like sap and rubber, but manufacturers now make use of a type of synthetic plastic instead.
Therefore instead of mindlessly grabbing the first of chewing gum, you see look for a biodegradable natural gum or eat mints instead.
As a superyacht chief stewardess who does all of the provisioning’s onboard, this is one area that you have complete control over and one tip that can be extended throughout all of your product purchases
Yearly, billions of plastic bags occupy landfills. In order to help reduce this number, use your tote bags when you go grocery shopping.
Reusable bags are much sturdier for moving groceries and will make a large impact on the number of plastic bags used.
It is easy to get reusable bags at most grocery stores and if you are using a provisioning company, ask them not to use single-use plastic bags.
Buy food from bulk bins and store them in reusable containers. Purchasing foods from the bulk section will save you money as well as lots of plastic packaging.
So instead of bagging your bulk foods up in plastic bags make use of your reusable bags or containers.
Waste-free storage options include cotton bags, glass jars and stainless-steel containers.
You may consult the customer service desk if you are worried about how your containers will affect the weighing and paying.
This is because most stores have weighing options for personal containers. Cotton bags have their weight printed on the bottom which makes the weighing process easier.
Avoid purchasing bottled beverages.
Stop your use of plastic bottles by getting alternatives, i.e. by using a reusable bottle to fill up with water, by making your own soda with machine-like Soda Stream, or you purchase fresh fruit to make your juice.
I acknowledge this is a hard thing to do onboard a superyacht, but as we are all citizens of this planet, this point is for everyone, so please just do your best.
Purchase secondhand toys and electronics.
This is because new toys and electronics come with excess plastic packaging. This may not be an easy tip to adopt onboard the superyacht if you are shopping for the guests, but it is easily done in your private life.
Shopping secondhand helps you eliminate waste and high price.
Reduce Plastic onboard the Yacht.
Keep your food in glass containers or jars.
This is a super easy thing to change onboard. And if you are worried about breakage, then there are other alternatives, such as wheatgrass containers, or upcycled plastics. Also, check out the beeswax food wraps.
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.
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
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.
The stereotype woman who stays at home and takes care of the kids or work as secretaries is obsolete. Today, females account for almost 50% of the entire American workforce and some of them have found their way in senior management positions in industries that have formerly been dominated by males.
But, despite their increasing number in the world workforce, women continue to experience discrimination and sexual harassment at work.
Now, let’s look at a super yacht industry:
The role of a stewardess is generally executed by a young female between the age of 23 – 35 years old and if you look at industry standards, she is probably above average in looks and has a bubbly personality.
It can be established that super yacht stewardesses work in a male dominated industry, with the average crew consisting of a variation of 30-40% male to female ratio, a little greater if the yacht has female officers or engineers on board.
Sexual harassment, in particular, is a difficult situation to be in as it is emotionally charged, with physical, financial, and emotional fears thrown into the mix.
The amount of damage that this can do to a woman’s self esteem and confidence is regularly understated, leaving the woman feeling victimised, vulnerable and alone.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a behaviour. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.
Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual.
Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Sexual harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.
It may be a tiny remark about the way a woman dresses or a direct sexual coercion act – most women are exposed to different levels of sexual harassment at the workplace. And what’s worse, despite the harsh penalties for sexual harassment, many acts are left unreported.
Sexual harassment can be as mundane as telling a female co-employee that she is sexy, and it can be as severe as touching her in a suggestive sexual manner.
This condition, if unchecked and corrected, may affect the work of a female employee and cause her to under-perform.
What is sexual discrimination?
Sexual discrimination is a behaviour. It occurs when employment decisions are based on an employee’s sex or when an employee is treated differently because of his or her sex.
For example, a female supervisor always asks the male employees, in a coed workplace, to move the boxes of computer paper. Or, a male supervisor always asks The female employees, in a coed workplace to plan office parties.
According to recent studies, 4 out of every 5 women who work in male-dominated trade experience varying levels of discrimination at work, and sometimes, even outside the work area after office hours.
In the construction, mechanical engineering, and the more popular male-dominated industries, owners and supervisors are more inclined to promote male employees over women.
Bullying can be described as: A threatening or intimidating work environment in which a group of people or an individual may become fearful or intimidated because of the negative or hostile behaviour of another group of people or individual
Bullying often involves a misuse of power or position and is often persistent and unpredictable. It may be vindictive, cruel or malicious, but sometimes the people displaying bullying behaviour do not fully realise the effect their actions are having on others.
Barf, blow chunks, chunder, chuck, ralph, heave, puke,spew, up chuck, and yack are just a few colorful words that many use when they are talking about someone vomiting.
