The recent addition of a requirement for all incoming yacht crew to take the new STCW course ‘Proficiency in Silent Nail Trimming’ has pushed the upfront cost of gaining employment as a crew member onboard a yacht past the average cost of purchasing an actual yacht, according to the YCMA (Yacht Crew Monitoring Association).
While the expense of getting qualified, certificated and endorsed has been rapidly approaching this mark for the last two years, the recent course addition pushed the estimated cost for entry level crew to achieve basic qualification to just over $2.5 million. With the current average price for a vessel at just under this same benchmark, a curious inversion has been achieved.
“Absolutely I can see the irony.” Says Joe Horn, the Director of Continued Influence and Affluence at the MCA (Maritime & Coast Guard Agency). “But you have to understand that these courses, medical certificates, family-tree histories, retina scans, psych tests and tarot card readings are all necessary to ensure safety and security for the modern seafarer on the modern sea aboard modern vessels doing modern things. We don’t just make these requirements up. We think about them first.”
The mounting costs have led to an industry-wide shift in the nature of applicants for starting-level yacht crew positions. Where formerly the bulk of entrants were aged 20-25, from a middle to upper-middle class background, and predominantly listed ‘hospitality’ and ‘watersports’ under prior work experience, today’s crew are generally retired bond traders and heirs to industrial fortunes. With the supply of crew having dwindled due to the high expense, current crew can expect to command initial annual salaries in the high six-figures, with monthly bonus clauses for loyalty. This makes it an appealing position for those who can afford to fund the entry costs.
“Bru. When I first saw the prices on the website of the school I was looking at, I really thought, ‘Yessee, they are listing these, in: Rand.’ That is the currency of South Africa, if you must know.” Says Jost Van Fanbelt, an aspiring yacht crewmember who was dissuaded from the process by the high associated costs of gaining basic entry.
Harold Truman VIII, deckhand of two weeks on the M/Y Ample, agrees that the upfront costs are substantial, but says he went into it with an eye on the bottom-line. “After my personal research and development division conducted a thorough cost-benefit analysis that predicted a potential failure rate of less than 11% and a likely investment return of 78% per annum compounding once initial outlay was recouped, I was confident I would see a satisfactory return on my investment. With that in mind we felt that this was a clear home run, and a wise move given the current market realities.”
With no end of required courses in immediate sight, it would appear that this trend will continue on into territory in which basic accreditation will be more costly than actual yacht ownership. While the ramifications of such a market inversion are unpredictable, ‘experts’ agree that it is likely that actually having crew onboard a yacht will soon become a larger status symbol than the yacht itself, and that potentially the yacht crew themselves will come to occupy a position of greater social cachet than that of the yacht owner.