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.