Being sea sick can be a miserable, annoying and just down right uncomfortable condition to experience, Just look at poor Maria!…….So what can you do about it? Continue reading to find out.
What is sea sickness?
Essentially sea sickness is a form of motion sickness. There is no difference between being air sick, car sick and sea sick, it is all technically motion sickness.
Many different forms of transport can cause motion discomfort, with symptoms ranging from dizziness, fatigue and nausea to vomiting. These symptoms are collectively known as motion sickness. Each one of them can have a dispiriting effect on professional sea personal, especially when they have guests on board or they have a long journey ahead.
For most people sea sickness is just a matter of putting up with a little discomfort and can be quite annoying, yet for others it can have crippling effects.
What Causes Sea Sickness?
Irwin recorded the term “motion sickness” as follows:
“Seasickness, or motion sickness as it might be more correctly named – for not only does it occur on lakes and even on rivers, but, as is well known, a sickness identical in kind may be induced by various other motions than that of turbulent water – is essentially a disturbance of the “organs of equilibration”
The actual cause of sea sickness is quite complex, and as I am not a medical expert, I will give you the short reason; Seasickness is caused by repetitive motion that disturbs the inner ear and is related to the sense of balance.
Signs and Symptoms of Sea sickness.
The tell-tale signs of motion sickness are paleness and /or flushing of the face, cold sweating, vomiting or dry retching. These effects commonly occur in the following order:
Feeling of bodily warmth.
“Yachtie” remedies for sea sickness.
We all know how colourful the “yachtie” character can be. Here are a few remedies that I heard over the years on how to cure sea sickness.
Don’t get on a boat.
Sit under a tree.
Look at the dolphins.
Have a bacon sandwich.
Eat a lot.
Don’t eat at all, then you won’t have anything to throw up.
Sit outside in the fresh air.
The best place to be on a yacht is to sit on the aft deck in the fresh air according to an Amels project manager (and ex super yacht engineer).
How to ease the effects of motion sickness.
Sea sickness is normally not a big deal; however prolonged lapses of vomiting, retching and dizziness can lead to dehydration and exhaustion which can result in a dangerous drop in blood pressure. So it is very important to take quick and effective measure against this.
There are three types of remedies, this are over the counter medication, natural remedies, and behavioural measures that can be taken to help ease this discomfort of sea sickness.
As seasickness is actually not an illness these remedies are more for preventative measures rather than curative. Most popular brands are:
Over the counter medications:
Sea Sickness Relief band
Take preventive measures.
Personal recommendations :
I was lucky in the sense that I didn’t get really sick; instead I had to put up with a terrible headache and found the simplest tasks took all my efforts resulting in me feeling sluggish. On the occasions when I did succumb to the rolling and pounding of the ocean I found sitting out in the fresh air help a lot. Also I found sucking on hard candy really helped.
We all know how uncomfortable it is, the worst thing that you can do is moan about it, as this the quickest way to “P….. Off” your fellow crew. Just keep busy or if you are unfit to work, then try the above remedies to make yourself feel better.
Thank you for reading my article on sea sickness, I hope it can offer some relief when mother nature kicks off and the seas start to give you a glimpse of what the really can do.
For further information visit the following links:
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Maritime Legal Advice! For years the yachting industry was just a fun and exciting place to work…. meeting amazing people, and going to glamorous destinations whilst being paid very well for doing so……..life was great!
I have had the absolute pleasure of working with some of the finest Captains on the seven seas and I would follow them until the end of the earth.
So what makes a good Captain?
A good Captain is :
A strong leader
A good sailor (technically skilled, and one that I would trust with my life)
Fair in authority
A good manager
A good communicator
and finally an all-around nice person…
But then I changed yachts for career advancement and my whole view on the yachting industry changed! …and the rose-coloured glasses came crashing to the floor.
The yachting industry is like the “wild west”, with no “union” to play sheriff to some of the lawless Captains!
This is a topic that many people know about and that cuts deep to the bone, yet many turn a blind eye to the illegal activities that go on.
So what makes a bad Captain?
A bad Captain is:
Who abuses his hierarchical control
One who is absent from all moral obligations, and exerts power over the lower rank crew members on a whim
Who is technically unskilled
Who is a poor manager
Who is a poor communicator
In addition to the above, a bad Captain is one, who will steal, lie, ignore and or take part in sexual harassment, one who will use the vessel as if it was his own, not pay his crew, and steal some of the tip money off his crew.
He specializes in giving advice and legal assistance to the yachting community and shipping industry including crew employment issues, charter agreements, purchase and sale agreements, ship repair and refurbishment contracts, casualties at sea and in port (to include crew injury or arrests).
Very helpful with any challenging French customs problems. Studied law in Aix-en-Provence and in the UK and has a PhD in Maritime Law.