A fascinating insight into how captains and their crews feel about working on yachts has come in a new report. Questioned in a survey, most workers, especially those on motorboats and larger boats, thought that their terms and conditions were better than average elsewhere.
The report, entitled Living and Working Conditions Aboard Yachts, was commissioned by the Professional Yachtsmen’s Association in 2010 from the Seafarers International Research Centre, part of Cardiff University School of Social Sciences. Initially for limited distribution, the report has now in 2012 been published via the website www.sirc.cf.ac.uk.
Much is known about living and working conditions in the merchant navy but so far relatively little research has been carried out into conditions on yachts. In the light of the Maritime Labour Convention and its likely application to yachts, the research is timely.
The majority of the 1,503 respondents (83%) to the survey worked aboard motor yachts, with vessel size ranging from 24m to 100m in length. Just over half the employees worked on vessels constructed since 2004. Many flags were represented, prominently the Cayman Islands in relation to 44% of the respondents, with 17% on UK-flagged vessels, and 7% on Isle of Man units.
People paid in euros tended to earn more than those paid in US dollars. The most common salary for euro earners was in the range Euro 5,000 to 7,000 per month. Among those paid in dollars, the most common salary was in the range equivalent to Euro 3,908 to 5,471 per month, close to the median salary for senior officers in the merchant navy. Most people did not have National Insurance contributions, and just over half were entitled to sick pay. Very few had private pension contributions paid for them by employers.
On average, respondents were entitled to 41 days paid annual leave, including public holidays, but 42% of them did not take all of their leave.
Bullying and harassment was seen as a concern. While many had never experienced such unpleasantness, around 10% had suffered problems either often (6%), very often (3%), or always (1%). Eleven per cent reported discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, or sexual orientation.
Cabins were shared by the majority, and just under half of respondents shared with a member of the opposite sex. Around half of the people in the sample objected to sharing. Work-related stress was experienced at least occasionally by almost all respondents, and over half (54%) had been prey to this often, very often or always. Just over three quarters of people referred to a lack of training opportunities and 65% complained of lack of career progression.
Three quarters of the people said that their boat at least occasionally put to sea in rough weather.
On the positive side, salaries were perceived as better than average by the majority of respondents (67%). Terms and conditions of employment were seen as better than average by less than half ; nearly three quarters felt that work satisfaction in their job was better than average, and a similar proportion considered that camaraderie and social life were better than average. Access to facilities and shore leave were generally viewed favourably, with many reporting that when there were no guests onboard they could get ashore frequently for long periods and often where there were good social and recreational facilities.