The boat show season provides a hub of activity for the recruitment agencies, with swarms of new crew walking into offices with fresh-off-the-shelf CVs and existing crew looking to add to existing CVs. It is fitting that in this boat show issue we speak to Laurence Lewis, director of recruitment at YPI Crew, who finally provides the answer to today’s shortage of engineers and explains what YPI Crew will be doing differently under its MLC-accredited status.
Rotation is the hot topic of 2013 for crew, as we see in this issue. how and why have expectations of rotation changed?
When we started YPI crew in 2002 the word "rotation' in yachting did not exist as such. I would say it really started around 2006 and this was just on the engineering side. At this point yachts, certainly over 50m, started to introduce the idea of rotation, and nowadays it's very much a fait accompli on the engineering side. these days, yachts over 60m that don't offer rotation for their engineers are finding it difficult to recruit engineers. And this isn't something that is pushed by recruitment agencies — we are the middle person and we have to go with the trend, and a movement towards rotational positions is one of the biggest trends we've seen in the past few years.
Are yachts offering rotation to other departments or is it really just an option for engineers?
It's very much on the engineering side. there are some engineers out there who tell us, "that's fine, if you can't find me a rotational position I'm happy to temp until I find a rotational position," so there's a clear unwillingness to accept anything other than a permanent, rotational position.
It is, however, also happening at officer level on the large yachts of about 70m or 80m. But at captain level it's still not the done thing. there's reluctance, as some captains don't want to lose their full-time job; others would love a rotation but the owners don't really follow, so it's a little bit more complex an issue at captain level.
What are we doing as an industry to steer engineers to this rotational focus?
the market is driven by supply and demand, and engineers are in short supply. Many large yachts need engineers that have come from the commercial world, and those engineers are very much used to rotation. Yes, they're very happy to embrace the yachting industry for all of its advantages, but they don't want to lose the benefits they had acquired in the commercial world.
In Australia we're seeing something very interesting happening. Regardless of what they say in the news, Australia still has a booming mining and offshore industry which is enticing maritime engineers back to Australia. they are offering excellent financial packages with good rotation, for instance one month on and one off. so Australians who have reached the stage of their career whereby they have a family are actually quite tempted to go back.
Is there anything the superyacht industry can do to entice them to come directly to us?
I suppose it will always remain a niche market, and as such will always have niche market problems. this being the case, a lot of people still don't even know this industry exists.
Perhaps we need to increase the public's awareness of the superyacht industry, but of course we need to be very careful we're marketing it to the right people.
Exactly. You don't want to attract people who would be completely unsuitable to this lifestyle. Because it always comes back to the same thing — it's not a job, it's a lifestyle, and so it only suits a tiny minority of people.
YPI Crew has spent the past five years working towards mLc accreditation, which you now have through Lloyd's register, as a recruitment agency, how have you prepared for the MLC?
Personally for me, I have paid attention to the MLC for a long time. I went to my first conference in 2008 in London with Lloyd's Maritime and I've been going to these conferences on a yearly basis, because from day one I wanted YPI Crew to be one of the first agencies to be certified. I didn't want to run the risk of not being up to the standard and not complying with new rules and regulations. Just as captains have to adapt, crew agencies have to adapt as well.
From my point of view we have always worked towards best standards and best practice, and the MLC is just tightening up a few of our procedures.
How will the MLC affect crew and captains using recruitment agencies?
When I started in 2002, when someone would register with us they'd just get a five-line answer saying, "thank you for your CV; please send us your certificates and medical certificates." now we send them a long letter explaining why we need these certificates. We have a very tight database whereby we can track the expiry date of their medical certificates, making everything a lot smoother for the crew and the agents. For the captains and from a yacht's point of view, knowing that they're dealing with an agency that is MLC certified actually speeds up their own audits. When Port state control come on board, one of the 14 points they will check is which crew agency you are using, in which country the agency is based and its status. so by saying, "We are using a crew agency which is MLC compliant," it's then, "Job done, next question."
How much responsibility lies with recruitment agencies now the mLc has come into force?
It's like anything — you can either show you have the standards or you don't. And each to their own. It's up to the captain to make their choice as to who they want to work with. Do they want to work with someone who they know works to best standards or someone they don't know anything about? the recruitment industry is evolving and from our point of view the MLC is probably a good thing. Hopefully captains will recognise that some agencies are putting in a lot of effort, and some others are not.