April, May and June are traditionally the busiest months of the year in yacht crew recruitment but the question is: Is this still the case in 2022 when our industry is navigating the biggest shake up for a generation following the sanctions many Russian yachts are facing?
How are the sanctions impacting yacht crew?
Russian owned yachts make up a fairly big chunk of the yachting market and, in addition to that, they tend to be on the larger size, meaning they employ lots of crew. Therefore, sanctions, yacht seizures and asset freezes which are now taking place are having an obvious impact on the yacht recruitment market, leaving the crew wondering about the next steps.
Not only are these yachts not recruiting, most are letting go of existing seafarers keeping only minimum lay-up crew onboard. Some other vessels are pre-emptively cancelling their season, dismissing crew and only more is to be expected over the coming weeks and months as the US, UK and the EU develop and strengthen their task forces listing and identifying the assets linked to these personalities who have close ties to the Kremlin.
How many yachts are we talking about ? According to data from The Superyacht Group, "it is estimated that there are over 4,500 crew who have been affected by the sanctions, this roughly equates to about 11 per cent of all superyacht crew across the entire fleet". Our own data shows a surge of 38 % in term of new crew registrations in March this year versus March 2021.
What is the recruitment market looking like at the moment?
At the end of March, the job market is buoyant and we are recording a 60 % increase in job requests for the first three months of the year compared to 2021.
The non-Russian, non-sanctioned yachts have more than compensated for the downturn in that segment. This is mostly the case for interior jobs (measuring 80% more jobs), engineering jobs (measuring 63% more jobs) and Chef jobs (measuring 45% more jobs). This is also true if we only consider the months of March 22 versus 21 which are the relevant ones for this comparison : + 30 % and + 76 % job orders on non-Russian non- sanctioned yachts if we look at the 1st and 2nd week of the month for instance.
As a consequence, for now, the snapshot at end of March is: simultaneous availability of many jobs and many crew which we have not witnessed for a long time and which makes for a significant change from the height of the COVID-19 crises two years ago when the job market collapsed.
In such a combination, who is most bound to benefit from the market, the job seeker or the employer ? well, it's a draw, nobody is pulling all the strings. On one hand crew will need to finesse their interview techniques and up their skill levels through training as they are competing for jobs and on the other hand, captains need to build a holistic approach to recruitment to vow and entice crew to accept their job offers . It's a dance with the recruiters doing the coaching and keeping all parties on the same wave length and engaged.
Of course, the situation can evolve rapidly depending for instance on the dynamics of the charter market which undoubtedly influences the recruitment level. We are in fact interested to hear brokers's views on how the charter season is unfolding in these turbulent times as this would help assess what is to come for the recruitment market in May /June.